Unity In Difference 7 December 2021

Can we talk about identity without fomenting division and conflict? The United Nations System Staff College has partnered with the Vittorio Dan Segre Foundation to bring you the “Unity In Difference” event on 7 December 2021 at 15:30 – 17:00 CET.

Our Story

Our work at the United Nations and beyond, requires us to interact with individuals and communities who have different identities. These identities epitomize our personal and collective characteristics. They serve as a reminder to learn to embrace our differences and respect each other.

But what is identity? Can we talk about identity through a new posture, paradigm, perspective? One that encourages all in society to celebrate their own while embracing others' rights to do the same? One that recognize the complex web of traits we all possess rather than thinking about identity in a binary way?

In order to answer these questions and tackle these complex challenges, it is necessary to start a new conversation, to create a space for an innovative and principled position, with an exploratory mindset and without preconditions.

Our Why

We believe that if we are to bring people together to tackle the problems of the 21st century - conflict, climate change, poverty, to name a few, – it is necessary to reflect on how our identities influence these different issues. The “Unity In Difference” event will bring together respected thought leaders to provide a space for collective exploration and understanding of the very nature of identity, and its implications on us, our work and policies in different domains: development, social cohesion, climate change, migration and demographics, education, welfare and social security, peace and security, and many others.


Dr. Jafar Javan, Director of the United Nations System Staff College
Mr. Javan brings over 25 years of experience, having worked in the United Nations system in various regions, notably Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. During his tenure in the system, his professional responsibilities have focused on policy development, education, training and employment, community development and social participation.

Prior to his latest appointment, Mr. Javan was the Deputy Director and Head of Programmes at UNSSC since April 2008. He has served from 2006 to 2008 as Director of Policy Support and Programme Development with the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Centre for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States in Bratislava. He was Chief of the Subregional Resource Facility with UNDP Bratislava between 2003 and 2005, and Policy Liaison Adviser with the Bureau for Development Policy at UNDP Washington, D.C., from 2000 to 2003.

Mr. Javan holds a doctorate in psychology, with a specialization in human resources development, from North Carolina State University, a master’s degree in international relations and a Bachelor of Arts in international affairs from the American University in Washington, D.C.

Shireen L. Dodson, United Nations Ombudsman
Shireen L. Dodson was appointed as the third United Nations Ombudsman at the level of Assistant Secretary-General on 7 June 2018 by Secretary-General António Guterres. Ms. Dodson has over thirty years of diverse leadership experience in business, government and non-profit organizations. Prior to being appointed at UN Ombudsman, she was the first full-time Ombudsman of the State Department of the United States, a position that she assumed in 2010 and in which she provided dispute resolution, coaching, change-management and leadership training for nearly 75,000 people around the world. Between 2006 and 2010, she was Special Assistant to the Director, Office of Civil Rights for the State Department of the United States. In 2004, she was the City Museum Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of The Historical Society of Washington. She also served as Interim Director of the Non-profit Roundtable of Greater Washington (2001-2002), Senior Strategist, Netsuite Division of Starpoint Solutions (2000-2001), Associate Director for Administration, Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution (1995-2000), Associate Director for Administration and Planning for The National African-American Museum Project, Smithsonian Institution (1992-1995), and Comptroller, Smithsonian Institution (1986-1992).

Ms. Dodson holds a Juris Doctorate Degree from Seton Hall University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Morgan State University. She is also an International Coach Federation (ICF) certified coach.

Thoraya Obaid, former Executive Director of the United Nations Population
Thoraya Obaid was the first Saudi Arabian to head a UN agency. She was appointed head of UNFPA in 2001 with the rank of Under-Secretary General of the United Nations. She had a long professional career of 35 years in the UN international civil service. In 1975 she established the first women’s development programme in the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. She occupied various positions within ESCWA including the Chief of the Social and Population Division as well as ESCWA Deputy Executive Director, 1993 - 1998. Two of the special assignments that she understood were in 1997 as a member of the UN Inter-Agency Gender Mission to Afghanistan and also the UN Inter-Agency Mission for The Strategic Framework for Afghanistan, both missions required dealing with cultural issues of importance.

Ms. Obaid is one of the 30 Saudi women who were appointed for the first time in 2013 as members in the Shura Council (Consultative Council) that provides advice to King Abdallah bin Abdulaziz and presently to King Salman bin Abdulaziz. She is also the first woman to chair one of the Council's Committee, and she has been the chair of the Human Rights and Oversight Commissions 2015 - 2016. She is also one of three women who received the King Abdulaziz Medal of the First Degree for her international service.

Ms. Obaid was the first Saudi Arabian woman to receive a government scholarship to study in the United States in February 1963. She has a doctorate degree in English Literature and Cultural Anthropology from Wayne State University in Michigan. She received a B.A. in English Literature and Sociology from Mills College in California. Her PhD thesis was on the Stereotype of the Moor in English Renaissance Drama, a theme very relevant today.

