- The 34-year-old Canadian citizen is challenging Antonio Guterres who is seeking a second five-year term beginning January 2022 as chief of the world organization.
Arora Akansha, who works at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has announced her candidacy for the Secretary-General of the UN. A Canadian citizen, she is the first person to throw her hat in the ring against incumbent Antonio Guterres, 71, who is seeking a second five-year term beginning January 2022 as chief of the world organization. The 34-year-old is an audit coordinator for the UNDP. No woman has held the position in the 75-year history of the UN.
Announcing her intention to run in a Twitter post, she wrote: “I am Arora Akanksha. I am 34 years old and I am running for Secretary-General of the United Nations.”
Akansha also posted a campaign video announcing her bid on the UNDP website. “People in my position aren’t supposed to stand up to the ones in charge,” she says. “We are supposed to wait our turn, hop on the hamster wheel, go to work, keep our heads down and accept that the world is the way it is.”
Adding that “it takes someone being bold, being a first – first to speak up, first to take action, first to make a difference and now first to challenge the UN,” she says she is “no longer waiting for the torch to be passed down, I’m taking it because I am part of the generation of change where we don’t just talk about change, we cause change.”
She continues: “For 75 years, the UN has not fulfilled its promise to the world – refugees haven’t been protected, humanitarian aid has been minimal, and technology and innovation has been on the back-burner. We deserve a UN that leads progress.” Adding that the UN “should stop serving politicians and start serving people,” she says: “It is time for a new UN – a UN that is a guardian for refugees, takes humanitarian crises through to completion and gets technology and education in the hands of all. These ideas are not impossible and don’t need another 75 years to accomplish.”
In a followup video she posted on Twitter, she says: “I am so humbled at the support I’ve received from everyone and thrilled that you’re with me on this journey together. I know it’s a David and Goliath story and I know we are the little guys here, but we have to remember, we the people, are more powerful than any system,” she said, adding, “we realize that we can change the system, we can influence the system.”
According to her UNDP profile, “Arora comes from a family of refugees,” with all four of her grandparents relocating from Pakistan to India after the partition. “Arora was raised in a family that values the importance of education and hard work,” the profile says, and adds that Arora’s brother, at the age of 23, is one of the youngest physicians in Canadian history.
She graduated summa cum laude from York University, Toronto with a Bachelor of Administrative Studies She received her Master in Public Administration from Columbia University, New York. She was a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada auditing government, NGO and fortune 500 clients. She was the youngest person to teach a graduate-level course on Advanced Auditing at the University of Toronto.
Arora was recruited at the UN to help with the financial reforms of the organization. Her specific portfolio included updating financial regulations and rules of the UN, implementing a statement on internal controls, revising finance policies and procedures. Her other projects include Cost Recovery (UN way of saying management fees) and managing the internal and external audits at UNDP.
Bhargavi Kulkarni has been a journalist for nearly two decades. She has a degree in English literature and French. She is also an adventure sport enthusiast, and in her free time, she likes to cook, bake, bike and hike.