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One of the most exciting and enriching things about SUNIA is the chance to interact with high-profile individuals on a personal level. Every year, two speakers from the United Nations attend our program, along with a speaker from the Canadian Department of National Defence. These speakers are not only available to lead discussions, answer questions, and provide you with an increased understanding of their field, they spend the whole week with us. At SUNIA, you could find yourself hiking up Mount Baldy with a diplomat, or eating lunch across from an ambassador.

Below you can read about the accomplished individuals who we had the privilege of hosting at SUNIA 2018. Stay tuned to find out our guests for SUNIA 2019.


Riina Jussila (Week A)

Riina Jussila joined the Division for Sustainable Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in 2012. She was part of the small, core Secretariat team supporting the intergovernmental negotiations on the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In addition to supporting intergovernmental negotiations, Riina has worked on a range of topics such as monitoring and review of SDG implementation, capacity building, stakeholder engagement and partnerships. Prior to joining the UN Secretariat, Riina worked for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. At the Ministry, she supported the national preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, and the work of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. Before her career in sustainable development, Riina worked for several years as a journalist.


Ariel Alexovich (Week B)

As a communications expert in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Ariel works every day to facilitate conversations between UN Member States, civil society, young people and other stakeholders on how together we can achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to build a better world for people and planet. She leads outreach campaigns about the UN’s efforts to mitigate climate change, build inclusive and sustainable cities, promote gender equality and protect our ocean. Also, she manages the UN’s SDG-related social media accounts, @SustDev on Twitter and Facebook, and in 2017 she launched the UN’s Be the Change initiative, an effort to encourage UN staff members to better “walk the talk” on the SDGs and live more sustainably at home and in the office.

…coming soon! (Week A)

Stay tuned for our next diplomat announcement.

…coming soon! (Week B)

Stay tuned for our next diplomat announcement.


SUNIA Staff with 

UN Speakers

Jean-Victor Nkolo , Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly  (front row, first from right)

Helena Alphonso, Associate Economic Affairs Officer (first row, second from right)

Former UN Speakers

  • Javier Perez de Cuellar, former UN Secretary General
  • Ingo Pitterie, Economic Affairs Officer at the UN
  • Daniel Gay,  Inter-Regional Advisor on least developed countries

  • Ingrid Kasper , UN Television Producer & Director

  • Beppe Lovoi, Sustainable Development Officer at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
  • Stephen Lewis, former Canadian Ambassador to the UN
  • Jonathan Perry, Member of the Division for Social Policy and Development at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
  • Brian Vitunic, Political Affairs Officer in the UN Department of Political Affairs 
  • Jean-Victor Nkolo, Former Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly 
  • Helena Alphonso, Associate Economic Affairs Officer in the Development Policy and
    Analysis Division
  • Jan Fisher, Former Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly

Former Department of National Defense Speakers

  • Major Alfred G.N de Boda, CD
  • Petty Officer First Class Bryon Dempsey

“I had the privilege and pleasure of attending SUNIA 2011 as guest speaker from the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Working as economist in the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, I gave lectures on economic development issues and discussed with the students some of the major development challenges the world is currently facing – in a seminar, but also during lunches and recreational activities (such as amazing hikes in the Rockies). The week at SUNIA was a fantastic and very rewarding experience for me and, I am pretty sure, also for the students, who showed enormous enthusiasm and excitement for the topics we discussed. What I loved most about the experience was the sense of working and learning together to make our planet a better place in an environment where everyone had a great time. I am certainly looking forward to participating at SUNIA again one day and I can recommend it to each student interested in the work of the UN and the most important political, social and economic issues at the international level.”
- Ingo Pitterie, Economic Affairs Officer at the UN

“I have been associated with the Seminar on United Nations and International Affairs (SUNIA) since 1994. The educational program for high school students organized by university-aged students and held annually is the most rewarding experiences I have had throughout my career with the United Nations. I have participated in the program, so far, four times: 1994, 2006, 2008 and 2011. I can attest to the fact that the one-week learning experience for each group consisting of about seventy students each week is unique in many ways.
First, it is the only program that students stay at the learning center the entire period. They get to know each other, work, travel, eat, dance and learn as an interactive group.
Second, it is the only program that invites two UN officials for each week. The UN experts stay in the same compound and share same activities. They lecture, hold seminars and discussions with students but also share with them recreation trips, sports, and social activities. They avail themselves to person–to-person discussions and get to know the students at the personal level. I, personally, established long lasting friendship with some of the students and counselors who visited me here at my UN office and my home.
And third, SUNIA is the most diverse student-oriented program that not only teaches about the United Nations and global affairs alone but includes, as well, a number of recreational activities, sports and talent and mental development-exercises.
I am so proud to have been associated with SUNIA for many years as a UN official and as a professor. I am so happy to know that many of the students I met at Goldeye Center became successful professionals in all fields. It is my pleasure to continue to work with such talented and dedicated counselors who are committed to bringing up globally-aware young professionals.”

- Hamid Abdeljaber, Professor of Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University and Former U.N. International Staff and member of DPI’s Speakers List