"I remember sitting on the porch… with the local principal and I said, 'You need food and you need medicines. Why exam papers?' And he said, 'Look, that's for now. But the exam papers are our future. Our kids are our future. This is more important to us than food and medicines.'"

David Shearer is the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for South Sudan (United Nations Mission in South Sudan - UNMISS) but has also served in crisis areas across the Middle East and Afghanistan. He shares his captivating career stories from a posting in an occupied Palestinian territory, the nerve-wracking negotiations to release his wife from gunpoint in Somalia, and his incredible work entering behind Sri Lankan government lines to deliver exam papers to its schools.

He also recalls how he narrowly missed out on becoming the Prime Minister in his home country of New Zealand.



Full Transcript +



Melissa Fleming 0:00


From the United Nations. I'm Melissa Fleming, and this is awake at night. Today, my guest is David Shearer, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for South Sudan, and the Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan from where, David, you're speaking to me today. Can you tell me what is a typical day for you in Juba?


David Shearer 00:24


I think the interesting thing about my job is that there's no typical day. In South Sudan here, it's a huge peacekeeping operation. We've got nearly 20,000 people here. A lot of what I do is to meet with the South Sudanese, with the President, with various ministers or the heads of political parties who were at war with each other up until very recently, and moving backward and forwards between them and making sure that the peace agreement is on track. I spent quite a lot of time or as much time as I can out in the field. So I'm based in Juba, the capital city, but we've got bases in 19 different locations across South Sudan, and South Sudan is about the same size as France. What we're seeing at the moment is a lot of the new conflict that's emerging, there's localised conflict, and it's something we can really do something about.


Melissa Fleming 01:15


You just described South Sudan as being as big as France and I've been there too and I know that you can't take a fast train to reach the locations where your troops are based. How do you get around, just describe what it's like to travel in South Sudan?


David Shearer 01:32


South Sudan got its independence about 10 years ago and it really, I have to say, didn't get a great deal when it got its independence. So there was just over 400 kilometres of tar-sealed road in the entire country. The rest of the road is a dirt road. So going from Juba to our northernmost base, which is 1000 kilometres or about 600 miles, if you're doing that in the US it might take you a day, day and a half. It takes us ten days to do that trip. And that's only in the dry season and the dry season runs from about December through to June. Then the rainy season comes and from June and through till December again, you just cannot move on the roads at all.

So for us, we use helicopters, aircraft, and we also have barges that we use on the Nile. So we supply some of our bases by barge. So moving around in this country is really, really difficult. And I have to say it's one of the things that the peacekeeping operation here is doing, I think most successfully. It's something that I've been personally, really motivated about, which is to improve the roading network in South Sudan, and people don't think of peacekeepers and roading networks together. But we've got about seven companies, that's about 200-odd soldiers in engineering companies who are doing road repairs across the country.

Roads build trade, they build connections, they build prosperity. But they also help to build peace. So that's something that the peacekeepers are doing here that nobody ever kind of gets to see.


Melissa Fleming 03:13


Anything else you're proud of? You've been there for four years and trying to maintain a very shaky and fragile peace. What are you personally kind of proud of other than the roads?


David Shearer 03:31


When we first had the peace agreement, we had the two sides, the two main sides were in different locations across the country. When they signed the peace agreement, that was fine. But what was going to happen to these soldiers on the ground, because although they've been told peace is here, they were still lined up across, basically these front lines. So one of the jobs that we did was to organise collection points where both sides could come together, sit down, usually almost always under a tree and talk to each other.

It was extraordinary to watch. In one particular case, I remember one of the...I think it was from the government side, pointed across, he was the head of one of the generals there and he pointed across to the general on the opposition side, and he said, ‘You know, for the last three years, I've tried to kill you. And you've tried to kill me. And here we are sitting together talking about peace and how we can live in peace in South Sudan. Isn't that terrific?’


Melissa Fleming 04:31


Probably the people who also suffered the most had the least to do with the fighting, I’m thinking of women, children. Did women have any role or do they now in forging peace?

David Shearer speaks to a very large group of people in the outdoors. A UNHCR marked building is in the background.
David Shearer speaks to a very large group of people in the outdoors.


David Shearer 04:47


Not as much as we would like, but you're absolutely right. I mean, the women bore the brunt of what had happened. The amount of sexual violence in the country is astronomically high. It's coming down, I have to say, which is great from what it was when these two sides were fighting so hard. It’s still there. So it's really important that these sorts of issues are dealt with by the South Sudanese themselves.

