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U.N. Resident Coordinator For Armenia and PHS Alumnus, Shombi Sharp ’88, Talked World Issues And Velvet Revolution With Students

Several upper school PHS students had the opportunity to learn about international relations, the United Nations and Armenia from U.N. resident coordinator for Armenia and 1988 alumnus, Shombi Sharp, on Thursday morning, Sept. 13, in Hall Student Center Auditorium. 

Andrew Mouzin

Several upper school PHS students had the opportunity to learn about international relations, the United Nations and Armenia from U.N. resident coordinator for Armenia and 1988 alumnus, Shombi Sharp, on Thursday morning, Sept. 13, in Hall Student Center Auditorium. 

Shombi talked about his journey into international relations from Pembroke Hill, in which he started as a successful advertising representative before pursuing international development in Zimbabwe. He has worked for the U.N. in South Africa, the Middle East, central Asia and eastern Europe, including serving as a member of the World Health Organization and World Bank Expert Panel for Europe and Central Asia, and in his current role in Armenia. "I feel it's the best job in the world," Shombi said of his position.

Shombi also discussed the U.N.'s sustainable development goals and some of the largest pressing issues facing the world, including climate change, the refugee and migration crisis, and growing world population, and how they are interlinked. "I don't know if you have seen the graphs of population growth, and how the increasing pressures population growth puts on resources and how conflicts increase over the scarcity of resources, which drives climate change and it's impact on inequity of resources in the poorest communities in the world, it is quite astounding."

Shombi indicated that students can drive the change to take care of the issues in the world, in thinking about the environment and how every little step helps.

He also spoke about the Velvet Revolution in Armenia, where a constitutional change to the leadership structure lead to an organized march of what started as 50 people grew to thousands of people in the streets. "Just a block from my office, every night, over 100,000 people were gathered in peaceful protest. And every day, we were amazed by the unity of the protest, and the joy on people's faces, but also frightened by the potential for violence and loss of life. Every night, I was communicating with the U.N. offices in New York, speaking with the Secretary General, writing briefs and drafting statements for him, calling for restraint and to avoid sending in troops. It was an incredibly emotional period of time, for about three weeks, but in the end, the president realized he had lost and he did the right thing, that it was better to step down and let go of power, then send in troops on his own people."

He advised students to find a career that drives them and jump into it. "You won't really know what you are capable of until you challenge yourself," he said. "When you see a challenge that ultimately would be a good thing for you to do, and it's scary, take the leap then consider what you did later on."

He also encouraged students to learn as many languages as possible. He greeted students in Russian, Arabic, Georgian and Armenian languages.

"Try to learn a language and go beyond that," he said. "Try to find opportunities to travel, volunteer and go on summer program trips," he said. "It's difficult to appreciate when you are in your classes and there are minimal opportunities to use the language outside of the classroom, but it is really important to start that foundation here."