Advocates of the United Nations having expertise in UN systems, agencies, and programs.

Mehr “Jay” Shahidi:

Mehr “Jay” Shahidi is a business owner and past president of the Minnesota division of the United Nations Association.

Born in Iran, he came to the US for higher education and later became a citizen. He studied economics and political science at Minnesota State University, Mankato where he was student body president and received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award for his work on public education, refugee protection, landmines removal, population stabilization, environmental protection,  economic development, nuclear disarmament and peace building.

In 1975, he was accepted into the Ph. D. program in political science at University of Cincinnati, but decided to go into business instead. He created the M.J. Shahidi Business Consulting Company, which has provided management services and advocacy for small business and civic groups.

Jay has been an active member of Amnesty International and done citizen lobbying at all levels of government for over 40 years. In 1999 he began providing fundraising and advocacy services for the American Refugee Committee (now Alight) and served on its Board of Directors for 12 years.

In pursuit of his commitment to democratic exchange and international cooperation, Jay has founded or held leadership positions in over 40 business, civic and charitable organizations, published dozens of opinion articles, and given over 800 public speeches on sociopolitical issues (most of which are related to the mission, agenda and operations of the United Nations).

He has been a Great Decisions Lecturer for Foreign Policy Association and Global Minnesota for over 15 years.

In June of 2019 Jay was awarded the Arnold Goodman Lifetime Achievement Award of the United Nations Association Foundation, to honor his 54 years of advocacy on behalf of the mission, agenda and programs of the United Nations.

Dr. Bharat Parekh:

Dr. Bharat Parekh, a native of India, received his BS degree from University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY and MA and PhD in physics from the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. This led to a professorship in applied physics at North Dakota State University (NDSU), Fargo.

The establishment of the Minnesota World Trade Center in 1987, and its initial interest to support global research and trade, brought him to Saint Paul, MN. As a consultant, he developed technology ventures between Minnesota and Indian companies and partnership projects for non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) proposed in the year 2000 provided him, as a UNA-MN Board member, the incentive to initiate the Minnesota Millennium Initiative which led to numerous advocacy and educational events in the Twin Cities and surrounding communities. Subsequently, MDGs 4 and 5, namely Reduction of Infant Mortality Rate and Improving Maternal Health, became the primary focus for his work towards making a better world. This has led to collaborative projects between a Minnesota NGO, Toddler Food Partners, with select grass-roots NGOs, and academic and medical Institutions in India. This ongoing work is contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative, in particular SDGs 3 and 17.   

Dr. Parekh serves on the boards of UNA-MN, Citizens for Global Solutions Minnesota and Toddler Food Partners.

Stuart “Stu” Ackman

Stuart Ackman moved to Australia for a year and a half following his graduation from Occidental College. He worked as both a bookstore and pension fund manager, before traveling onto New Zealand and eventually back to the United States.

He worked in Washington D.C. for a time before continuing his travels, going through Central America to South America and then out to the Caribbean.

In 1978 he worked with two partners to open the first of four Good Earth Restaurants in Minnesota. He is now a real estate broker with his own firm: Ackman Commercial Realty.

He is current president of the Minnesota branch of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, a role he held for three years in the mid-1990s.

Stuart is available for programs and presentations on United Nations 101: The Six Primary Organs of the UN.

Requesting Speakers:

Please contact our chapter president, Stuart Ackman ( for further information on requesting any of the above speakers.

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