One of the things that we have done is worked with the South Sudanese on establishing what is the moment is called mobile courts. So we set up a court in a particular place and people that have been accused and arrested of committing crimes, and particularly sexual crimes, are brought in front of these mobile courts. They’re like ordinary courts, except they're just more or less temporary. And it's had a huge impact, because for the first time because you've got courts, it ends impunity, so people know that they're not going to get away with it necessarily anymore. And if you think you can't get away with a crime or whatever, it brings the incidence of that crime down.

A friend of mine who was a lawyer helping to set these up was telling me that there was a woman there...a young girl there, 14 years old who had been gang-raped by four guys. The four guys walked into the courtroom, very cocky, very arrogant, thinking that nothing was going to touch them, saw the woman, this young girl standing there, saw the other women around her that were willing to give testimony and to give evidence, and their faces fell. And the case went on. And they got between three and 12 years there, and they were put in the local prison.

She went outside about a couple of days later and saw this queue of 48 women standing outside this courtroom and said, ‘Why so many women here?’ and she was told that they were there because they wanted to give evidence against other men that had committed rapes and committed sexual crimes.


Melissa Fleming 06:50


Tell me about COVID in South Sudan, to what extent is it circulating there? And how preoccupied are you when and how preoccupied is the government and the public with the pandemic?


David Shearer 07:06


When it started off, we were like everywhere else, we were unsure what we were dealing with. So there was some… You know, we made decisions and the government announced lockdowns and things that were difficult for us because we still have to do our jobs. I mean, you know, I’ll say one thing about, in this sort of circumstance, if you take the experience of Ebola in West Africa a few years ago, Ebola killed about 11,000 people in West Africa. But when they went back and did the analysis, what they found was that far more people died of other diseases: malaria, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, whatever, because they weren't being treated in the health centres because the health centres shut. And so the invisible death rate was way higher than the very visible death rate from Ebola.

So one of the things that we were determined to do here was to make sure that the health centres continue to function, and that we continued to do vaccinations and we continued to provide those basic things. But I have to say that in South Sudan, we anticipated the death rate was going to be higher, it hasn't worked out that way, fortunately, which is great. We've got a second wave that's come through just in the last two months, which I anticipate if...we haven't been able to test it, but I suspect it will be one of the ones that are more infectious than other places. We have lost in the UN, about 12 or 13 people now, I just got ,literally just before I came on this show, I've heard of another person dying in a hospital, we medivac them out. And, unfortunately, they died. They couldn't they couldn't say


Melissa Fleming 08:52


It was a colleague of yours?


David Shearer 08:53


Well, he was working with the World Food Programme. And so unfortunately, yeah, we've had a number of deaths. We've got now, currently, about more than 100 people who are COVID positive who are being quarantined and looked after and, if they're serious, then we medivac them out to Nairobi or wherever we can. But the balance for us as the UN is trying to keep our people as safe as we can so we’re very tight on the regulations; mask-wearing, distancing, all of those sorts of things. And on the other hand, doing our job because we can't just sit on our bases, close the doors and say, you know, we're not going to do anything. We can't do that.


Melissa Fleming 09:40


It must be quite difficult for people serving like you and like the troops and many of the colleagues in a place like South Sudan which is not an easy duty station and then on top of it COVID. I imagine people can't just fly out to see their family to take a break for two weeks and so the stress must be really... stress levels must be really high.


David Shearer 10:08


You're absolutely right and particularly in that first, from March through till about July, when everything was kind of locked down. I mean, people are living in the most remote places and their internet connection is not always as good as it could be, and they can't get through on the phone. And of course, their families are facing COVID as well. So they're worried about their families, they're worried about maybe elderly parents, and they can't get out. Last year, I didn't see my family from Christmas through till the next Christmas. And a lot of people were like that. I certainly wasn't alone. So it became very, very stressful for people,


Melissa Fleming 10:48


What keeps you awake at night these days?


David Shearer 10:50


You know, having… picking up your phone or taking a call saying, you know, a colleague has died or something like that. That really, yeah, that really cuts me up. So it's really the people that I work with. I'm really privileged to work with… you mentioned people before living in difficult places. I mean, these are some of the most difficult places I've ever been and seen in my life. And I've been to some pretty awful places in my time. And these people get up every day, and they go and do their job. On the whole, they don't complain, they don't ask for much. I'm really privileged to have worked with some super, super people in this job.

