Nationality

Italy

Education

Master in Political Science, Universita degli Studi di Trieste, Italy  

Languages

Italian, English, French, Spanish and German  

I was born in the Italian countryside and at the age of six, I was diagnosed with a very rare tumour pressing on my spine. I survived but I became paraplegic. Growing up, there were no specific laws in favour of children with disabilities, so my parents and I had to be creative in pioneering different ways of overcoming physical and attitudinal barriers, along with stigma and discrimination. This made me resilient, persistent and a quick problem solver – qualities that have been valuable to me in life. 

I have always been interested in the world, and in learning more about different groups and cultures. When I was at university, my class was visited by a diplomat from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As I was interested in international organizations, I asked how one could work for the United Nations. That’s how I found out about the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme (also called the Associate Expert Programme). It seemed like the perfect opportunity to follow my passion for empowering others through international development.

I started my career at the United Nations in Vienna as a JPO in what used to be the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs (CSDHA), which hosted the Unit of Disabled Persons, the Youth Unit, the Aging Unit, the Family Unit and the Division for the Advancement of Women. With the exception of the Division for the Advancement of Women, these CSDHA units would later form the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) of the Department for Economic and Social Development (DESA) – the Division I have had the honour of leading since 2011!

Between 1986 and 1993, I worked in the area of social development and human rights. I left the Organization in 1995 and held a number of significant assignments, including as Special Adviser on “Fundamental Rights” to the former Vice President of the European Commission and as Chief Executive Officer for private enterprises in Italy. In May 2011, I was appointed to my current position as Director of DSPD at the United Nations. I have to thank the United Nations. I am here because the Organization started promoting equal opportunities for people with disabilities decades ago. 

I am intrigued by cultures, people and social groups, and using communication to reach out and empower them. In this regard, my position as Director of a Division which advocates for society and development is important. Our mandate allows us to reach out to the world, and to all relevant stakeholders to raise awareness of important social issues. We can give grassroots organisations the tools and confidence to empower their local communities – where it matters most.

Through my work at the United Nations, I have become highly familiar with the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, which provided a blueprint for governments to develop their national policies to ensure the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and development. It was an inspiring and empowering document that worked towards promoting real changes on the ground in the lives of people with disabilities. In 2006, the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention elevated the work of the United Nations for persons with disabilities to new heights by changing the perception of disability and promoting the human rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in society and development.

Since the adoption of the Convention, the United Nations Headquarters in New York is undergoing major transformations and across the Secretariat, a new policy is being implemented on the employment and accessibility of persons with disabilities since the United Nations does not discriminate on the basis of disability. The Organization takes measures to provide reasonable accommodation to ensure that staff with disabilities can fully perform the functions of their job.

If you are curious about life and want to be a part of the United Nations,
you must relentlessly pursue your dreams, no matter what disability, barriers or challenges you may face. By being willing and open to change, I can see results as I continue to realize my dream of empowering vulnerable groups. My passion for my work as a United Nations staff member grows every day as it is my motivation to bring hope, development and positive change to social policies and people around the world.  

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