Influence and Leadership at the UN: A conversation with Bob Rae

March 19, 2021
By Liliana Bechtold

In an increasingly globalized age, Canada’s role in international institutions like the United Nations has become more and more important. From the country’s ability to address global crises like COVID-19 and climate change, to the way that globalization is affecting Canadian jobs, examining Canada’s positioning on the world stage is key to understanding how global affairs impact Canadians.

On March 23, Ambassador Bob Rae, Canada’s current representative at the UN (and former Munk School professor) will be speaking about global leadership, Canada’s role at the United Nations, and how future leaders can break into global diplomacy and policymaking.  Appointed in 2020 as the Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, Rae has had an extensive career in politics. He served as Premier of Ontario in 1990, interim leader of the federal Liberal Party in 2011, and as Canada’s Special Envoy on Humanitarian and Refugee Issues (then called the Special Envoy to Myanmar) in 2017.  

The event, Influence and Leadership at the UN, is being organized and run by U of T’s Undergraduate Public Policy Students Association (UPPSA) and is hosted in collaboration with the University’s International Relations Society. Rae will be discussing public trust in global institutions, Canada’s relations with other global powers at the UN, Canada’s bid for a security council seat, and more. “I think that the nature of a lot of policy issues in the future are going to be global and multilateral,” says Napas Thien, one of the event’s student organizers. “It’s important for students get engaged with what’s going on at the UN so that we can prepare for the way policy will work in the future.” Attendees will also have the opportunity to ask Rae questions about his career, the world of diplomacy, and how future leaders can prepare to work at the global scale.

Influence and Leadership at the UN is the culmination of a year of events for UPPSA , which is in its inaugural year. The idea for the student’s association originated in a conversation between Nuna Dhahrulsalam, a fourth-year student majoring in public policy and the association’s president, and a group of her classmates. The undergraduate public policy major brings together students from multiple disciplines and is jointly offered by the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, the Department of Economics and Department of Political Science.

“We have amazing classmates who have done great work, and we realized that we could capitalize on that community of peers and create a support network,” she says. “So we decided to do something to provide a formal platform that we could use to build community.” The association came together online, and has been connecting public policy students, professors, and alum through social media and digital events like the upcoming talk with Rae.

Canada’s role in international institutions is important both at home and abroad, says Rae. “Representing Canada at the UN means working for human rights, a broader and deeper approach to the pandemic, and understanding that we share a common responsibility for the health of the world and the planet. At a personal level, it pushes me every day to learn up, listen up, and speak up.”

Register for the event.  
Learn more about the undergraduate major in public policy.