Thursday, August 4, 2011

International public service?

It's not that I don't enjoy my current city and job (it case you couldn't tell, I really do), but I'm always thinking about my next steps in work and life - I just can't help but be excited for that next turn of the road. And while I certainly enjoy, and have made a habit of, serving the U.S. government in one way or another, one thing that pops into my head occasionally as a potential dream career stop is the United Nations. The UN is a massive, sprawling, unwieldy organization and I've interacted with it's various branches enough to know there would be ups and downs as a UN employee. But none of that stops me from imagining what it feel like to work for an organization that is beyond the whims of any one government. But is the UN a form of public service?

I have to believe yes. What got me into this whole public service kick was a desire to have a career that created something that was not centered on making a profit or seeking fame. In economic terms, we call these intangibles public goods. Clean air, open spaces, safe drinking water, and humanitarian assistance when a hurricane strikes. These things are not meant to be profitable and should never be. And I am so very very fortunate to have found a career path that on a good day fulfills this desire. But what about those public goods that stretch beyond borders? When I was working at State Department, I got to do a lot of work on the treaty that addressed the hole in the ozone layer, the Montreal Protocol. This treaty performed a function that was beyond any one country, and now all the citizens of the world benefit from it. The UN Environment Program provided the venue and the support for establishing the treaty and for making sure that countries continue to keep it relevant, even as the treaty now turns towards taking on climate change. Being a part of that as a career could be very interesting.

The view of U.N. meeting from the "U" section

I don't think I will actively pursue being an international Diplomat quite yet, we'll see how the whole foreign service thing goes first, but it's always fun imagining what might happen down the road.

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