Tag Archives: Development

Tosca Bruno Gives Advice on Working in International Relief & Development

Suhyeon Lee (MAIR candidate) interviewed Director of the Transnational NGO Initiative in the Moynihan Institute, Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken. Tosca continually  brings a wealth of international resources to the PAIA Department and has assisted  innumerable students.

Nice to meet you, Ms. Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken. Could you introduce yourself?

I am the director of the Transnational NGO (TNGO) Initiative. I engage both in academic work and do a lot of works with NGO practitioners. I have worked on international development and civil society issues for over 25 years. Some people call people like me a ‘pracademic’ and I call myself sometimes jokingly an ‘accidental pracademic’, which means a practitioner who accidently ended up in academia. I didn’t plan to end up in academia, but it happened by chance, and I started enjoying playing a bridge building role between the theory and research around transnational NGOs and the practice of the NGO practitioners who lead and manage these organizations.

Could you explain what you teach at Maxwell School?

I teach Global Governance and Civil Society and in addition to that, I advise a couple of MPA Workshop projects each year. Sometimes, I am an advisor for independent study projects. We also offer opportunities for students to volunteer in our research and practitioner work through the TNGO Initiative.

Can you tell me more about the Global Governance and Civil Society course?

Global Governance and Civil Society is a survey course on the role of civil society in how the world is governed.  It is neither a theoretical course nor a management course; it is somewhere in between. We focus on what civil society organizations do and what civil society as a concept stands for. And then we unpack a couple of different sectors: human rights, environment, and conflict resolution, and look at the functions NGOs play. We also look at a number of challenges facing organizations (governance, effectiveness, leadership, coordination, accountability, evaluation and assessment, capacity building issues, etc.).

How did you start your career?

These things, as I sometimes say to students here, are often a mixture of planning, pure coincidence, luck, and unplanned events. I started out working for a year in a small management consulting company in the Netherlands. It was internationally-oriented and focused on small business promotion in developing countries.  I was not happy with it, so I moved to a think-tank called the European Center for Development Policies Management (ECDPM). I worked there for four years as a program officer. We focused on governance issues in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. And then I wanted to get more field experience which is typically what most young international development practitioners need. I found an opportunity as a UN Volunteer for the UN peacekeeping operations under United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).  I was in charge of the preparation for and holding of free and fair elections in one remote district. I also worked for the headquarters of the World Bank for two and a half years, and for four years I was at the World Bank in Hanoi, Vietnam. Those were my sixteen years of international development experience.

As you said, field experience is what most international development young practitioners really need. I also want to have field experience before graduating from Maxwell. Did you have memorable experiences while working in the field in Cambodia?

I think the most memorable experience was that during the year of preparing for the elections, both the Khmer Rouge and bandits engaged in attacks on some foreigners who were in Cambodia as part of the peace keeping operation. Within our large contingent of district electoral supervisors, one person was murdered and four were kidnapped in the last couple of months before elections when political tensions were high.  A significant number of Cambodians also died during this tense period. During the elections, when I changed my role from preparation for elections in my district to independent monitoring of polling stations, I found myself for the first time needing a bodyguard because of these political tensions and violence. This was a very new experience for me and it will stay with me since I came from a country (The Netherlands) where governance is not a matter of the power of the gun.

Tosca Bruno & Cambodian Translator
Tosca and former translator in Cambodia, Sokhany Prak, whom she worked with from 1992-1993. In 2014, Prak was able to attend the TNGO Leadership Institute. “Quite a wonderful and miraculous reunion.” according to Tosca.

What is the role of NGOs in the development sector in the 21st century?

