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Maurizio Giuliano
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‘Work close to the people you serve’, says Maurizio Giuliano

Do you aspire to see the world and help people along the way? Perhaps the United Nations is your aspiration. 

The best place to start is “to get your hands dirty”, says Fitzwilliam College alumnus Maurizio Giuliano (MPhil Latin American Studies 1996), who is now UN Senior Programme Officer.

“At the moment I work in the Department of Global Communications,” says Maurizio, who is pictured in Timbuktu, Mali.

“On a daily basis I reach out to our 193 Member States, to engage them in different initiatives.

“I first joined the UN as a volunteer in Timor-Leste. I was lucky to work for the UN in about 15 countries: Timor-Leste, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Chad, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Mexico, Somalia, Mali and Brazil, and now here in New York – I’m quite proud of my own list.

“At the UN you don’t get medals (except our military), nor salary bonuses. But for me the number and variety of countries I have served in is something to be proud of. I always loved what I did, but after a while I wanted something different. I like new challenges and change.

“If you want to join the UN, maybe there will be a time when you’re in New York or Geneva, but that’s not why you should join the UN in my view.

“If you want a career in the UN you have to start in the field, to get your hands dirty, close to the people that we serve, whether you’re in humanitarian affairs, development, peacekeeping, human rights, or political negotiations.

“It’s so rewarding psychologically, spiritually, emotionally, to be close to the people you serve, to see the impact of what you do on people’s lives, to bring peace, to bring food, to bring hope.”

The UN’s work is now reflecting the shift to a more virtual world, online. Maurizio is promoting a social media initiative called #PledgetoPause, which calls on social media users to consider the veracity of content before they share it on social media. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to share factual information, and for fact checking, but the message is relevant in all spheres of life, including politics.

Maurizio adds: “We think misinformation and disinformation can actually kill, especially in the context of COVID-19. There are people who have died because they were given supposed remedies which were actually dangerous.

“We are calling on people to be careful what they share, please visit shareverified.com. The next message is #PledgetoPause. We want everyone to join forces with us for this major moment on social media.”

Maurizio’s role, which involves a lot of networking, has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. His travels have been curtailed too. 

In 2004, aged 28, he became the youngest person to visit every sovereign country in the world. His passion to explore the world and different cultures expanded first at Oxford, where Maurizio read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at University College, and then at Fitzwilliam.

“I was a member of many societies, which allowed me to interact with people from all over, but also to learn and broaden my horizons,” he adds.

“One thing is to study a place, another thing is to learn from students of those countries, and then to visit those countries.

“Both Oxford and Cambridge are so intellectually stimulating that my brain started to be more intellectual, more analytical, even more curious and ready to discover the world.

“And in today’s globalised world, I personally think that travel is not just leisure. If you want to be successful in an increasingly inter-connected world, a world where diversity means strength, then getting to know the world first hand is essential in my view.

“Both Cambridge and Oxford students tend to be very idealistic, and I like to think of myself as an idealist. 

“When people apply to work at the United Nations, or any organisation that does similar work, I think they should be idealistic, to believe in the ideals you’re going to work for. That will help you overcome the challenges and appreciate the rewards this work presents. 

“At Oxford and Cambridge I embraced my passion for human rights and to support the most vulnerable. That’s something increasingly important. 

“We live in a world which is unfortunately seeing increasing levels of tension, mistrust, hatred. We see terrorism, more civil wars this decade than when I was studying in the 1990s, climate change and plastic pollution. Migration is met with xenophobia and suspicion, and I think it’s more important than ever to work for a better world, and the UN provides a great chance to do that.”

Should you wish to join Maurizio at the UN, he has some simple tips: get a Master’s degree, do some relevant work experience, learn languages, and be adventurous.

“Be prepared to live in some of the most interesting places in the world. With that can come challenges in terms of the living conditions and risks, but the rewards are enormous,” he says.

- The views expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations

- The Fitzwilliam Society Careers Fair takes place on Saturday 14 November

Maurizio Giuliano in Timbuktu, Mali

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