Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Lia Petridis Maiello, I was born and raised in Germany and have been living in the New York City Metropolitan area for the past ten years. I am a journalist by profession, mainly covering international politics and for the past two and a half years, I have been lucky enough to work for a UN-based NGO, called Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW), where I have been trying to implement a media initiative, called matching:points.
What are some of the most inspiring situations that you have gone through during your career? Can you share one or two examples with us?
I love people, and particularly those who surprise me, primarily with character, which I take the liberty to define for myself, so that in itself might be a bit narrow-minded. But I like people that keep their word, that take risks on behalf of those who might be disadvantaged, that make a group work. And again, that is solely my own preference, other people have completely different inclinations, and that is obviously fine.
So I have been meeting a lot of very inspiring people in my work environment and in every-day life. Starting with my grandmother, who is now 83 years old and honestly to this day one of the best humans I ever encountered, in the way she has been there for me and everyone else in the family in a very selfless fashion. Another one is my former boss Thomas Roth at ARD television, the world’s largest public broadcaster after the BBC, who still takes the mission journalism ought to have, once upon a time, educating the public and discovering uncomfortable truths, very seriously. I had the pleasure to work with him in New York City and that was indeed the best work-related experience I ever had. For someone who had tea with Nelson Mandela, he is an inspiringly humble human being.
You are now working with Global Action to Prevent War. Can you explain how this organization works?
It is a non-governmental organization that is based at U.N. headquarters in New York City and gives advice to diplomats on the subjects of disarmament, nuclear and conventional weapons, women, peace and security and peacekeeping. I have been trying to discover areas and issues within the UN system that have been under-reported and highlight those through my articles. I also have been trying to put together meetings with UN departments, missions and journalists to discuss some matters of concern regarding UN media coverage.
This seems like a very big task. How does the organization plan on achieving its goal?
Yes, I personally find the name to be somewhat over the top. Preventing war is, in my opinion, an impossible task, as sad as that may sound. On the other hand, it might be worth trying, within one’s capacity, to make small or bigger contributions to a more peaceful world. Overall, I am a big supporter of the philosophy “Let every man seek heaven in his own fashion”, which implies that it is certainly not up to me to define good and evil. Therefore I can try and live by a reasonable example, but can’t come up with a set of rules and expect everyone else to follow, simply because this set of values works for me. That is something I find actually quite off-putting in the non-governmental, non-profit world. There are quite a few people who feel the right to define moral standards for everyone else and can be pretty absolutist about it, which I find somewhat ironic.
What change have you been able to see while working with this organization?
My colleagues Bob Zuber and Katherine Prizeman in particular, have spent a lot of time working on the arms trade treaty (ATT), a multilateral treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons, which has not entered into force yet, but is the first of its kind that is attempting to regulate the global arms trade. It’s one of these small steps I mentioned before, and I am quite lucky that I was able to witness the negotiations at UN headquarters.
Why did you choose the work that you are doing now?
After reporting on politics for about 18 years, I was wondering what it must be like to be in a place where policy makers are actually deciding over policy that has the potential to impact the entire world. I am very fascinated by that idea.
Who are some people who inspire you?
Authentic, uncomfortable, outspoken, non-dogmatic one’s and my grandma.
What can people do start to make a difference?
That’s a multi-facetted and difficult question. I believe in making a direct difference by helping friends and family and people in closest proximity. I think if everyone started with that, we could all have rather happy, fulfilled lives.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes, please, check out our organization at http://www.globalactionpw.org/. We are always interested in young, motivated people from across the globe that would like to get an experience at the UN, so, please, stop by when you come to visit New York City next. If you feel like reading some of my pieces, you can do so at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lia-petridis/. I am happy about feedback.
Photos by Frank Maiello