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Audio Guide: The Next Page - Transcripts

Welcome to the UN Library and Archives Geneva's Audio Research Guide! Here you'll find episodes from our own podcast, The Next Page, as well as podcasts and audio from or on the UN system and multilateralism.

Transcript - Episode 30: Corinne Momal-Vanian, new Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation

by Natalie Alexander on 2020-09-03T16:28:00+02:00 in International relations, Gender, Development, Peace & Security, Women & Gender Equality, United Nations | Comments

Natalie Alexander: Hi everyone, my name is Natalie, welcome to The Next Page, the podcast of the UN Geneva Library&Archives.

We hope you had a great summer, to those of you here with us in the Northern Hemisphere. We are back from summer, with lots of great projects here at the Library&Archives, so check out what we’re up to on socials, including some great conversations here on the podcast.

Today we have a guest who has joined us in a previous episode in her former role here as Director of the Division of Conference Management here at UN Geneva. She’s now the Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation, Corinne Momal-Vanian. It was great to see her back here in the studio for this episode, where’s she is in conversation with our Director, Francesco Pisano.

After having worked for more than 3 decades in the UN system, Corinne shares about her new role and the work and values of the Kofi Annan Foundation. She also shares her reflections on multilateralism and the current state of the UN today, including some of the challenges its facing, but also opportunities for how the UN can move forward as we look to multilateralism in the future. 

We also hear her thoughts on women, gender equality and parity, and leadership in international organizations, and the values she’s inspired and driven by from some of our past and present leaders here at the UN.

We’ve got some more resources in the podcast notes, as well as links to some previous episodes with Corinne and other people she mentions. Hope you are inspired as much as we are. Let’s go.

Francesco Pisano: Hello everyone and welcome to this new episode of the Next Page, the podcast of the UN Library and Archives designed to advance the conversation or multilateralism. Today I am joined by Corinne Momal-Vanian, who is the executive director of the Kofi Annan Foundation. She also has around 30 years of experience in the UN, so, a huge experience there, and this is a great opportunity for me to have a conversation with her about the values of the Kofi Annan Foundation, the United Nations, women and leadership, and women in leadership.

But first of all, Corinne, tell our audience a little bit about yourself.

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Good morning Francesco. Yes, as you said, I'm a UN person through and through. I joined the organization at the tender age of 23 and left it this year, after a career of 33 years.

And I worked, I did absolutely everything during this career. I was in four different duty stations in Geneva, in New York, in Bangkok, in Baghdad, where I started, and I did absolutely everything. And my last post was as Director of Conference Management, here at the Palais des Nations, enjoyed it thoroughly and then decided it was time for a change and became Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation on the 15th of June this year, so very recent.

Francesco Pisano: And this is an amazing change, but we talk about that a little bit later. Now, the first part of our conversation, fair enough, should be about the Kofi Annan Foundation. Tell us a little bit about the foundation, its history, its values, you know what's in there so that our audience can learn a little bit more about the Kofi Annan Foundation.

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Sure thing. You know, as often with these foundations that are created by a big leader, it started by being Kofi Annan's private office. Really, when he stepped down as Secretary-General, he was still very active in mediation, he was often asked to deliver important speeches and so on. So, he needed a private office, so, he set up this foundation.

But immediately he was drawn into working on a mediation in Kenya and therefore the foundation grew into what it is today, a private foundation with very well-established programs. But they are still based on Kofi Annan's values and his centers of interest and those were:

Peace – so mediation, peacebuilding, peacebuilding, trust among communities;

Democracy, because he thought that democracy was the best experiment at government ever;

Youth leadership, he always had an amazing relationship with young people and;

International cooperation - what does it mean to be a multilateral leader? I mean, how do you encourage people to talk to each other and, so on.

Those were his ideas, his interests and they are very much still at the core of the what the foundation does. It's a small foundation, we work through others, we will not grow. It's 12 people. It's small, it's nimble, and that's the way we want to keep it.

