From AUS to the UN: Maisoon Aldah’s diplomatic journey

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Maisoon Aldah representing her country at the UN headquarters in New York City.

How she found her way across the globe to represent her country

By Hind Aldah

With her wearied eyes but eloquent manner, I could tell Maisoon Aldah, a diplomat from the United Arab Emirates, was drained from the day’s work. 

Even during our video call via Zoom, she was awaiting another meeting in the moments to come after the interview ended. Our world is facing hectic times, and the United Nations is working to reconcile certain conflicts. It seems that most people are being affected in one way or another by today’s events, she told me. 

Aldah was working hard, despite spending her time in quarantine at her Manhattan apartment, recovering from COVID-19. 

The month of March is an eventful one, she tells me. Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the UAE assumed presidency of the UN Security Council just this month. 

“Women, peace and security” are among the top foreign policy priorities set by the UAE, according to Aldah. 

The permanent mission has a 70% female to male ratio staff and is led by Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh.

The UAE was recently elected to the UN Security Council in June of last year and it will serve for two consecutive years. It has held a seat in the council only once before between 1986-1987.

“It was a proud and important moment,” Aldah said when asked about how she felt when her country won a seat to the council. “Not just as a diplomat, but as a UAE national.” 

She hadn’t always intended on being a diplomat, or even anything remotely close to that field. During her freshman and sophomore year at the American University of Sharjah, Aldah poured her heart and soul into the complexity that is electrical engineering. Soon, those dreams were cast aside. 

She continued her education in the field of international studies at AUS, where she later found herself as an intern at the UAE embassy in Paris once she graduated. 

“It was that eye-opening experience which made me want to get into the diplomatic course, as I previously wasn’t sure where I wanted my career to be.”

Aldah comes from a multicultural background. Her father is Emirati while her mother is half Syrian and Brazilian. She grew up speaking Arabic and Portuguese and was taught English at school. 

I asked her if this knowledge had a role to play in getting her position at UAE’s Permanent Mission to the UN. “Definitely yes. I would say the number one thing would be the language,” she added. 

She says that speaking to other foreign diplomats, especially those from Portuguese or Spanish- speaking backgrounds, helped her understand how multicultural the UN really is. 

Aldah says she also learned Spanish whilst living in Colombia, Cuba and Mexico. She spent approximately nine months in Colombia, where she refined her Spanish speaking skills.

However, the longest she’s ever been away from home is when she was posted to New York City, where the UN is headquartered. Her 4-year term was supposed to end this past year, but due to the UAE’s election at the Security Council, she will have to spend another two years away from home.

She said it wasn’t easy at first, moving away from home for the first time. But her main motive was this opportunity to represent the UAE internationally. 

“My family were extremely supportive,” she said. “So that was always the main thing that drove me to where I am now.”

Aldah says that the unique opportunity made her proud of her country.