Pera Wells

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Pera Wells "is the Acting Secretary-General of the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA), which was set up in 1946 to be a peoples’ movement in support of the UN. Pera is the first woman to hold this position at WFUNA. How did she arrive at this point in her career? Pera grew up in Melbourne and is a 1960’s Honors Arts Graduate in Political Science from Melbourne University...

"Pera’s career began as a research assistant to one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals, Mr Bruce Grant, who in the early 70’s was writing op-eds for The Age newspaper and went on to become Australia’s High Commissioner in India. Pera too went into the Australian Foreign Service – her first posting was to Ghana; she was the first female diplomat to be posted by the Australian Government to ‘black Africa’. On return to Canberra, she persuaded the Department of Foreign Affairs to let her create a new position in the UN Political Section focused on Human Rights. She was supernumerary but quickly demonstrated that Australia needed to engage in the UN debates on Human Rights; she worked closely with a network of people to define policy positions on the wide range of issues covered by the covenants on civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights.

"For the next ten years Pera was devoted to her work on Human Rights. She served as a First Secretary at the UN in New York from 1979 – 81 working with others to open up the 1503 procedures to enable the UN Commission on Human Rights to consider appeals from people and groups all over the world whose human rights were being violated. She returned to Canberra and became the research assistant to the Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen, drafting all his speeches in 1983. The Foreign Affairs Department called her back in 1984 to set up the first Human Rights Section and then in 1985 she was recruited by Sonny Ramphal to set up the first Human Rights Unit in the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.

"1987 was a turning point in her life – the Australian Government wanted her to resume her diplomatic career but at the same time she saw enormous potential in strengthening international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of Human Rights. In the event she returned to Canberra and served for another ten years in the Australian foreign service, as Director of the Papua New Guinea and Torres Strait Island section, Director of the first Environment Section (working with Sir Ninian Stephan as the Ambassador for the Environment) and Deputy High Commissioner in India from 1991 – 94. On return to Canberra she set up the first Cross-Cultural Program in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and was soon advising major Australian companies, such as BHP, on strategies for engaging with the Asian family-based businesses that were extending their operations across the Pacific...

"It was while she was working as a Senior Fellow at Melbourne University and consultant on cultural diversity, that the senior advisor on Aboriginal affairs, Lillian Holt, invited her to join a delegation to the UN “We the Peoples’ Millennium Forum” in May 2000. Pera took the opportunity to venture back into the multilateral world she had turned away from in 1987.

"Pera stayed on in New York after the UN Millennium Forum as a volunteer, working to promote awareness of the Declaration that had been adopted (and which she helped to draft). The position at the World Federation of United Nations Associations came to her by surprise – and delight. She has devoted the last five years to building up a dynamic global network of United Nations Associations – see the website" [1]

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  1. Pera Wells, ASHA, accessed December 23, 2008.
  2. Trustees, Center for UN Reform Education, accessed December 23, 2008.