Francesco Pisano: So, in terms of how the foundation translates all these values in actual work around the world, can you give us one or two examples of maybe your flagship programs and what they do in terms of impact?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Absolutely, let me take, for instance, two flagship programs. We work a lot on elections and it's not so much technical assistance because a lot of others are much bigger and do that better than us, and we don't have the resources to be in the field and monitoring ballot boxes and stuff, but it's really what we call “Electoral Mediation”. So we go in countries before elections to talk to the different parties and make sure that they will behave, that they will accept the results of the elections, that the elections will be conducted fairly, and right now we're looking a lot at the role of social media in the atmosphere around elections. So, that's one of the flagship programs, and the other one is extremely together. It's a very successful program of young leaders fighting, preventing violent extremism around the world, because that's what Kofi Annan thought is, you know, you prevent violent extremism by talking to people and showing them another way.

Francesco Pisano: And for you as an individual, I know you've been in touch with Kofi Annan when he was in the UN, more than “in touch”, once you've defined him as your mentor. And so, how does that make it different for you, now that you're Executive Director? So, you don't just become Executive Director of a foundation like that just because you are qualified for it. It's also a value-based thing, and also sort of mission, let's call it that way. Now for you in your special case, you knew Kofi much better than everyone else, much better than I knew him and how it is to sort of being in his seat in a way for you today?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Well, I wouldn't... I mean, I'm going to be much humbler than this. I'm definitely not in his seat, and you know, interestingly, Francesco, one of the requirements for this post was to have known Kofi Annan personally.

So, the board of the foundation knew that it was very important to have someone there who had been marked by the man, you know? And for me, it's just... it feels like going home, as well. You know, the UN is home, but it feels like going home because our mission is also to convey the Kofi Annan Way, his values, his way, you know, bring people together. Let them talk. Respect everybody. Respect, for him, was so important and the inherent dignity of every single human being, and that’s at the core of what we do. So, it feels so comfortable. Francesco, and so natural. But it's true that they wanted someone who had experienced and seen the man in action, because I mean I can try in my very humble way to convey some of his values and his ways.

Francesco Pisano: Now, to the Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation, tell us a little bit about your vision for the foundation. What's in store for the future and your tenure there?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Sure, you know these are tough times for a lot of NGOs and foundations because of the COVID crisis, obviously. But what I found... coming to the foundation at the time like this was really challenging.

But what I found was that Kofi Annan had already established clearly what the foundation should do, so we have with the board we are working on a strategic framework for the next few years. But that wasn't a huge difficulty because the programs are well-established, the vision is there. You know his motto was for a fairer, more peaceful world and we are adding that the mission of the foundation is to help build peaceful, democratic and resilient societies.

So that was done and I just needed to look at the program a little bit, make them a coherent whole, but most of that had been done by the man himself, and by my predecessor, of course, Alan Doss, who was president of the foundation. But what we need to do now is modernize it a little bit, bring it into this century in the sense that there are issues that are unavoidable now. Not unavoidable, but there are at the core of international cooperation, climate change, gender equality, for instance, that the foundation will deal more with in the future than it has in the past.

And of course, we need to also build a very solid financial model and that's when I was talking about the difficulties that NGOs and foundations are having at the moment. I mean to be very, very frank, the financial environment is very difficult for organizations that don't have an endowment, and that's the case, we don't have an endowment. So, we have long time partners, governments, foundations, individuals that support us, but they are being pulled from lots of different directions with the COVID relief in particular.

But the future, in terms of substance, the future of the of the foundation is in democracy, is in peace, and youth leadership, is in multilateralism and in conveying the Kofi Annan way of resolving issues.

Francesco Pisano: Now, many of these elements that you mentioned, democracy, youth, leadership are also enshrined in the United Nations. Now you said it yourself, you've been 33 years in the UN, and you've done, using your words, almost anything and everything in the UN. I would like to go back a little bit to that long experience to see whether you from your new observation deck looking back, you can actually see trends in this organization. So, you have witnessed most of the evolution of the modern UN in the post- colonization period.

