Awake at Night podcast

What does it take to be a United Nations worker in some of the worlds most difficult and dangerous locations?

How are UN humanitarians, human rights advocates, prosecutors, development experts, climate leaders and peacekeepers improving our world?
Stationed in all reaches of the world and witness to suffering and atrocities, how are they helping people and coping themselves?
To find out, Melissa Fleming meets them.

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"A Privilege to Serve Humanity" - Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in OCHA

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Season Nine

Msuya hugs a woman who has indigenous tatoos on her arm

"What worries me a lot is whether we are focusing on any given day the crisis of today, and forget about the crisis of yesterday and the day before."

Big or small, Joyce Msuya has always found ways to give back. Now Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in OCHA, she oversees the global response to the worlds worst crises.

For me, personally, it's a privilege to serve humanity. I wake up every morning and think about how I can shift the needle in someone's life.

From Gaza to Ukraine, Haiti to Sudan, the UN estimates 300 million people around the world are in need of life-saving assistance and protection. In this episode, Joyce reflects on keeping hope alive despite waking to fresh crises every day, on the shocking impacts of climate-related extreme weather, and on the long-term benefits of a strict boarding school.

Joyce Msuya :: interviewed by Melissa Fleming
Doreen shakes hands with a robot amidst a group of people who surround her and take photos

2.6 billion people don't have access to the internet if you're not part of the digital revolution, you're not going to be part of the AI revolution C weve got to close that gap.

Doreen Bogdan-Martins fascinating career handed her a front row seat for the digital revolution. Now Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), shes among those leading global efforts to set guardrails on the use of Artificial Intelligence.

I think we've never seen anything like this before the plane is in flight and we're building it while we're flying - it's tremendous.

AI presents huge opportunities for humanity, but also poses great risks. In this episode, Doreen Bogdan-Martin reflects on working to ensure the humane and sustainable use of AI, on connecting the billions around the world who are not yet online, and on juggling a career with four children.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin :: interviewed by Melissa Fleming
Jayathma walks in a procession with many people all holding signs that ready 'no to early marriage'

"I wish that all the children and young people - you know, protesting on the streets, asking for climate justice, being arrested, being detained - I wish that they could just be children [... I wish for a world where my son ] can be light and free and not be bombarded with responsibilities of issues that he didn't have a hand in creating."

Appointed to a senior UN role aged just 26, Jayathma Wickramanayakes career trajectory testifies to the power of education. Now senior policy advisor at UN Women, she is working to empower all women and girls to fulfill their potential C whatever their background.

In this episode, Jayathma reflects on the global hunger for learning, her beginnings in conflict-ridden Sri-Lanka, and her hopes for her own baby son.

don't wait for advice. Don't wait for invitations. Just look around, you will find ways to contribute to change in your own family, in your own community, in your college, in your university and in your country.

Jayathma Wickramanayake :: interviewed by Melissa Fleming
 Mohamed Yahya and the Danish Minister for Development, among others, are in a boat touring informal settlements  built on stilts along a lagoon.

Somebody who lived in an IDP camp [is] suddenly back home, in dignity, self-reliant and thinking, I want to reimagine what life means for me Yes, I'm very proud.

A former child refugee, Mohamed Yahya knows the life-long pain of yearning for a lost home. Thats why some of his most emotional experiences with the United Nations have involved helping displaced people return to their towns years after they fled a brutal conflict.

Until recently working with internally displaced communities in northern Nigeria, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Pakistan is a life-long champion of community-led development.

In this episode, Mohamed Yahya reflects on the challenge of rebuilding scattered communities, on his experiences of being a refugee twice, and on the lasting allure of home.

There's always a sense of something missing. Because you're deprived of going back to where you were born.

Mohamed Yahya :: interviewed by Melissa Fleming
Lazzarini talking with people in a courtyard of a school that has been turned into makeshift housing. The space is overcrowded with people and hanging laundry everywhere.

[...] yet we are here seeing unfolding under our watch, our eyes, one of the fastest evolving looming famines, which has been completely fabricated. It's man-made. And which can easily be reversed through political will and political decision. It is deeply frustrating, but it's outrageous and makes me very angry [...]

Philippe Lazzarini holds one of the most challenging positions in the whole of the United Nations. As head of UNRWA, he is leading the backbone of the humanitarian operation in Gaza.

Ceasefire, ceasefire, ceasefire. If we have a ceasefire and the opening of the crossing, and we can flood assistance to the Gaza Strip, we would be able to prevent this catastrophe.

Following the devastating terror attacks by Hamas and others on 7 October, Israels military operations in Gaza have brought unspeakable death and destruction. 2.2 million Palestinians are in the midst of an epic humanitarian catastrophe.

In this episode, Philippe Lazzarini reflects on the trauma of the past months and the human cost of war.

Philippe Lazzarini :: interviewed by Melissa Fleming