Alumnus Mourad Wahba: UN Helping Haitians Face the Future with Confidence
Working with a country as complex as the Caribbean nation of Haiti requires a person of many talents and diverse experiences. Last spring, the United Nations decided Mourad Wahba was that person. The AUC alumnus and former AUC economics professor who has worked with the UN for more than 20 years has been named deputy special representative for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
Wahba is also serving as the United Nations resident coordinator, humanitarian coordinator and resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Haiti. As his many titles suggest, the scope of Wahba’s work in Haiti is vast. Haiti is a country facing an array of obstacles and remains the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. In addition to a number of coups and general political instability in the past 25 years, Haiti has also had seen a rise in gang violence and suffered from several serious natural disasters, including the 2010 earthquake that killed nearly 300,000 Haitians. “I think Haiti is a multiple challenge: there are political issues with elections, a severe level of poverty and complex humanitarian needs,” explained Wahba.
However, as Wahba settled into his post which began last June, the October 25 elections were his top priority. “This was a very challenging program that will allow Haitians to choose freely their president, parliament and senate, and even local councils and mayors. Understandably, the stakes are high, and our role in the UN is particularly important to ensure that Haitians have their voices heard,” said Wahba.
The first round of the long-delayed parliamentary elections was held in August, accompanied by incidents of violence and accusations of fraud. The October elections included the second round of parliamentary elections, along with the first round of the presidential and local elections and were relatively calm with no reports of major problems.
Beyond aiding in managing the political situation, Wahba wears many other hats in his role with the United Nations. He is heading a team of seasoned UN professionals working on projects in water and sanitation, agricultural development, job creation and entrepreneurship, education and health, and protection of the environment, which will ensure the Haitian people “can face the future with confidence.”
“In the humanitarian sphere,” Wahba continued, “I’m working with colleagues to help manage the resettlement of the remaining camps established after the 2010 earthquake to deal with the crisis provoked by this year’s severe drought and to provide rapid response to outbreaks of cholera,” he said. Beyond the United Nations, Wahba is also coordinating with a variety of Haitian and international NGOs.
Wahba brings a notable amount of international experience in development, policymaking and management. He served as the United Nations resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in Morocco from 2006 to 2009, deputy resident representative in Guyana, director of the Security Office in the Bureau of Management at UNDP from 2009 to 2013 and director of United Nations Affairs in UNDP in New York, in addition to several senior officer and adviser positions in UNDP and the United Nations Secretariat from 1993 to 2001. “Working in Haiti is a real test of the skills I learned in Morocco and Guyana,” stated Wahba, adding that he also has the new position of deputy representative in a UN peacekeeping mission, “so there is also that new aspect to manage.”
Wahba noted that his path to the United Nations was shaped by his experience at AUC, both as a student and professor. “AUC is an excellent preparation for anyone wanting an international career,” he observed. “The wide variety of people you meet and the habits of working with students and professors of many nationalities is a good basis for those who would thrive in international environments.”
While a student at AUC, Wahba was able to take advantage of AUC’s "exceptional" resources, particularly the library, which is one of the top research libraries in Egypt. “As I think back on my days at AUC,” Wahba reflected, “I am thankful for the library resources that helped me develop intellectual curiosity and a research discipline.” He encourages young people not to overlook the value of academic libraries in lieu of the easily accessible, but potentially unreliable, information they find online. “ I think students today take research resources for granted,” he said, “but pre-Internet and search engines, libraries remain the best research tool.”
Wahba’s education and experience have culminated in this new mission to help the Haitian people move forward, politically and socially, and he’s optimistic about the future. “Despite poverty and hardships, people in Egypt and in Haiti are similar in that they are proud and hard working,” said Wahba. “As an Egyptian working in a developing country environment, I base my work on respect and admiration for the people of this country. I recognize these values and work in solidarity to offer whatever support I can.”