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Kiwi Education Leads to United Nations Career

For Naresh Perinpanayagam, studying in New Zealand has given him the skills, values and confidence to succeed on the international stage.

Naresh says his Kiwi education was an excellent foundation for his current post as an advisor in the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General.

“The critical thinking I learned in New Zealand has been particularly important to my career,” says Naresh.

“It’s very valuable to be encouraged to come to your own conclusions.”

Naresh, who was born in Sri Lanka, gained a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor and Master of Laws at Victoria University in Wellington.

“I really enjoyed the experience. Meeting people from a range of different cultures and countries was good preparation for working at the United Nations.”

Naresh has been with the United Nations for the past 12 years, including in Geneva, Nepal and South Sudan, where he served as a peacekeeper. Most recently, he has worked for the United Nations in New York.

In his role in the Office of the Secretary-General, Naresh works for the senior official responsible for advising the Secretary-General on worldwide political, peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights issues.

“I really appreciate the Kiwi values I learned in New Zealand, particularly at university,” he says.

“New Zealand is a small country, and that has fostered a spirit of outward engagement with the world. There’s a strong commitment to human rights.”

Naresh says his New Zealand education has left him with a unique perspective on the world. It gave him a strong connection with the Asia-Pacific region, a deep engagement with Māori history and culture, and an awareness of the need for gender equality.

“All of these things have been important in my work with the United Nations. When you go overseas, you realise that many countries are not nearly as progressive in areas like gender equality.”

New Zealand’s strengths in gender equality, cultural diversity and tolerance are also highlighted in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Educating for the Future Index.

The index ranks New Zealand as the best country in the world at preparing students for the future.

For Naresh, the latest stage of his international career has been to take an academic sabbatical from the United Nations to study for a Masters in Public Administration at Harvard University in the United States.

He says an “unwritten value” he picked up in New Zealand has been a useful asset both at Harvard and the United Nations.

“The Kiwi way of doing things is really noticeable when you’re interacting with people from different countries. New Zealanders tend to be humble, which is a very effective way of dealing with others.” 


By Linley Boniface

Updated 3 years ago

Linley Boniface is a contract writer for Education New Zealand. She is based in Wellington, her favourite city in New Zealand. A former journalist, Linley spent a year in Montreal, Canada, as a secondary school student. 

*Views expressed are the blogger's own
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