Summer is an exciting opportunity for SIPA students to travel to all corners of the world for their summer internships. Last semester, many of my peers found it difficult to choose one country and internship over the next. When it came time for me to choose my summer internship, I knew that I wanted to work in an international setting, so I decided to stay right here in New York and intern with the United Nations Secretariat. With such a diverse set of colleagues, I do not think it could get more international than this!
The Secretariat is one of the 5 principle organs of the United Nations and is under the leadership of Ban Ki Moon, the current Secretary General. It is primarily responsible for the administrative functioning of the entire UN system and providing support to the other four UN organs- including the Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) and the General Assembly (GA). The Secretariat is also responsible for administering peacekeeping operations and preparing studies on international issues such as sustainable development and human rights.
Anyone who knows a thing or two about the UN knows that pinpointing your exact location in the UN organizational chart is like finding the file path of an illusive document your computer hard-drive. So where exactly was I within the UN chart? My UN ‘file path’ looked something like this: United Nations/New York Headquarters/UN Secretariat/Department of Management/Office of the Under-Secretary General/UN Headquarters Committee on Contracts/Capacity Development Program
I spent my first few days soaking in the idea of working at the UN. The idea of walking through the same hallways and sitting in the same rooms as heads of state, diplomats, and even the Secretary General was quite inspiring and exciting. The organization is truly comprehensive in its scope of work and reach. As many of my colleagues pointed out to me, the United Nations is the only platform where all countries can come together in one location and discuss issues- even if it means endless debates the limits of the continental shelf (a topic which I have yet to read up on!).
Prior coming to SIPA, my professional experiences related to grassroots project management and implementation. Upon starting my UN internship, I quickly realized my work there was as equally challenging and rewarding as working in the field. Despite the large size of the organization, my department’s work directly interacted with UN field offices and peacekeeping missions all around the world.
The Headquarters Committee on Contracts (HCC) primary works to ensure that UN contracts of goods and services over a specified amount follow UN rules and regulations in order to increase transparency and procure items with the best value for money (BVM) for the organization. As a HCC Capacity Development Program intern, I was primarily responsible for developing a briefing folder for HCC training participants, analyzing data from the HCC training programs and producing annual training reports for the department as well as a the Department of Management Under-Secretary General (DM- USG).
One of the most exciting things about working with the United Nations is that there is never a true ‘lull’ period. In between my primary responsibilities as an intern, I got to see the many sides of the UN through lunch-time briefings, sit on ECOSOC meetings, attend member-state mission briefings, welcome South Sudan as the 193rd member state, and even shake hands with Ban Ki Moon!