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On a Light Note: 10 Tips for Nikki Haley, New US Ambassador to UN


Nikki Haley, the new United States ambassador to the United Nations, talking with media at the UN, Jan. 31, 2017. MANUEL ELIAS/UN PHOTO

A recent email sent out by a member of the United States Mission to the United Nations, then tweeted and possibly subtweeted, contained the following statement:

This is to let you know that Ambassador Haley will be spending her first few months learning about the UN and Security Council and its members. She will not be meeting with NGOs for a while.

Nongovernmental organizations — NGOs — provide pivotal civic advocacy within the UN. Nikki Haley, the new American ambassador to the UN, is going to be awash with requests from such groups, and given her gubernatorial background she might, as the message implies, want to get used to the UN and its bureaucracy before conversing with advocates.

Less than a month has passed since Haley had her hearing before the US Senate to be confirmed as US ambassador. Haley showed solid knowledge of the UN Charter but was, understandably, less certain on the contents of the 159 pages laying out the Iran Nuclear Deal and the last few speeches given by her predecessor, Samantha Power. At the hearing, Haley called out Russia for committing “war crimes” in the Crimea. Since then, she has presumably become well versed on the Iran deal as well as other treaties and international law.

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On her first day in office, Jan.24, 2017, Haley came out strong, declaring there’s a new administration in town that will have allies’ backs, but will also be making sure allies have their back as well.

“For those who don’t have our back,” Haley continued, “we’re taking names, we will make points to respond to that accordingly.”

In her first week on the job, she reaffirmed the US stance that Russia must withdraw from Crimea in Ukraine; that weapons testing by Iran was “unacceptable”; and might have felt some intense blowback from the White House executive order temporarily halting immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries entry into the US. Haley, from South Carolina, has shown that in the brief time between her Senate hearing and her accreditation at the UN, she has gained significant insight into the major peace and security issues before the UN Security Council.

To help Haley further acquaint herself with the UN, its pace and ways of doing business and the power of being a permanent member of the Security Council, here are tips for her to consider as she adjusts to the world body:

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  • There is a whole new vocabulary in play, for example:
    • Welcome to a world where you will use the word “capacity” in multiple capacities. You now have a national capacity, a P5 capacity and capacity over various treaties and operations that operate in certain capacities.
    • There will be actors: civil actors, nonstate actors, state actors, violent actors, certain actors — more actors than SAG, AEA and AFTA represent together.
    • Mobilizing sufficient resources: a sociological theory on the process of acquiring resources, through various mechanisms, to implement goals and agendas allowing for optimum efficiency and utilization. It is a term that is used often and under many different circumstances. Plus, it sounds impressive.
  • The pantsuit can be your friend, but don’t be constrained. Mainly, it’s useful to avoid crankles. Don’t be afraid to accessorize, either, like Madeleine Albright did with her pins.
  • Bringing a small American flag to the North Delegates’ Lounge to meet people is encouraged, kind of like a lunar landing at each table.
  • All those allies — you’re going to need them. Be an ally in return.
  • The food at the UN, like the bathrooms, improves the higher you go in the Secretariat building.
  • António Guterres, the new secretary-general and former refugees chief, is well loved and riding a crest of high approval among diplomats at the UN. He and the US mission have a close relationship, and cultivating his good faith works for all parties, promoting peace and prosperity.
  • When women’s issues on peace and security reach the Security Council, you will be the sole woman there to hold its commitments to gender parity — whether it’s participating in peace talks or in UN police forces. As Raimonda Murmokaite, the ambassador for Lithuania at the UN, who served on the council in 2014 and 2015 said: “There’s always a line between talking the talk and walking the walk. [The UN is] very good at talking the talk. We’re not as good at walking the walk.”
  • General New York lowdown: Don’t walk slowly in the middle of the sidewalk, don’t walk three abreast and don’t take anything personally.
  • If you’re looking for somewhere to eat, PassBlue conveniently recommends where to eat around the UN in reviews by Irwin Arieff, who used to report on the UN for Reuters.
  • Try to be as transparent and accessible to members of the press as possible, especially to those covering the UN for independent, women-led media companies.

Finally, a request: can you make sure that the moment you first tell Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN, to “bless his heart,” is caught on camera by UNWebTV. That way, the whole world can see it.


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts?

Laura E. Kirkpatrick is an editor, writer and researcher who has covered international, national and civic social enterprise and development, women’s issues and the media for Gannett Publications, ESPN and other media outlets. Based in Buffalo, N.Y., Kirkpatrick wrote PassBlue’s most popular article in 2015, “In New York State, a City Willing to Settle Refugees the Right Way”; in 2017, her story on sexual harassment at the UN was also among the top 5 for the year. Kirkpatrick also manages social media and audience development for PassBlue. She received a New Media Editorial Fellowship from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and has a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in English from Hamilton College.

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On a Light Note: 10 Tips for Nikki Haley, New US Ambassador to UN
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