10 years longer than my experience – I have 27 years, actually, in the UN. And when I came in the UN, I today realized that it was pretty different from today, and the environment around you and the environment that creates the dynamics and that the UN uses to digest and process international relations as we call them, was different... that environment has changed a lot. So, to you, the person who is now out of the organization and can look back with serenity and maybe a different lens before your eyes, can you tell us a little bit about what do you think are the trends in the organization – both the good ones and the bad ones?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Right, you know, once I came to one of your very, very interesting talks at the library, Francesco, that was Mrs. Bertini who was a longtime UN staffer, as well, and had filled very important positions, including that being the head of WFP, and she showed us a curve regarding the life of International Organizations. One of these traditional management consulting curves that you see with the life of an organization, from its birth, to the teenage years, to maturity. And I was very worried because, you know, it looked to me that the life of an organization after growing was going into maturity, aristocracy, then bureaucracy, and then living death, and then death – or rebound. So, to be very, very frank, Francesco, I think we are going through a very difficult period at the United Nations, mostly because of external factors – we know the state of international relations between member states.

20 years ago, as you mentioned, the organization was different but mostly because the international environment was very different. In the 90s, there was such hope about international cooperation, that things would work... the veto was used much less in the Security Council. There was great hope that things could be done... you know you had all these big UN conferences – the Conference of Social Development, the Conference of Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, the Conference of Population and Development in 1994.

So, you had all this agenda, this hope that international cooperation would yield a better world, and it continued into the early 2000s, and that was, I think, the apex of the United Nations. Of course, because again, we just reflect the environment. And then unfortunately, growing tensions became linked to many things and there are pressing challenges that we are seeing in terms of climate change and inequalities and these tensions took over the United Nations, frankly. I think that the tensions between member states are reflected profoundly in the inability, today, of the United Nation to take courageous stands on many things. And that’s probably unavoidable, but at the same time, there are faults within the organization. In terms of... how many reforms have we gone through you and me, Francesco? Each time we were promised that things would be simplified, every single time things have become more complicated for people inside the organization. So, the sheer weight of the bureaucracy... and I mean, I was a bureaucrat, I don’t despise it. I know that rules and regulations are what is needed for an organization this size to work. But the sheer weight of it... people have forgotten that these rules and regulations are not the end, but the aim to the end, the means to the end. So, I think the bureaucracy has taken over in many ways... and that is, frankly, at times I found it suffocating. The fact that we have sometimes lost the view of what really matters. So that’s a rather harsh judgement, but I think many share it. I mean, most people are amazing in the organization, the mandates are amazing, and a lot of people do amazing things. So, I have full hope that we will rebound - I don’t think we will go from this living death into a complete death. I have full hope we will rebound because there is no choice, there is no better organization to take care of many things. There is no choice, we will rebound, but I do think that things are very difficult and a bit discouraging at the moment.

Francesco Pisano: So, would you say that this negative trend is this increase in the relative weight of bureaucracy plus an environment that is less conducive to international cooperation, while the positive one is actually the people. The people who work for the organization have acquired many more skills throughout the 90s and the 2000s, they’re more open and they’re more inclusive. There is a countertrend in the staffers that goes towards inclusivity, participatory system thinking, social media usage, plus the progress in technology in the way they are applied. Would you say that summarizes a little bit your thinking?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Absolutely, completely, in fact. I think the quality and the skills of the people - I mean this organization is so lucky, because it can afford to get la crème de la crème of the people of the world, it’s amazing! We get fantastic young people in here, that have amazing degrees, but more than that, have a moral compass, have a real desire to change things. They are fantastic with IT, and fantastic with all kinds of innovative ways of working. So, that’s why I'm fundamentally optimistic for the long term because of the quality of the people. And you have said it right, I mean things have improved, it’s not all been downhill at all. For instance, in terms of gender equality, clearly the conditions for women are much better now in the organization than they were - I mean the numbers, at least, are much better. In terms of diversity, inclusion and so on, we are much better than we used to be.