There will likely always remain a role for TNGOs in humanitarian relief, although government, the private sector and national NGOs are stepping up their roles. And there will continue to be a contingent of small TNGOs that have a classical charity model. Generally speaking, most mid to large size TNGOs still play some roles in direct delivery of services, though this is generally declining, and nowadays often complemented by advocacy and capacity building. Some are evolving their role to that of being a broker and convener between government, the private sector and national NGOs; sometimes, their role evolves to that of knowledge provider. Western TNGOs increasingly work on strengthening their domestic legitimacy as well as playing a stronger role in domestic policy advocacy as well as service delivery work in the countries where they were founded. Because many NGOs by now have been set up by citizens in the countries where formerly primarily western NGOs used to work, these NGOs in the ‘Global South are now able to play the roles that Western or ‘Northern NGOs’ used to, with considerably lower cost models. There is thus more and more pressure on the northern NGOs to get out of the business of delivering services except for humanitarian relief which as I said will always be needed. Therefore, most analysts are foreseeing a big role change in the 21st century.

I’ve seen that you are on the board of InterAction. What is this organization?

InterAction is a membership organization of US international development and relief NGOs and thus plays the role of national platform here in the US. We, as the TNGO initiative, are an associate member, and I am on the board of InterAction as an independent ‘person of stature’.  The board position gives me a bird’s eye view of the sector, which is interesting from a research as well as a networking perspective.

What advice you want to give Maxwell students?

I think it is increasingly difficult to find a job in the international NGO sector. In terms of ‘Northern’ NGOs, it’s increasingly hard for American and other western students to find a job because there are more people with a high level of education in the international development sector than there are NGO jobs. In addition, donor levels in certain countries in the ‘North’ are decreasing while there is an increasing supply of students from ‘Global South and East’ countries who also come from good universities. To some extent it is therefore an increasingly crowded and very competitive market for finding a job. You should therefore definitely not put all your eggs in one or two baskets in terms of finding a job. Also, some students tend to come to Maxwell thinking that they want a job at the World Bank, where I used to work, or the UN, and I actually try to make them less single minded about that. Big organizations are not only extremely competitive to get into but also very bureaucratic. If you enter as a junior person, you may find the organization to be very internally oriented – a lot of navel gazing. You also may experience a lot of ‘paper pushing’.  It’s not necessarily that interesting to work in such a large, bureaucratic organization at a junior level. If you can work in a small or medium sized organization like an NGO, think rank, social enterprise or impact investor company, I would argue that this will offer you a better job experience with more hands-on work. Later on, you can then be considered for a mid-level job at one of these large organizations. Also, having field experience at the country level continues to be indispensable –without it you will not compete very well in the job market — but at the same time it is increasingly hard to come by.

Overall, something that I want to encourage you to do is to intern in development organizations or complete field work or volunteer experience. And then, do research about a sector you want to work in, look at what organizations and why you want to work for them, and then reach out to them for informational interviews. This will show that you really understand that organization well.

One more thing, keep your eyes on job opportunities in other cities other than Washington, DC and New York because the competition is harsh in these cities and not as many people would apply to jobs in other cities. Power is so distributed in the world that NYC and DC should not be the only choice.  Also, don’t just look at NGOs, government, and think tanks.  Look at social enterprises, which are corporations that are set up to make profits but invest that profit into social goods, impact investments, and digitally operating campaigns. There are various types of agencies in international development. Look at them in terms of looking for internships and looking for a job.

Tosca Bruno
Tosca listening at the June 2016 Leadership Institute.

A previous version of this article stated that Tosca was a “Professor of Practice”, which is inaccurate. This was an oversight on the part of the Editor.

Emily Fredenberg, UN Network for Scaling Up Nutrition Secretariat in Rome

Emily Fredenberg is a dual-degree MPA & MAIR student. She interned with the United Nations Development Programme, within their Health and Development Unit in Geneva, Switzerland during the summer. She came back to Syracuse to continue her studies after finishing her internship with  the United Nations Network for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat.

Emily Fredenberg (left) with fellow intern at the WFP Headquarters in Rome, Italy
Emily Fredenberg (left) with fellow intern at the WFP Headquarters in Rome, Italy

This autumn, I had the opportunity to intern with the United Nations Network for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat, hosted by the headquarters of the UN World Food Programme in Rome, Italy.  As an intern, my function was to support the global-level work of the UN Network for SUN Secretariat, in its coordination and facilitation functions amongst the main UN agencies principally working on nutrition.