So you know, I was telling this to the Security Council the other day, and I got quite choked up because all of a sudden it kind of... it kind of, it hit home to me that many of these people obviously I'm going to be leaving in a little while and huge amount of time for and for the South Sudanese themselves, actually, Melissa. I've worked really, really closely with a lot of people. And I can tell you, they are some of the most infuriating people I've ever come across. But they're also some of the toughest and most resilient people I've come across and generous.

And I think people with the most wonderful sense of humour, I mean, we can sit there and they can laugh at me, and they can laugh at themselves. And I've had some really, really lovely memories sitting under trees and chatting to people and laughing about their situation, which is anybody… you know, they couldn't laugh about it. But for some reason, they can see the funny side of it. So yeah, I'm going to really miss them. I really wish them all the very best from the bottom of my heart.


Melissa Fleming 12:44


You're sounding quite nostalgic moving on after four years, we're going to go back and look at your life. But where are you going to next?

David Shearer walks with a group of people up an exposed staircase attached to a small tall structure.
David Shearer speaks to a group of UN personnel all wearing blue caps.


David Shearer 12:54


I'm not going anywhere, I'm going home is where I'm going. And I know this, I haven't really spent very much time with my friends and family for the last four years. This is not a family duty station, I can't bring my family here. So I've, you know, seen them whenever I can. But obviously last year I didn't see them for a long time. I just felt that the mission is in a place right now with a peace agreement, the transitional government in place. We’ve made some changes to the mission, I think it's in good heart. And I thought it was time that I changed gear and went and did something else. I don't think people should stay in this sort of job for a long time because it really does weigh you down, and you need energy. And you need good ideas. And I think handing over to somebody else who can pick it up and take it in a new direction and maybe try different things, I think that's really important.


Melissa Fleming 13:50


What do you look forward to most when you get home?


David Shearer 13:54


I'm going to spend some time obviously with my family. My kids are in their 20s now so they’re, you know, doing their own thing, but you know, I still miss them. We were talking on Skype this morning and having a laugh about a few things. And you know, I just realised that, you know, it'd be kind of nice to hug them rather than see them on Skype, you know, you can't do hugs on either FaceTime or anything like that. I spend... I like the water. New Zealand is surrounded by water so I surf and we've got a family boat at home. So I'll be doing a bit of surfing and a bit of sailing and, and my wife has a very, very long list of things that she would like me to get on to.


Melissa Fleming 14:37


You mean, like house repairs? 


David Shearer 14:39


I imagine things like that. You know, there's lists of lists I've been told. So, yeah, I'm not going to be idle. And also, one of the things I'd like to do is to do a bit of writing and reflect on, you know, peacekeeping, conflict, South Sudan and there’s a group of people who have been in touch saying ‘Would you like to, you know, do that?’ And I'm really keen to do that, you know, I've learned a lot of things in four years, and people might think it's not useful, but others might think it is useful. So it also, you know, it's cathartic as well, it helps you think things through, you know, and reflect back too?


Melissa Fleming 15:19


Well, I think you have a lot more to write about than just your four years in South Sudan. I was looking back over your career and you've served in so many crisis areas in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and places a world away from your home country, New Zealand. What prompted you to get into this field in the first place?


David Shearer 15:43


It's interesting. It's kind of come around full circle in a way. When I was about, I don't know, 22 or 23, I was a sort of a young hippie and I had a couple of friends of ours and we had this romantic idea of following the Nile to its source. We were reading this fantastic book called The White Nile by Alan Moorehead who was telling about these explorers and we had this idea that we would take this trip and go to find that source of the Nile coming out of Lake Victoria.

And that's what we did, we took trains and boats. And then we took a kind of a barge right up through the Sudd, a huge swamp in the middle of South Sudan, and ended up in Juba. And then we hitchhiked a ride on a truck, a Somali truck for four or five days, and got through to Kenya and eventually to Uganda. But as we were going through parts of South Sudan, there was this tribe called the Tukana. And they were going through a particularly bad time and a friend and I were peeling mangoes and throwing the mango skins over the side of the truck as we were riding in the back and these kids were fighting over the skins. And it occurred to me that I mean, this was… I was being a tourist coming through this area, but there were much, much more fundamental things that I felt needed to be, you know, needed to be addressed.

