Swords Woman Scales New Heights At UN

Niamh CollierNiamh Collier-Smith is pictured with UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters in New York

The exploits of Swords woman and mother of four, Niamh Collier-Smith, who has carved out a spectacular career for herself at the United Nations in New York, has been recognised by her college, Dublin City University.
Niamh’s meteoric rise within the organisation has also been noted by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. The college have decided to recognise her achievements, by including her on their prestigious Alumni Wall. A ceremony took place last week, which was attended by her family and friends, in which President of DCU, Professor Brian MacCraith presided over the event. Niamh said, “This is a great honour for me to be recognised in this way by my former college DCU, who have been very good to me and it’s something very special to me,”
While home on holidays, she explained to the County Leader how she came about having such a high-powered career within the UN. She said, “I went to school at Loreto College, Swords and from there I went to Dublin City University (DCU) where I did my degree in Journalism and French and then I went on to complete my Masters in International Relations”.
“One day I was looking at an internet site when my husband, then boyfriend, Pio Smith and I were backpacking around Australia, wondering what we would do next. I came across an advert for an internship with the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. At that time Ireland had an awareness of the UN, because Mary Robinson was the Commissioner for Human Rights then. This struck a chord with me, even though I wasn’t fully aware of the UN.
I knew that this was something I wanted to do, and I sent off the application, while still travelling around Australia. Eventually, we ended up in South America and I was standing in a phone box in the middle of Patagonia, covered with dust, doing an interview over the phone for this UN internship. Somehow they decided they liked me and I was offered the job,” said Niamh.
Niamh started working on Human Rights, which was a great start to understanding what the UN is all about. After working for a while with the World Bank in London, she was offered a United Nations job as Communications officer in New York 10 years ago. “This led me into a whole new world of politics and international development, which was absolutely incredible and I was filled with pride to see all the flags of the world’s nations where I worked,” she said.
It was then that Niamh moved into policy development to resolve problems, whether it be energy crises or how to ensure that elections run smoothly and to get people involved in voting. It also included empowering women to become political leaders.
Last Monday, Niamh left for her next posting in Bhutan, which is a Himalayan state, neighbouring Nepal. “It’s the last Buddhist kingdom in the world, which, up to about 20 years ago, was a very closed society and culturally very proud. I’m really looking forward to my posting there, which will last for about three years. I will be the deputy resident representative for the UN, which means helping the UN development programme to figure out how best to be of service to the government of Bhutan. This will mean getting villages ready for climate change, particularly those located at the bottom of
mountain ranges, where glaciers are melting with the risk of flooding.”
“We also look to help to develop the local economy of the country, which up to recently was a monarchy and is now a democracy,” said Niamh.