Overview of the Roles of the SUN Movement, the UN Network for SUN, & REACH within the Global Nutrition Landscape: The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement is a global initiative, aiming to spur political action and investment among both national government leaders as well as development partners, to improve maternal and child nutrition.  SUN focuses on investing targeted action for the first 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. Poor nutrition during this period can result in irreversible consequences for a child, such as stunted growth or impaired cognitive development.  Therefore this short window of time can have life-changing impacts on a child’s health throughout the entire life-cycle as well as their ability to break the cycle of poverty for their families and communities.

SUN is a country-led movement (currently present in 55 participating countries), bringing various stakeholders together, across the different SUN Networks which include government, civil society, UN, and the private sector, to support national efforts to scale up nutrition.  This multi-stakeholder approach fosters greater coordination and access to technical and financial resources which are necessary to galvanize nutrition action.  The SUN Movement focuses on encouraging the implementation of key nutrition-interventions (such as the promotion of breast-feeding), as well as the integration of nutrition into the broader policy efforts of relevant government sectors such as health, agriculture, education, social protection, sanitation, and women’s empowerment.

At the national level, there is frequently a lack of coordination and capacity to develop a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach. Hence, nutrition activities can remain fragmented and uncoordinated, and result in duplicative efforts with limited impact. In order to facilitate coordination, the work of the SUN Movement is synchronized amongst the various SUN Networks, including the work of the UN Network for SUN.  The UN Network was endorsed in June 2013 by five UN Agencies principally working in nutrition related issues (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO). The Network serves to: harmonize and coordinate UN activities in support of country nutrition efforts, and to align UN nutrition efforts with those of national governments, other SUN Networks and nutrition stakeholders at global and country levels.

Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Undernutrition (REACH) is an essential component of the UN Network for SUN, and provides participating governments with impartial coordinateon and analytical support to simplify administrative mechanisms. It further allows UN Network agencies to focus their efforts on the technical aspects of nutrition.  REACH’s neutral facilitation takes the shape of a national and international nutrition facilitator, which work directly with the national government to foster greater country-led stakeholder engagement, with the aim of progressing the level of national commitment for nutrition efforts.  Currently, REACH facilitation is present within 17 SUN countries.

UN Network for SUN/REACH Secretariat Internship Roles:  As the UN Network for SUN Secretariat works to coordinate the efforts amongst the participating UN agencies, the Secretariat also facilitated an interagency workshop on the UN’s approach to Capacity Development Assessments the first week of November.  Currently, most UN Network agencies conduct their own assessments, and this workshop was designed to harmonize these assessments as a collaborative UN Network for SUN approach to capacity building efforts.

As my principal internship project, I worked to facilitate a colleague from FAO to firstly conduct a pre-workshop analysis, by 1) mapping the existing UN assessment tools, 2) drafting a capacity development framework based upon the various UN assessment methodologies, and 3) conducting a country case study analysis of previous assessments conducted to get a better sense of how these assessments could be improved to better leverage country level capacity.  Through workshop discussions, we were able to finalize the draft framework, and also agreed to create a harmonized guidance package for countries interested in conducting assessments.  I additionally assisted in this development process, though the final guidance package will not be complete until this coming spring 2016.

Overall, my internship with the UN Network for SUN Secretariat certainly allowed me to get a fuller understanding of the intricacies of the UN system, particularly with regards to inter-UN agency collaboration efforts specific to nutrition. It also helped to further develop my research, writing, and strategic planning skills.  All in all, I had an amazing semester with the Secretariat in Rome.  Rome truly is a great city, and I’m quite grateful for the experience I was able to have there.

Nicole Gerke Reaches Closer to Her Dream at UNICEF

Nicole Gerke is a MAIR student in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. She interned at UNICEF Headquarters in New York City during the summer of 2015.