Francesco Pisano: Yet, the issue is, how an organization going through a difficult time – to use your words – can lead the world towards reshaping multilateralism. Now, there is something I firmly believe is that these formula for multilateralism has run its course. And when I hear people talking about the future of multilateralism, I feel like I should stand up and shout, “Let’s talk about multilateralism of the future!”, because this one has basically become very hard to use or unusable, it’s your choice. So, my question to you is do you have views on how an organization like ours, the UN today, can become a leading force towards reshaping multilateralism so we can uphold international cooperation instead of losing it?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: I don’t have a magic wand, I don’t have more brilliant ideas than the many people who have written about this. But I want to highlight maybe two things. One is that we have to understand once and for all that yes, the UN is an organization of governments, yes, but we need to talk to other people – so that’s fundamental. And it is already in our rules, I mean the ECOSOC has with great foresight in the 90s passed a resolution to allow NGOs to speak in its various forms, I wish all the bodies would do that. But unfortunately, the space for civil society, which should be increasing, is under much pressure. And I saw it. I saw it here, at the United Nations, at the Palais de Nations, where we were under much pressure from even some colleagues inside the organization and some member states to, for instance, not let NGOs organize meetings here at the Palais, unless it was blessed by all member states, which of course defeats the whole purpose. So, that’s one thing, we have to speak to other actors.

And the second thing is that we have to be more courageous. And I would say that the defining thing that is missing at the moment is courage. Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the UN, said that the three main qualities for international civil servants – and of course he invented the international civil service – were loyalty, integrity, and independence of course because he was asked to resign but he refused. But he said that courage is the one that allows you to uphold the three. And at the moment, I'm very sorry to say, I see a lack of courage in many of people and it’s because we have been cowed into submission. And I find this extraordinary, some of our colleagues are terrified, constantly, of what member states will think of us if we say this. Member states want us to speak our mind. What use are we to them, if we, the experts, try to tell them what we think they want to hear? We need to tell things as they are, we need to tell member states this is going to work, this is not going to work, don’t micromanage us. Then things will get better. I think that will be the key to the renaissance of the UN. It would be to re-instill courage into the sector.

Francesco Pisano: That’s very powerful and I totally agree with you. Now, you said that you have no magic wand, but suppose I gave you one right now, and I asked you what is the one thing – only one – that you’ll go back, one day in the UN, and change one thing. What would that be?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: I hesitate between two things, so I'm going to give you two. It's not a magic wand, it’s actually a genie in a bottle that gave me two wishes. So, first of all, I think most importantly for the credibility and the legitimacy of the UN going on, is changing the composition of the Security Council - that would be the key for the future. We see it now, we’ve seen it for the last ten years, this is where the main blockages are and it’s just not normal. The current composition of the Security Council just doesn’t reflect the world today. The second is less political, less important, would be to dismantle the fifth committee of the General Assembly, because that committee and the way it works is at the source of the rot of many things in the Secretariat. It’s just not normal. And it’s our fault as much as the member states’, but we need to work differently. We cannot have someone at the level of the Secretary-General that has to explain to member states every single little chair he moves in this organization. I mean, I studied management and manage a big division, you cannot have to account for every single thing you do. You have to have independence as a manager and then you are accountable for the overall results.

Francesco Pisano: I’m afraid that many, many listeners – God bless them – don't know what the fifth committee is. Would you like to tell the world in one sentence what it is?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Sure, sure. The General Assembly works through committees that look at different issues – legal issues, socio-economic issues, human rights – and it has one that deals with administrative and budgetary matters, and unfortunately it has taken over the rest. And this is just wrong. I mean, finances are super important – of course money is rules – but it should not trump the substance.

