Working in the UN is nothing close to what I have anticipated. Although, it is a tightly connected organization, with very complicated bureaucracy, it is a flexible and task-driven organization. Staff members have the freedom to go in and out whenever they want, as long as they get things DONE. It is a very different working environment, but when you start receiving tasks and assignments, you will get a clear picture that it is in this way, and only this way, that you are able to handle a big workload efficiently, and in a timely manner. Further, the UN compound is open to staff member all day and all night; Monday to Sunday. If your work is not done and the deadline is approaching, you can always come on the weekend at anytime, or stay at work till late hours of the night. Moreover, it is truly a culturally rich and diverse environment in every sense of the word. There is always an art piece in almost every corner of the UN. Each piece sends a message if not messages, and represents a history, a culture, and a civilization. In addition to that, in every organ of the UN, every department, branch, and office, there is a unique atmosphere and culture that is distinct and different from any other place.
In my first month, and exactly as CAPT Settele anticipated, I have received numerous tasks - most of them given with a deadline that is due yesterday. I am writing this paper on the weekend at my office. It has been a hectic and very busy week; still, nonetheless, it was not without enjoyment and complete satisfaction. I am learning by the day, not only about the UN, its different bodies, branches, and divisions, but also about different member states; specifically those participating in the UN Public Service award.
Our branch brings together different staff members, with different backgrounds. They are very professional, bring so many different ideas and perspectives, and from day one we were introduced to and welcomed by each and every one of them as members of the crew. The nature of my work with such a group and in such an inter-cultural working environment can be summed up in the following: think differently and act as one.
Now, the UN Public Administration Network (UNPAN); sponsored by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA); executed and managed by the Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM), our department, and in partnership with a group of international, regional, and sub-regional institutions devoted to public administration and finance, held last week the 13th session of the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) at the United Nations Headquarters. Established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), CEPA is comprised of 24 members who meet annually at the UN Headquarters. It is a body responsible for supporting the work of ECOSOC concerning the promotion and development of public administration and governance among Member States - in connection with the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Committee also provides guidance and advices to the Division of Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM), including the annual review of its work program, specifically in reviewing nominations and projects of the UN Public Service Award (UNPSA), and particularly focusing on the themes of human capital development, participatory governance, capacity development in crisis and post-conflict countries, and innovations in public administration and governance. CEPA gathers high rank officials, mission delegates, academics, practitioners and policy-makers. In a week of intensive deliberations they give recommendations, reach out to partnerships, provide guidance, and give advice to determine UNPSA winners of this year. In addition they guide and monitor the actual event, which will take place this year in Seoul, S. Korea. This group has at hand all the materials that our entire branch has put together. All of our summaries, evaluations, presentations, and translations will be the main source of information that will determine whether or not a certain country’s initiative will be a winner of UNPSA. It was a very busy week, and we were instructed to be highly prepared mentally, psychologically, and physically. We were at the UN headquarters from 7am to 6pm, and in our offices till late hours of the night. Moreover, each day we had to submit a detailed report about the entire day before the start of the next day. I was assigned the task of writing the long and short version of reports and submitting those before the next day. My supervisor also proposed that I continue and cover the entire event as a reporter. I also helped out with organization, administration, and preparation during the multiple workshops that gathered more than 80 participants representing different countries, organizations, and universities.
These meetings were valuable due to the various contacts I made, great presentations that reflected the weight of knowledge present in our branch and amongst the participants, and the interactions with participants when I got a chance. During these encounters, I realized that being part of the UN gave me the opportunity to do my work and, at the same time, engage in matters that relate to my interests and to my field. I have realized that it is with no doubt that I want to be a member of the UN community, to be surrounded with this type of people at my workplace, and to be in the midst of world affairs.
Now, to the fun part, I have been very lucky to shake hands with the number one person in this global body, Mr. Ban-Ki Mon. My three fellow interns and I have attended the International Women’s Day events. Mrs. Hilary Clinton and the Secretary General were there along with the other factions that the UN blends together at such events: intellectuals, practitioners, and policy makers. Although, it was by mere luck that I was standing in his way out of the conference room, while searching for my friends (who were, as I discovered later, looking for the Secretary General for a hand shake), it means a lot to me to be in that spot at that specific time. I realized that he is not as short as he looks on TV and that I must take advantage of this chance occurrence, and strive to also leave a legacy of mine in this world.
I applied a lot of aspects that I learned from SPIA to my internship, but there are so many things to learn outside of the classroom. I have never been exposed to administration tasks before and this internship definitely taught me how to effectively handle such tasks. I have also learned how to efficiently work under pressure, provide valuable contributions in a timely-manner, and do the work according to my own approaches. I am truly enjoying every day of the internship. This experience did throw me into the profound workings of the United Nations - in a pool of deals and ideas made by contributions from a diversified group of prominent intellectuals, practitioners, and policy-makers of our times.
I end this post with one more fun meeting. I met the Deputy Ambassador of the Algerian Mission to the United Nations. It was a very pleasant meeting and turned to be very fruitful. His words of wisdom were much needed. It was also gratifying to learn from him about the different ways to develop a broad range of skills to be prepared for any number of subsequent career paths not only with the UN but also with a wide range of organizations worldwide. He, so generously, shared his time with me, and our conversation was both informative and encouraging.
As this experience continue to be as rewarding, I cannot help but to say that credit must be given to SPIA, to its faculty, staff, professors and students, and to its board. And credit, too, to the Erensel and the Churchill Family for their generosity and support.