George A. Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece (2009-2011) and currently Member of Parliament with the Movement of Change, a coalition of Greek progressive parties.
First elected as MP in 1981, he served in many governmental posts. As Minister of Education (1994-1996), he founded the Greek Open University and promoted multicultural programs. As Minister of Foreign Affairs (1999-2004), he promoted peace building and European integration in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans and managed a breakthrough in Greek-Turkish relations. An active supporter of the information society and e-democracy, in 2003 Papandreou was selected as one of the “25 People Who are Changing the World of Internet Politics”. In 2004, Papandreou was elected leader of PASOK in the party and country’s first open primary – a move highly symbolic of his commitment to participatory governance.

Throughout his political career, he has championed human rights at home and abroad, and has actively sought to maximize citizen participation in governance through information technologies. Since 2006, he is the President of the Socialist International, the largest global political family. Around the world, Papandreou has deployed ‘Green Diplomacy,’ calling for the protection of the environment and for placing sustainable development at the epicenter of policy-making and multilateral cooperation. During his premiership (2009-2011), he applied a series of structural reforms in his attempt to modernize his country whilst avoiding bankruptcy in Greece’s 2010 debt crisis. For his achievements related to government Transparency, he received the Quadriga Award in the category “Power of Veracity”. In 2010, he was named one of the Foreign Policy magazine’s TOP 100 Global Thinkers. In 2017, he was honored with the International Leadership Association (ILA) Distinguished Leadership Award.

Papandreou graduated from Amherst College and holds an M.Sc. in Sociology and Development from London School of Economics. He was a fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs (1992-1993) and the Institute of Politics (2012). In 2013, he served as a Global Fellow and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs as well as a faculty member in the Master of Public Affairs program at Sciences Po in Paris.

Aichatou Mindaoudou, CEO and Co-Founder Ipiti Consulting, Former United Nations Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire
First African woman to lead a Peacekeeping mission. The first to lead 2 UN missions. She was SRSG and Head of UNOCI in Côte d’Ivoire. She was Acting Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator at UNAMID Darfur. At UNOCI she ensured the safety, security, and protection as DO; she implemented the mission's mandate; mediated political dialogue and national reconciliation; and coordinated UN system's support to stakeholders. At UNAMID she enhanced engagement with international partners and actors, leading to successful talks between the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement. She also supported the human rights and the rule of law institutions; and coordinated the Track II of the Darfur peace talks with an enhanced inclusion of civil society.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, she provided overall vision, leadership, and strategic guidance; represented Niger in various international fora, meetings, and summits; acted as Niger’s agent at the International Court of Justice and contributed to the victory on the dispute over the boundary against Benin. She also Chaired the ECOWAS council of ministers, which led to successful conflicts resolution in Togo, Guinea Bissau, and Guinea Conakry; negotiated various treaties. As Senior Lecturer in International Law, she developed and taught undergraduate and post-graduate courses; supervised research activities; published papers in academic journals; contributed to the drafting of Constitutions.

As Minister of Social Development, Population,Gender Promotion, she developed the first ever policy on gender; and contributed to the drafting and adoption of the first ever quota law. Distinctions: Grand Cross of Niger’s Order of Merit, 2003; Grand Officer ALAWI of Morocco, 2004; Grand Officer in the French Legion of Honor 2006; Commander of Niger National Order, 2008; Grand Officer of the Togolese Order of Mono 2008; Commander in Academic Palms Order of Niger, 2011; Commander in Côte d’Ivoire’s National Order of Merritt de la Solidarité 2016; Commander in Côte d’Ivoire National Order 2017.

Laura Thompson, former Deputy Director General of the International Organization for Migration
Laura Thompson is the former Deputy Director General at International Organization for Migration (IOM). Prior to this position, she was the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva. She has vast experience in multilateral negotiations, an in-depth knowledge of the functioning of the International Organizations, their internal procedures and practices. In addition to her deep knowledge of migration, refugees and internally displaced persons related matters, in which she has worked for the last 15 years, Laura has extensive expertise in management, institutional governance, Public Private Partnerships, change management processes, leadership, and gender issues. She has excellent managerial skills, strong leadership ability, vision and dynamism, is politically savvy, strategically-minded and results-oriented. Ms Thompson has an ease in working with people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and languages, qualities that, coupled with her solid academic background, enable her to lead Organizations, build strong working relationships within international/global operations, and facilitate an open dialogue amongst all partners. During her career, she has participated as a fellow professor, a keynote speaker or a panellist in several seminars and roundtables on a wide variety of subjects and has trained and mentored a large number of staff.

Gabriele Segre, Director, Vittorio Dan Segre Foundation
Gabriele Segre is a scholar of public policy and international relations. He studied in Italy, the United States and Singapore, where he obtained his PhD in the field of leadership and reform processes of public organizations. From 2012 to 2018, he collaborated with the United Nations in the area of the reform process for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, before devoting himself full-time to the Vittorio Dan Segre Foundation.