Francesco Pisano: Thank you for that. Moving forward to the last part of our conversation that has to do with you as a professional, your experience as a woman in international relations, in leadership. You have led, you have managed a lot. I've seen you in leadership positions, and leading people and subject matters. It was a great pleasure for me to work together with you when you were here, and I often say that I learned a lot from you on punctual things, but also in the style of things. So, I think you magically landed where this whole pattern took you in your current position. I think you really summarized a lot of the values and  the to-dos and don’ts that you have learned in the organization that can serve you now where you are, as the Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation. But when I go back through my memories, I also see the colleague who has fought the most for impeding that we normalize certain syndromes that very large organizations have biases in, in terms of gender, parity, opportunities, youth, in particular. In a way to help those youngsters, any particular young women out there who are listening to us, I’d like to have you talk a little bit about what is being a female professional in today’s international organizations. They are very different from large corporations, for some things they are better, for others they are worse, I think. But you know, you have gone through all the stages of a career in the UN, up to D2, which is the senior director level – it's “Director 2”, basically. So, you have huge experience. These women out there are either wanting to have a career in the UN or they’re having problems in their career and they’re asking themselves the questions that all women... but also, when I was in my 30s and I joined the UN, I had questions on these kinds of things. But I think women today are still a little bit disadvantaged in our organization, both because of biases in humans around them and biases in the organization. So, what is your view about being a female professional in large organizations today, in the UN system?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: I think it varies a lot from agency to agency. I think the culture of each agency defines how easy it's going to be for a woman to work there or not. Overall, the UN system has made a lot of progress in numbers and the Secretary-General has really made it its crusade and he’s succeeded in increasing the numbers of women at the highest level very fast and you know, he really has to be given credit for this because this was unprecedented. At the same time, the culture takes much longer to fix than the numbers. The numbers are the easiest thing to fix.

But the culture takes much longer. Things have improved a lot on some aspects of the culture. Clearly, the type of sexist jokes that were told around me when I started 30 years ago, are no longer acceptable, and people have internalized that, colleagues have internalized that, so they know what is acceptable or not.

The second thing that has changed a lot is the flexibility of the organization in terms of working arrangements and if one good thing comes out of this pandemic it is that the organization now knows that people can work from home at different times. Management literature has shown that flexible working arrangements are actually one of the most important factors in helping women through their careers, and it will also help men, of course, but it has been shown to help women in their career. So, I think in that respect, things have improved a lot.

With regard to profoundly, how women are perceived, which is much more intangible and much more difficult to measure, I think we still have much progress to make.

 I was absolutely shocked, Francesco. I was in a meeting, through video conference, which the Secretary-General had with many under-secretary-generals. And one under-secretary-general major woman said to the Secretary-General that we have a problem with women managers, female managers.

To which the Secretary-General said, “No, I don't think we have a problem with female managers. We may have a problem with managers in general.” But there is still this perception, frankly, very ingrained... and this was a woman under-secretary-general with a lot of authority and power who said this. And I was absolutely shocked because this reflected all the prejudices and all the biases that we have. So, I don't think we have a problem with the with the women managers, I think we have a problem with the staff accepting authority from women managers and I experienced it. I mean, I've had a very wonderful career, I had wonderful colleagues, so I didn't experience this myself. But I did see some of my female colleagues trying to do their best, really their best, and being questioned at every turn for things that they did, while their male predecessors were, you know, although everybody thought they did terribly, nobody questioned it. That was it. So, I think there is something very deeply culturally ingrained in us that makes it very difficult to accept women's authority, so I think that's where we have to work. Definitely, even the genie in the bottle could not help me there, I think it will take a very long time and we just have to work on it. But I think women have to be conscious of this and I think if you look at the numbers today, I haven't seen the numbers, but I'd be very interested to see how many cases of abuse of authority, management and everything are brought against women at the director level against the man. I am quite convinced that the number of women who have cases against them – female directors – are much higher. And again, it doesn't mean that they are worse managers at all. It just means that people do not accept the fact that they are managers. But they are now, the Secretary-General has placed them and has made sure that we have them, but the environment is still not very supportive.

