A Millennial Woman Takes on the U.N.

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“I’m sure she has no chance, and equally sure that she knows that,” said Edward Mortimer, a former United Nations official who was the chief speechwriter for Kofi Annan, the secretary general from 1997 to 2006. “It’s a brave way of demonstrating unhappiness which I’ve no doubt is quite widely shared by her colleagues.”

Asked recently about Ms. Arora, Mr. Guterres’s spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, told reporters: “Let me put it this way. I speak for the incumbent candidate, but we have no comment on anyone else who may wish to put their hat in the proverbial ring.”

Ms. Arora, who has taken a leave of absence from work for her campaign, said she had received many positive messages from co-workers and more than 2,600 votes on her website, and is hoping to make her case to U.N. ambassadors in the next few months.

“This is not even a place that challenges, because they go through countries politically and negotiate,” Ms. Arora said. “So yeah, this is a straight-on challenge, and I don’t want to play games or anything, I just want to run an honest campaign.”

Not widely known outside her workplace, Ms. Arora has committed a number of head-turning firsts.

She is the first person known to officially challenge an incumbent seeking a second term, and the first millennial-generation candidate. And if she prevailed, Ms. Arora would be the first woman to lead the United Nations — a precedent nearly achieved in 2016, when seven prominent women were in the running with Mr. Guterres.

Ms. Arora talked about her life and ambition the other day in an interview at the United Nations headquarters, a few blocks from her studio apartment on Manhattan’s East Side.

She lives frugally, speaks daily with her parents, who are “very supportive,” Ms. Arora said, and reads Harry Potter books to relax. Her wardrobe of brightly colored dresses, including six acquired from Uganda and Kenya in 2017 while on a field assignment, stands out among the suits in her workplace.

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