LAU alumna first Emirati staffer at United Nations New York HQ
International affairs graduate Hind Alowais appointed special advisor to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
LAU alumna Hind Alowais made history by becoming the first Emirati to join the New York headquarters of the United Nations as a permanent staff member. Alowais joined United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) as a special advisor in September after fifteen years with the UAE foreign office. “I joined the UAE embassy in Beirut while studying at LAU and went on to become a diplomat, representing my country in Lebanon and then as part of the UAE delegation to the UN in New York,” explains Alowais, who graduated from LAU with a master’s in international affairs in 2004.
Alowais’ role at UN Women centers on outreach. “I’ll be liaising and mobilizing for support within various General Assembly committees and the UN Executive Board to make sure that there’s a gender perspective included in all intergovernmental negotiations,” says Alowais, who enjoys the multilateral approach of United Nations initiatives.
Her background as an Emirati diplomat and delegate prepared her for the challenges ahead. In 2008 Alowais worked on the UAE’s winning bid to host the newly established International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). “It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my diplomatic career,” she says. “It made sense to host such an agency in a Southern country. All agencies were in the North and we need to be more involved in how global decisions are taken.”
Having helped to secure IRENA’s headquarters in her home country, Alowais returned to New York in 2011, soon after the establishment of UN Women. “Gender equality has been enshrined in the UAE constitution since it was founded and we wanted to contribute to the important work of UN Women,” she says.
The partnership between the UAE and UN Women was strengthened by various joint initiatives, supported by the General Women’s Union. “Established over four decades ago, the Union has thrived under the leadership of Sheikha Fatima and has been instrumental in strengthening the UAE’s partnership with UN Women,” says Alowais. The UN agency now works out of a liaison office in Abu Dhabi, from which regional advocacy campaigns are launched.
“The UAE wanted strong gender equality goals,” adds Alowais, who was responsible for negotiating the country’s new 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Ever the active diplomat, Alowais also covered security files, including those of Syria and Somalia, and was acting deputy head of the UAE delegation in New York.
Asked if UN Women’s gain is the UAE’s loss, Alowais says that her new position will enable her to work on gender equality while offering the voice and perspective of a UAE national. “It is important to have different voices at the UN, else there will be a lack of understanding and effective policy. Diversity means we can relate to others better and include different sensitivities in negotiations and policy.”
In addition to maintaining strong ties with her homeland, Alowais is keen to work with her alma mater on strengthening gender equality in the region. “I am proud to have graduated from LAU. There’s real love there.”