 My summer in UNICEF’s Headquarters

When I was around 9 years old, I decided to change my answer to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. It was a big step for me, because it implied acknowledging that petting animals had fallen on my list of priorities. You see, in the beginning my answer was that I wanted to become a veterinarian. But something had changed in me, and I felt like I could no longer stand seeing poverty, racism, and injustice in my country, without doing anything about it.

The more I learned the more I realized that this was not only a problem in my country, it was a problem everywhere. But I also learned that there was a place full of people like me, who also wanted to help those in need around the world – it was called the United Nations. So my answer to the question changed; now I wanted to become “the president of the United Nations”.

More than 17 years later, the feelings 9-year-old me had have not changed. And although I would no longer say that I want to become precisely the “president of the United Nations”, my personal and career goals are still to work for the most vulnerable of the world.

Now you can tell why I cried of happiness when I got the news that I would be working for UNICEF Headquarters this summer.

In June, I started my internship with the Post-2015 Development Agenda Unit from UNICEF. During the time I was there I got to collaborate analyzing the various drafts of the Sustainable Development Goals outcome document, assisting in the generation of UNICEF’s responses to these drafts. I also got to collaborate closely with other Child‑Friendly Agencies (Save the Children, World Vision, SOS Children’s Villages, Plan, and Child Fund) in joint responses to the drafts of the SDG outcome document. The goal was to have a strong agenda for children, especially the most vulnerable.  I also got the opportunity to cover the intergovernmental negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda, where I got to learn precisely how documents of global impact are generated. And finally, once the document was informally adopted, I collaborated in the analysis of the implications this document will have for children in the next 15 years.

Overall, the experience was absolutely enriching. From the process of analyzing drafts and writing responses from a UN perspective, to being able to witness the negotiations, and doing advocacy work for the benefit of children worldwide, it was a wonderful experience. I did not only gain in-depth knowledge about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the opportunities and challenges they bring, but I also learned about intergovernmental negotiations at the United Nations, and about UNICEF’s role in this process.

Now with my internship over and the post-2015 development agenda ready for official adoption this September, I am eager to continue to work for the implementation of the agenda. I feel lucky and incredibly privileged to have been a part of its preparation, and I am enormously thankful to the Maxwell School, the Global Programs Awards, and Fulbright for giving me the unique opportunity to work at UNICEF’s Headquarters this summer.

Nicole Gerke Standing at the UNICEF photo zone
Nicole Gerke at UNICEF

Celina Menzel, Gaining Valuable Experience in the United Nations in New York

 

UN Headquarters, New York City, USA
UN Headquarters, New York City, USA

Celina Menzel  is a dual degree MAIR/Atlantis student in Syracuse University.

From May to July 2015, I did my internship at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in New York.

Since my internship took place in the development section of the Division of Economic Affairs, my own responsibilities evolved around development-related topics such as:

  • Health, including emergency responses to Ebola and other epidemic diseases, non‑communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health and rights, antimicrobial resistances, etc.
  • Migration, including refugee and IDP issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis
  • Food security and nutrition, particularly interventions by WFP and FAO
  • UNICEF interventions, particularly humanitarian action and emergency responses as well as long-term development measures
  • South-South Cooperation and Triangular cooperation
  • Reforming Peacebuilding and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, particularly the role that social services and dialogue may play
  • Support to Haiti and the ad-hoc advisory group
  • The Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including their implementation in countries affected by conflict and crises

My daily responsibilities mostly included participation in different sessions and events that were held at the UN Headquarters or organized by the member states and then report back to the Permanent Mission and the Headquarters of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. For example, I attended sessions at the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Executive Board of UNICEF, and different thematic Side-Events. Moreover, I took part in informal negotiations concerning draft resolutions as well as in different conferences (e.g. the Ebola conference in July) and conducted my own research on various topics that were of interest to me.