So it just stuck in my mind and I just pursued it from there. And eventually after two or three years of trying, finally got a job with Save the Children in Sri Lanka in the north on the east, which was going through a war at that particular time. And after that experience, once you've got experience in conflict type of environments, you're more likely to pick up jobs in that sort of environment. And I don't want this to sound the wrong way, but I enjoy those types of environments, not because of what they are, but because I feel in that sort of situation that countries and places are at their absolute Nadira, at their absolute bottom. And if you can do something, you are likely to help some people and you will be able to see what you can and have been able to do. It gave me the most immense amount of satisfaction to do that.

So I've never really worked in headquarters, I haven't been in New York, I worked for about a year in Geneva once. And that doesn't attract me back again. I've always been a person who wanted to be here on the ground in the field where I can see, you know, the impact of what I'm doing and have an impact.

Soccer team winner holds cup high in the sky and David stands next to him cheering and clapping.


Melissa Fleming 18:28


Do you have an early memory of Sri Lanka or one of your first posts where you really got that feeling of having helped somebody and that gratification?


David Shearer 18:39


One of the most memorable times was... The island of Sri Lanka was basically at the time divided in half and in the north was occupied by the Tamil Tigers, and in the south was the government and they had a front line that ran effectively West-East across the country. The schools still functioned under the central government in the south. And education is extremely important for the Tamils who lived in the north and they wanted to sit their school exams so they asked us ‘Could you take the exam papers from the south up to the north and distribute them around the schools?’ And so that's what we did.

We piled a truck full of these exam papers and we went up to the front line and because we were seen as being neutral, we were able to move backwards and forwards. And we went through the Sri Lankan government lines with their guns pointing outwards and went down the road about two or three hundred metres and the east side of the road was mined on each side so you couldn't go off the road and then came to the Tamil Tiger front line, bit further down, and then proceeded after that to move around the schools and drop these exam papers off.

And we tried to get a ceasefire for the few days that the kids were going to be sitting the exams in which from memory we succeeded for about a day and a half or two days, and then it collapsed after that. And then we went back and picked up the scripts, the exams, and took them back down to the south to be marked. And I remember sitting on the porch, it was a little village with the local administrator there, the local principal. And I said, ‘You need food and you need medicines and you need whatever, why exam papers?’ And he said, ‘Look, that's for now. But the exam papers are our future. Our kids are our future. This is more important to us than food and medicines.’ It always stuck with me, you know, that we were making, you know, doing that little bit to help not only kids get their education but hope for the future as well.


Melissa Fleming 20:51


I think we've both seen this everywhere in conflict zones that the parents are first and foremost thinking of the future of their children, even as their homes and cities and towns are being destroyed. Tell me about your parents, did they influence you at all in taking these choices or making these choices to pursue a career in the field helping others in dangerous places and conflict zones?


David Shearer 21:20


I had a terrific upbringing, I must admit. My dad was a primary school principal. My mum worked in another school as a sort of school administrator. I’ve got a younger brother and sister and we grew up in New Zealand and a pretty... when I look back on it now... a pretty perfect sort of arrangement. Didn't feel perfect at the time. Of course, you've always got issues when you're growing up. And my dad, he was an elder in the local church. And he played a big part in the community. So I suppose it sort of rubbed off, some of it rubbed off on me, but they could not understand why I would want to go to these places. And until they paid a visit to Sri Lanka and they saw some of the things that we were doing. And I think that kind of clicked.

I remember a couple of years after that being in Somalia, and it was in ‘91 or ‘92. The famine and the war was just raging and there were just thousands of people who were dying. And you know, I got on the phone to dad, it was before Skype, and he said, you know, ‘How are things?’ and I said, ‘I just can't describe it. They're so awful.’ Dad picked up the phone and got in contact with the New Zealand foreign minister and a few other people and somehow got them revved up to, you know, the New Zealand government to at least make some donation and pay some sort of a heed to what was happening. Rang the local newspaper and before I knew it, there were people ringing me up from all over the country wanting to talk to me in Somalia. That was his way of helping his son in a place like that. So while he never quite understood it, he was a real guy that had never left New Zealand until he was probably in his ‘50s. He understood humanitarianism and humanity, I think.


Melissa Fleming 23:17


It seems you also married someone who understood and even joined you on some of these missions. Tell me about your wife. It must not be easy to hold down a family with this kind of career.


