The United Nations is an unusual place where this is much talk, a lot of compromise, and ”countries have interests, rather than friends,” a senior diplomat told students at his old school on 12 August.
Based in New York for the past 13 years where he has been PNG Ambassador to the UN, The Armidale School Old Boy Rob Aisi had plenty of wisdom to share about the diplomatic service, the legal profession and life in two very different cultures. Whilst a political appointee initially, his four terms straddled four governments, giving him a unique insight into domestic as well as global politics.
“As frustrating as the UN is, it done a lot of positive things – particularly in the areas of security, conflict resolution, and climate change,” said Mr Aisi, whose own country has had to relocate residents from tiny islands that are now too saturated from seawater to produce agricultural crops.
One of a number of PNG boys to attend TAS between the 1970s-90s under various scholarship schemes, Mr Aisi then studied Law at the University of PNG and later, human resources management at the International Institute of Public Administration in France. He also served with the Executive Branch (Legal Affairs) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and for some years chaired the United Nations’ Special Committee on Decolonization.
Contrary to a widely held belief that it was the major super-powers which were always at loggerheads in the General Assembly, he said the most intense and long-running disagreements were between a number of neighbouring countries.
“Each country has one vote – so often the 120 smallest states can work together and reverse the power paradigm,” he said.
Year 8 student Thomas Price said it was fascinating to hear the workings of the UN.
“It broadened my perspective on how the UN and its various organisations benefit the world on issues such as humanitarianism, peacekeeping, trade, economics, global warming helping developing countries move forward. He emphasised the critical role of diplomacy, and that being a lawyer and having knowledge of the history and culture of a country helps to be an ambassador. “
Mr Aisi and his daughter Elizabeth returned to TAS for the annual Old Boys Weekend, at which he was special guest.