International Unitarian Universalism

Reflections on 15 Years

By Bruce Knotts

Image of Bruce Knotts in front of the flags at UN Headquarters in NYC

On the occasion of Bruce Knotts' retirement, we would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation for his fifteen years of service as Director of the UUA Office at the United Nations. Bruce's experience and commitment have represented UU values on the international stage, advocated for key issues like climate justice and LGBTQ rights, and shepherded the office through many changes. You will hear more about the ongoing work of the UU@UN during this transition in the coming months. For now, we want to take time, joining the many UUs who have been inspired by our faithful work at the United Nations, to wish Bruce all the best in this next phase.

Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, President, UUA

Carey McDonald, Executive Vice President, UUA

Rev. Alicia R. Forde, International Office Director, UUA


Dear UU@UN community,

This will be my last report to you. It has been an honor to serve Unitarian Universalism at the UN for 15 years since 2008.

These last 15 years promoting UU values at the United Nations have been some of the most meaningful years of my life, even after decades of service as a diplomat for the United States in nations all over the world. 11 years ago, the UU Office at United Nations moved under the umbrella of the UUA, creating an especially rewarding experience. It’s time now for me to retire from my position at the UUA, giving me time and opportunity to focus my advocacy on particular issues of concern for me. I’m not leaving the world of international diplomacy or peacemaking; I’m simply reimagining what it might look like in this next stage of my career. This is not goodbye. This is just a step onto a different path. I look forward to keeping in touch with you, so please email me at brucefk@me.com. My last day at the UUA will be September 30, 2022.

I began my time at the UU@UN by meeting Rev. Bill Sinkford in Boston. I said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I intend to follow a very aggressive LGBTIQ+ program at the UN.” Bill said, “If you don’t follow such a program, then I will mind.” I felt the wind in my sails. It’s that kind of support from the top that empowers dedication and concerted action.

The UN was planning a conference in Paris to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. I was given the first ever workshop on LGBTIQ+ issues in any conference like the one we were planning in Paris. I was invited to speak to a much larger breakout session by Sister Joan Kirby, a Catholic/Buddhist nun.

When I returned to New York, I worked with many others at the Norwegian Mission to the UN to ensure the UN General Assembly draft resolution would succeed. It did.

In 2015, I got a call from one of the lawyers representing the family of Tamir Rice. You remember Tamir was a 12-year-old boy playing alone in a park with a toy gun. Timothy Loehmann, a white police officer, drove up to Tamir and shot and killed him with no warning. When the family’s lawyer called me, he said he knew Harry Belafonte. We organized an event with 500 people in the audience. The event was live webcast worldwide on UN Web TV. I called Harry Belafonte UN royalty. Belafonte thanked me for my “warm embrace.” He was magnificent. Alicia Garza of Black Lives Matter was also a featured speaker. The High Commissioner for Human Rights and a host of luminaries were there. We launched the UN Decade of People of African Descent. In the end, the event was an enormous success, and the UN Decade of People of African Descent at the UN continues and will continue until 2025.

There is much more to tell in this history, but this gives you an idea of what we’ve been doing at the UN for the past 15 years.

In Solidarity for Peace, Justice, and Compassion,

About the Author

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of...

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