David Shearer 23:34


We've been lucky in some respects because if you're in a normal sort of development context, it's relatively easy to have your family with you. But if you're in war zones, then obviously it's not, and before we had kids, we served together in Somalia. And then I went on to Rwanda, just after the genocide in 1994 and she came along with me there as well. So we had the opportunity to do that and then later on, when we had kids, I was posted to the occupied Palestinian territory so the kids came along, and we lived in Jerusalem, and, you know, for four years there, and then I was in Iraq for a couple of years, and the kids were in Jordan. So, you know, it is nice that they experienced that sort of environment as well.


Melissa Fleming 24:26


You and your wife were in Somalia together in, as you described, one of the worst times during the horrible bar. I believe, you also experienced a situation where your wife was in grave danger. Can you describe that?


David Shearer 24:45


Yes, there was a day when.... She was the logistician so she was in charge of making sure that our medical stores, our fuel stores, and all of those sorts of things were in good shape. One day there was an altercation and we didn't quite know what it was at the time. But she was held at gunpoint and taken away and we were told that unless a certain amount of money was going to be paid or a certain number of jobs were going to be allocated, they were going to shoot her. It took some pretty nerve-wracking discussions using some trusted interlocutors going backwards and forwards between these groups before she was released which she was. And I have to say she was remarkably unscarred from it. She got up the next morning and just went off and did her job again, but it was pretty tense at the time.


Melissa Fleming 25:43


And it must have been also, at times, quite frightening for you to be in some of the situations you were in. I mean, have you feared for your own life?


David Shearer 25:57


I've been in places where we've been shelled. I was shelled in Somalia and when I was in Sri Lanka in the north, we were in a bunker being bombed. I think I've lost count of the number of bullets that I've heard whistle above my head, you know. One thing I can tell you is you never get used to it, it does really upset you. But on the other hand, you kind of learn to live with it, you don't get used to it. But you do sort of learn to live with it. I had a particular case where we were crossing the front line between two sides and inside Mogadishu and we were in a car. And I'd done it in the morning, very early in the morning. And I'd come back again, and I'd picked up one of our people, and we were going to go back again. And this time, people saw us and they stopped us. And I had a guard in the car who had a gun and he was from the wrong tribe so he was in the wrong place. They started firing into the car and I saw him roll over in the back. And I seriously thought he had been hit and he had been [shot] dead. They stole my radio and some money that I had. And then let me go which was extraordinary so the driver and I carried on. He just sort of roared off and I looked back behind me and fortunately this guy was still alive. For some reason, the bullets hadn't hit him. That was seriously worrying, I have to say. I thought that day, maybe this is it.


Melissa Fleming 27:34


So from 2009 for about seven years, you were active in politics back in New Zealand as an MP and as a leader of the opposition. What motivated you to do that?


David Shearer 27:49


I'd been interested in politics for a long time. I think when you work in this sort of environment, and I guess in other environments as well, what you realise is that the buck stops with the politicians at the end of the day. You can influence the diplomats. You can influence the administrators. But at the end of the day, it's the politicians that make the final decision on things. And I wanted to... I felt that I’d worked quite a lot overseas, and I wanted to go back and I wouldn’t say to contribute something to my country, but to be involved with my country and to, you know, to do something within my country. And so I got into politics, I was with the Labour Party, we were an opposition. And after about two and a half years, the leader at that stage, she was a friend of mine, stood aside and I ran for leader and became leader of the Labour Party and therefore Leader of the Opposition because it's the biggest party in the opposition, which went on for about two years until I decided to step down for... That's a whole other chapter and story.

And then not long after that, I got a call from the UN and said would you like to come back into the UN again and take out this job in South Sudan and it just came at the right time actually. I was really kind of over what was going on. I didn't think we had a chance of getting into government. How wrong I was because the Labour Party and Jacinda Arderne who was my colleague, we were opposite each other in the corridor, got in as the Prime Minister and I came onto South Sudan and I certainly don't regret it. I've had a wonderful time.


Melissa Fleming 29:37


I wonder whether your children have followed in your footsteps in any way?


David Shearer 29:43


No, it's interesting. Look, they’ve always been interested and I have to say always been supportive. I mean, when this came up, I sat down with them and said ‘Look, I'm being offered this job. I really would like to do it. I really think I can contribute and help something and do something, you know, but I'm going to be away. And I don't want to do this if you think that I shouldn't.’ They were very supportive and my wife as well, she could see how unhappy I was in my current life. She'd been working with me and she knew the type of environment that I was going to be going into and, and what she thought I could do. So, you know, I needed both of their support before I could take it on. And they've always been incredibly supportive. So as I say, this morning, we were chatting away on Skype, I was sitting here in my office in between meetings, having a quick call and finding out what my daughter was doing after she finishes university which is always a bit fraught. What she's thinking about...


