My first experience with the United Nations was with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo* (UNMIK) in February 2000. I was responsible for preparing for the first ever elections in the newly divided region. The excitement of working with UNMIK was incomparable to anything I had done before.
I came into contact with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme later when I was heading the Victims’ Recovery and Identification Commission. I got the rare opportunity and privilege to work with a team of UN Volunteers.
The volunteers were helping the aggrieved families to identify and return the remains of their loved ones killed during the conflict. I remember being overwhelmed, deeply touched and inspired by the commitment of these UN Volunteers. They worked gruelling 12-hour days to meet very tight deadlines. It’s difficult to forget the team of 15 steadfast, selfless and dedicated individuals; out of them 13 women and two men.
The professionalism and commitment of UN Volunteers, and their desire to help move the mission forward solidified my later decision to join UNV. I became a UN Volunteer Policy Advisor to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on 3 March 2016.
My tasks include providing support to the Head of Mission on a broad range of issues within the ambit of the UNMIK’s mandate under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, which authorizes an international civil and military presence in Kosovo. My work includes, but is not limited to, generating advice on political, community related issues, including reconciliation, returns and integration, cultural heritage, and property rights.
There is a great deal of difference between my previous assignment and the present one. The work is very rewarding and the colleagues are very appreciative to have their former supervisor working alongside them. My volunteer assignment allows me to be more imaginative, creative, and take an innovative approach to problem-solving.
UNMIK is not here to leave monuments behind, but to help empower the local authorities, the political leaders and the civil society to see and to meaningfully address all that the conflict has left in its wake.
A special note to retirees: please be aware of high expectations at work. Everybody prefers a comfortable work environment. However, comfort is limited in a UN mission. By the very definition, UN Volunteers embody professionalism and commitment, and an honest affirmation of adding value to the organization.
I hold dear the friendliness and sincerity of everyone the day I reported back to my duty station as a UN Volunteer. The genuine ties I built with my colleagues over the years paid back and all I can say is that I will be happy to keep contributing my time and effort for as long as I can be a UN Volunteer.
Bio: Leonid Markaryan is presently serving in Kosovo as a UN Volunteer Policy Advisor to the SRSG. He has worked extensively in the field of international cooperation and foreign affairs including as an advisor to the Russian Central Election Commission in 1999. Leonid has seven years of teaching experience. He was posted as first secretary to the then Soviet Embassy in New Delhi, and is a graduate of the Military Institute of Foreign Languages with the qualification of International Officer, Interpreter/Translator of English and Chinese.
* Kosovo: All references to Kosovo on this website are made in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)