Annie Demirjian moved to Canada from Syria at the age of 11. In 1979, as a curious and adventurous young adult, she joined Cuso International to teach English to Nigerian high school students.
Upon her return to Canada three years later, Demirjian joined the federal government where she worked on energy conservation and in a number of advocacy roles for the next decade.
It was in 1984, at the beginning of the Iraq war that Demirjian joined the United Nations. She then began a 13-year career as the go-to person to help countries around the world, including in Eastern Europe, Somalia and Libya, transition to democracy. Demirijan says that the Canadian values of modesty and humanity helped guide her work in conflict zones around the world.
“The institutions that supported me initially—academia, the federal government and CUSO—gave me the expertise and confidence to work in critical situations and see how conflicts could be resolved,” says Demirjian. “I am always asking: how can I help individuals help their communities?”
Today, Annie Demirjian is the Director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs at York University.
“It’s wonderful to finish my career teaching young Canadians,” she says. “My hope is that they too will become globalists and humanitarians.”