Melissa Fleming 30:54


What did she tell you?


David Shearer 30:56


She's studying criminology, and she's done incredibly well, I have to say, I was really really proud of her and both of them, my son as well, and she's doing an internship at the moment with the police and the psychological part of the of profiling people and the police and she's just absolutely loving it. And I'm, you know, just so pleased that she's, you know, she's finding something that she really enjoys because you know, kids, it's really difficult for kids. I don’t know if it’s any more difficult now than it has been in the past. But it's taking that step out of school, then out of perhaps university or college or whatever they go to next, apprenticeship, whatever, and then going and getting your first job. I mean, it's, I think it's a big step and so just hearing her enthusiasm about something was, yeah, made me feel really good as I came back to work with a little more bounce in my step than I would normally have as a result of talking to her.


Melissa Fleming 31:58


How about your son? Which direction is he going in?


David Shearer 32:01


Well, he did a degree in communications and business and so he's working for one of the big retailers in New Zealand at the moment. He's doing really well as well. I mean, he was saying that, you know, he has been asked to take on a whole lot more responsibility and do different things. He was also saying that today, so I was really pleased for him, he's obviously getting some real satisfaction out of it and in these times of COVID, you know, where employment is difficult, he seems to be really enjoying it. So it's really good.


Melissa Fleming 32:33


The Kids Are All Right. That's good.


David Shearer 32:35


I think so. I hope so. They're pretty sensible, I have to say, maybe more sensible than I was at their age.


Melissa Fleming 32:41


I wonder after seeing all that you've seen and experiencing the best and the worst of humanity, what are your hopes, if any, for the world?


David Shearer 32:56


That's a good question. You know, the interesting thing about doing this work, and I think one of the things that I get most satisfaction out of, is you meet some pretty horrible people. I'll be frank with you. Often dressed up as nice people, you know, people who are smiling and grinning at you, but you know that they've been responsible for the deaths of a lot of people. But the other side of it, is that you meet some remarkable people, and they're inspiring, and it's such a buzz to work with great people who have got the ideals and the abilities, and have come from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds.

We, in this mission, have 100, we were trying to count them up, but we think that between 120 and 130 different nationalities. So you know, it's not unusual, before COVID, to sit around a dinner table with twenty people, and they'd be from a different country. And you're all working together on the same thing. And that's the great thing about the United Nations. In effect, we are the world and it's the world that is caring about South Sudan, and it's here to help South Sudan. It’s the youngest country in the world to stand up and to move on. And so I think it's, it's sometimes while there's frustrations working with all these areas, people and their different ways of working and everything else, we have an enormous gravitas because we are the world. You know, we are the world and through the organisation of the United Nations. So it's important to remember.


Melissa Fleming 34:36


I’ll remember that too when I next walk into the UN building, unfortunately it's empty these days. And it's really inspiring for us here in New York to see our colleagues you know, on the front line who haven't, who haven't abandoned their missions to serve the most vulnerable people in the world to try to build peace. So thank you for all that you're doing and that you have done over the years and especially these last four years for South Sudan. David, thanks so much for joining me on Awake At Night.


David Shearer 35:12


Thanks, Melissa. It's been lovely. It's been lovely to have a chat. It's been interesting to have to reflect on things because often you just look at what's ahead and you don't look at what's behind. So I appreciate it. Thank you for helping me do that.


Melissa Fleming 35:29


Thank you for listening to Awake At Night. We'll be back soon with more incredible and inspiring stories from people working to do some good in this world at a time of global crisis. To find out more about the series, and the extraordinary people featured, do visit un.org/awake-at-night. We're @UN and I'm @melissafleming. Subscribe to Awake At Night wherever you get your podcasts and please take the time to review us, it does make a difference. 


Thanks to my producers, Bethany Bell, and the team at Chalk & Blade: Laura Sheeter, Cheri Percy, Fatuma Khaireh, and Alex Portfelix, and to my colleagues at the UN, Roberta Politi, Darrin Farrant, Tulin Battikhi, and Bissera Kostova.


Special thanks to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for their support. The original music for this podcast was written and performed by Nadine Shah, and produced by Ben Hillier. The sound design and additional music was by Pascal Wyse.