Francesco Pisano: So, one of the things that is commonly considered as unacceptable is going to take a long time. And it should be considered unacceptable that it should take that long of a time and the Secretary-General has been adamant and he quotes that if we go with at this at this pace, it would take a couple of centuries before we have total parity in terms of opportunities and treatments.

I think I do agree it's unacceptable. So, one remedy of today, to shorten time, is typically leadership, and we have seen, for example, in large corporations in the world, how leadership has actually changed the culture much, much faster than other processes – typically schools of thought, consultants, etc, those that you mentioned before.

So, let's go to leadership a little bit. As you know you UN Geneva, for the first time in the history of the galaxy has a Director-General who's not a man, as I like to say.

And this woman is certainly bringing a new way of leading, and I don't know if that qualifies as a classical woman leadership style, but it's a different style. So, I do believe that women lead differently, and I also believe that women leadership is much more attuned to the era we're leaving now than a couple of centuries ago.

And there are reasons for that, and there is a lot of research in leadership, especially in American universities, that show that leadership is becoming a practice that does more in terms of creativity and participation. That in leading out of the blue, “just follow me, and because I'm a leader that makes all of you followers“, and it's more like collective leadership, natural leadership, creative leadership. And I believe that is actually what's happening in the world of leadership and it is changing like that. So, I would be interested in listening to what is leadership as a woman for you. Is it different? Do you agree with me? Or maybe you don't? And one thing that you may agree or not, but I hope you do, is that leadership has no age. This thing that you become a leader because you're older and you have experience, I absolutely don't believe in it. So, would you also have advice for young women in leadership or how to approach leadership when you are a young professional, a woman professional... that would be great for our audience.

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Well, these are very, very complex issues. You know it's true... I don't know. I frankly don't know whether women have intrinsically a different way of leading. What I know is that leadership... even if you look today at the questions that are asked of people applying for leadership positions in the United Nations, they have to define a vision, they have to show that they can make decisions. So, we have this view of a leader that is all powerful and makes all decisions, and will guide us, and will open the Red Sea for us, you know, but that's not what it is for me.  As I said from the start, we have amazing people in this organization and a true leader will go and identify the people who are willing and able to lead at their level. And you’re right, there are all kinds of different leaders at all kinds of different levels and the people who want to improve things, the people who want to innovate, the people who believe in the organization, and the people who have secret skills and talents that they have never been able to show because we have pigeonholed them in very specific functions. So, a leader is the person who's going to go and look for these people bring them together, get ideas from them, and then make it possible for them to implement their ideas. A good leader doesn't necessarily have to have good ideas himself or herself.

But they have to be able to open their ears wide and open their eyes, so that they can see who can really make a difference, and how you can improve the conditions for everybody so that they can do their best. And that is not traditionally the way that we have looked at leaders. And I have to tell you that I think the world of our Director-General. I think she has brought freshness, fun and also creativity to the to the role. She has a completely different style. Her predecessor was amazing, the previous Director-General, but it's wonderful that we have such different styles. I don't know whether she has this style because... maybe the fact that she's a woman and she certainly has had to work very, very hard to get where she is, maybe that gives her special insight about how it's hard for others and patience as well, maybe, but she certainly has a very different style that has been very refreshing.

Now, for young women to really tackle this question of leadership...  what you said, Francesco is really right, they have to understand that they can lead at all levels. They don't need the UN hierarchical position of D1 or D2 or P5 to lead, they can show the way at all kinds of levels. That's one important thing.

The second thing is that they have to speak up, of course, and this is not something that we have been taught, culturally, to do. They have to take their place, but they have to speak up on showing what they can do. So, they really have to find ways to show their talents and that takes a lot of supportive managers to provide the conditions where they can do that. I mean, a lot of fantastic young women colleagues just cannot succeed because the conditions are not there and it's not their fault at all, it's just because the conditions around them, their managers, or the organization doesn't allow it, so they shouldn't also beat themselves up if they're not succeeding because sometimes it's just not your fault.

