With the Class of 2016 about to graduate in only about a week, it’s getting to be time for me to wrap-up the Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2010.  Today we’ll hear from Claudia Ortiz, who provided me with this short bio, in addition to her post:

Claudia Ortiz (Mexico) has worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2013, when she joined as Regional Technical Specialist on Climate Change Adaptation in the regional hub for Asia-Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand.  She is now based in UNDP headquarters in New York, acting as climate finance policy advisor and project manager of the Global Green Climate Fund Readiness Programme.  Before UNDP, Claudia worked with the Climate Change Team at the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank, in Washington, DC.

Earlier in her career, she supported the development of Mexico’s first Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions for the cement and iron and steel sectors at the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington, DC and worked at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Sub-regional Office in Ankara, Turkey, where she undertook research on energy policy and environmental issues in Central Asia.

Claudia OrtizIt has been almost six years since I graduated from Fletcher.  I still regard the opportunity to study there as one of the best in my life: it changed the way I see the world, transformed my career, and allowed me to meet some of the most remarkable people, with very diverse backgrounds.  From the very first day of Orientation, students are constantly reminded that our most important allies are in the student and alumni community itself.  Besides this backbone virtue of the School, students are also reminded (as in the Mission and Impact statement) that as international affairs professionals, we ought to be “committed to maintaining the stability and prosperity of a complex, challenging and increasingly global society,” — in other words (or, as I interpret it), we are meant to be “global citizens.”

As global citizens, we let go of nationalistic or self-interests.  Rather we exercise collaboration and compassion, as we seek to become agents of improvement for the global society, including the most vulnerable populations in it.  And, as global citizens, we are led by our never-ending hunger to explore, travel, and experience different cultures.

This concept resonates well for me with the cause to which I have dedicated my career since Fletcher graduation: to support developing countries’ access to international climate finance for initiatives, projects and programs that address climate risks.  Climate change must not be regarded an “environmental” problem.  To label it that way would be misleading, as it places emphasis on the risk being posed to ecosystems or natural habitats.  In reality, it is the human species and human development gains that are most at risk and are being severely impacted by climate change in the form of food insecurity, forced migration, destruction of infrastructure, loss of livelihoods, etc.  Climate change is therefore a global development problem which does not recognize political boundaries and one which cannot be solved by acting in isolation; international diplomacy has a significant role to play.

Today, it is evident that diplomacy driven by recognition of the universal threat of climate change, but also by emphasizing the needs of the most vulnerable populations on Earth, has succeeded in shifting the climate change paradigm.  In December 2015, the diplomatic efforts of over 150 heads of state and their delegations resulted in an unprecedented Climate Agreement, reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  For the first time in history, there is global recognition that climate change is a common concern of humankind, whereby all the world’s economies need to act together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to climate change impacts.  Decades have been spent in breaching the gap between achieving economic growth through the use of cheaper fossil fuels and the urgent need to enhance resilience to climate change, especially in the poorest countries.  We are a privileged generation to witness a huge step in this direction.

As an officer of the United Nations, I function as an “international civil servant.”  I am not to respond to any government’s instructions (or those of any other source that is not the UN) as I carry out my duties; rather, I am supposed to bring forward only the interests of the UN.  Applying this principle has proven to be crucial for my work given that, for the past three years, I have served the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Benin, Colombia, Nepal, Fiji, and others, but not yet my native Mexico.  I have realized that the only way to thrive in different cultures or contexts while achieving common social, environmental or development objectives is by maintaining impartiality and independence.  This is, of course, challenging, as we are all calibrated to operate based on our own cultural norms, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas.  I admit that only by living the experience itself have I been able to “adapt” quickly to unknown contexts, while still managing to get the work done.

Evidently, Fletcher was the perfect launching platform for my current job with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and my former position in the World Bank, another institution where staff uphold the same principles of impartiality and of a global mindset.  Fletcher is a microcosm where the exact same principles are enforced, not only to excel in the very demanding, inter-disciplinary curriculum but also to succeed as a member of the ever-present Fletcher community.  As students, we would consciously work, discuss, and even debate respectfully, without prejudice.  We established long-lasting friendships with people we never imagined we would.  I proudly say that Fletcher prepared us to confront the most compelling global challenges by making us realize that solutions can only be reached through diplomacy and collaborative action, because as citizens of ONE planet we cannot regard challenges to be the problem of “the other,” but rather, these problems and their solutions must be assumed as “our own.”

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