November 8, 2021

By UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee

Ryan Kaminski is currently the LGBTQI+ Advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Inclusive Development Hub. He has over a decade of experience in human rights, sustainable development, and international public policy.

Previously, he was the World Benchmarking Alliance’s Global Public Policy Lead. In this role, he led the organization’s multilateral advocacy strategy at the UN, G7, and G20 with the goal of holding the world’s most influential corporations to account on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and human rights standards. This included leading WBA’s engagement at the UN High Level Political Forum, UN General Assembly, and at the UN Human Rights Council where he worked regularly with diplomats, business leaders, human rights advocates, and other international decision makers.

Ryan was inspired and influenced by the work of many activists, including human rights defenders in Myanmar he met as an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago. He also owes a debt of gratitude to the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA), where he served as a Leo Nevas Human Rights Fellow. Those experiences profoundly shaped his commitment and experience with human rights issues.

When asked why the United Nations' work is important to him personally and as a leader, Ryan emphasized the role of the UN in affirming all human rights, including the right to human dignity. He further explained that human rights are universal principles that are given full effect everywhere and for everyone, "from Turtle Bay — where the United Nations headquarters are located — to down the street." According to him, there is an urgent need for international cooperation and constructive engagement by the United States with the United Nations.

Ryan also remarked that the greatest accomplishments he has witnessed and achieved as an emerging leader have been collective in nature, rather than individual. He reminisced about the impactful partnerships he worked to forge, including through UNA-USA's Universal Periodic Review campaign. He also shared his experience building a rare coalition between diplomats, fashion brand Kenneth Cole, and the Tony-nominated Broadway musical comedy The Prom to support the fair treatment and equal rights of LGBTQI+ people everywhere. Partnerships, he explained, can be very "unpredictable, but it’s really great to see the fruit of your labor."

Among his goals for the next five years, Ryan cited the need to integrate the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the realization of human rights. In his view, governments, the private sector, NGOs, international organizations, and technical experts need to work together and, in the spirit of SDG17, strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. This requires dialogue and action among people of all different backgrounds, including young people. "Youth are the leaders of today, not tomorrow," he said. While the broadness of challenges facing human rights and sustainable development is considerable, Ryan takes comfort in knowing that young leaders see human rights as "a parcel of their towns and backyards" rather than as an abstract “distant” concept.

Ryan also shared his own perspective on what it means to be an emerging leader. Based on his own experience, he sees leadership as " Working with a team; everybody brings different strengths." He also said that leadership is the ability to recalibrate when needed and to create a template that others can adapt and refine. Seeing how one's work can spark creativity and innovation among others is, according to him, one of the most rewarding aspects of leadership.

Ryan concluded with a few words of encouragement to young leaders, whom he believes should never disqualify themselves: "If you have a moment where you are doubting yourself, take a breath and be affirmative about what you bring to the table. If you push on the door, it will open."

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