Francesco Pisano: On gender parity, now just to close this part on your experience in being a woman professional and also on leadership. I remember the many discussions we had when you were in the UN, and you were always on the ball in terms of gender parity, and we worked together, and you worked a lot for the gender policy that we have in this organization, of which I'm extremely proud together with many other professionals here. Maybe a couple of tips, maybe one or two concrete tips that you use as a leader in your organization, or you have used and have shown to work to ensure gender parity, to make it more likely to create the conditions for gender parity.

I'm asking you this because there is a lot of talk about this and there is much less concrete things that people can actually go to the office and do to put into being so that there is more gender parity.

Corinne Momal-Vanian: I think one thing that should be done is really trust young women much more with important tasks and because of our structures it's difficult sometimes. But you just have to give young women important projects and let them run with it, basically and let them show what they can do.

I think that’s not something that we do easily, and that's key to gender parity. I tried to do it, for instance, in the innovation team that we built for the division of Conference Management at the UN office in Geneva, where I gave them total freedom and at the start, the innovation team, out of 11 people there were ten women who stepped forward. So, I gave them the opportunity to step forward and to show that they could run with projects and I think that's one thing that we can do.

The first thing is about not pigeonholing people, because we recruit them for specific functions that need to be done, of course, but often people can do other things as well, so we have to let them do that. The second thing is what I mentioned earlier, is being very, very flexible about presence in the office.

You know, letting people work remotely if they want at their rhythm, as long as the work is done. I really don't care, as long as people show up when they are required, but otherwise let them do their work and that will help women tremendously.

Francesco Pisano: Talking about giving young women professional opportunities, I want to stop and acknowledge that all of the Next Page podcast program is run by one young female professional, Natalie Alexander, who is also the producer of these episodes, and she's doing a fantastic job. She was given by me one year ago, Carte Blanche completely, to design this program and this program is one of the most successful knowledge programs that we run in the library, so it certainly works. It takes a little bit of not even courage, what it took for me was to break the standards, which decisions and job are assigned to people, and I think that this is normal in large organizations, that they get crystallized in their ways.

And I think it's normal for large organizations, from time to time, run into people like me or you break these crystals in smaller parts and see what happens. And this is where innovation typically comes from.

Corinne Momal-Vanian: That's a wonderful example, Francesco, I really have to say, I mean this podcast series, but everything that you've done with the Learning Commons, and a lot of things at the library are wonderful examples of empowering young people. So, thank you for that.

Francesco Pisano: Thank you so much for recognizing that and I'm glad that you say it because it is not always easy, but it always pays, that that is my experience. Corinne, as we draw to a close, maybe you want to address your final thoughts to the audience in terms of going back to the Kofi Annan Foundation, in terms of what you see in the future in the path of the organization, what do you want people to remember about the organization that you're leading today?

Corinne Momal-Vanian: I would like people to remember that Kofi Annan stood for what he believed was right and he paid a very heavy price for it when he was Secretary-General. He had very difficult times with some member states because he stood up for what was right. And this is what the foundation is about.

But I think, if I have also one message for young colleagues or others in the United Nations system, just stand up for what is right and what you believe, and sometimes it will be very tough, but you will never regret it. Remember that time when Kofi Annan was asked to resign as Secretary-General, and this is the only time I heard him curse, and he said to the journalists, “Hell no, I will not resign.” And he echoed Dag Hammarskjöld in that who t was also asked to resign, and he said, “I will not step down”, and sometimes the easiest thing is to walk away. But they stood firm and they did what they thought was right. This is the message in the values we're trying to convey in in the foundation, and this is what the United Nations is all about and should be all about.

Francesco Pisano: Corinne Momal-Vanian, Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation, thank you so much for spending this time with us and our audience. Thank you.

Corinne Momal-Vanian: Thank you, Francesco. Great pleasure.


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