I personally feel like I gained a lot of knowledge and new skills during this internship. So far, the focus of my studies was mostly on conflict, security and post-conflict reconstruction. One of the reasons why I chose this internship position was that I wanted to expand my focus and learn more about long-term development in post-conflict settings because I believe that it is important for sustained stability and peace. Therefore, it was very valuable for me to deal with topics that I did not know that much about before. Moreover, I learned a lot about the daily work at the Permanent Mission and the United Nations Headquarters, the decision-making processes, the way interventions are designed and implemented, the importance of sufficient political will, etc.

In conclusion, my internship was very insightful for me. I gained a lot of knowledge – content-wise and skill-wise – and gained valuable experience. Particularly the relation to my supervisor, her supportive and encouraging conduct towards me, her eagerness to show me every facet of her work, and her willingness to entrust me with real responsibilities allowed me to have a very productive time during my internship.

Celina Menzel at a UN Headquarters staff BBQ
Celina Menzel at a UN Headquarters staff BBQ

Emily Fredenberg Assists UNDP with Health & Development

The following entry was drafted by Emily Fredenberg, a dual-degree MPA & MAIR student.

Emily Fredenberg – UNDP Health and Development Unit

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with the United Nations Development Programme, within their Health and Development Unit in Geneva, Switzerland. As an intern, my work was divided between the unit’s focal point on non-communicable diseases, tobacco control, and the social and economic detriments of health, and a team specialist on UNDP’s partnership with the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Much of the work UNDP performs in-country specializes in government capacity building. At the headquarters level, the unit’s partnership team with the Global Fund serves an advisory function in that it provides technical support to UNDP country teams executing Global Fund grants. At country level, UNDP is selected as a principal grant recipient by the Global Fund in instances when a country does not have the capability to implement the grant themselves. As principal grant recipient, UNDP works simultaneously to implement a grant, as well as to build a country’s capacity to carry out Global Fund grants themselves. Currently, UNDP is principal recipient to Global Fund grants in 26 countries.

The UNDP Health and Development Unit in Geneva also specializes in non-communicable disease (NCD) policy. Much of this policy involves joint-programming initiatives with a number of other UN agencies and programmes, most prominently, the World Health Organization (WHO). UNDP and WHO are currently pursuing a joint NCD Governance Programme initiative. This programme is designed to enhance government capacity across government sectors by looking at NCDs more broadly, not only within the health sector. Such sectors include ministries of education, finance, agriculture, trade, and tourism with the ultimate goal of various ministries within a government working collaboratively to address the growing problem of NCDs. The Geneva team also works closely with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in assisting countries to successfully implement and execute the framework.

Throughout the summer, my work was quite varied within the unit. I had the opportunity to attend the World Health Assembly, as well as several other thematic units at various UN agencies pertaining to health in development. I conducted targeted research with NCDs in capital infrastructure projects, examining ways large capital projects can affect the incidence of NCDs as well as solutions to mitigating the side-effects of such projects. I played an integral role in planning a South-South Triangular seminar with the FCTC, where countries in need of technical assistance implementing the FCTC framework could receive expertise from other countries willing and able to provide such. Additionally, two evenings a week I attended a class, as part of Maxwell’s Geneva Summer Practicum. During class, we often had presentations from various guest speakers of UN agencies, government missions, as well as NGOs.

My internship with UNDP certainly allowed me to get a fuller understanding of the intricacies of the UN system, and to develop my research, writing, and strategic planning skills. All in all, I had an amazing summer with the United Nations in Geneva. Geneva truly is a great city to spend the summer in, and I’m quite grateful for the experience I was able to have there.

Emily Fredenberg (left) and fellow intern at the World Health Organization in Geneva
Emily Fredenberg (left) and fellow intern at the World Health Organization in Geneva

Sarah White Harnesses Mobile Health Interventions with WHO

The following entry was drafted by Sarah White, a dual-degree MPA & MAIR student.

Sarah White – WHO, Non-Communicable Diseases department

I spent this summer in Switzerland interning with the World Health Organization (WHO) and studying as a part of Maxwell’s Geneva Summer Practicum. Being in Geneva allowed for personal access and insight into the inner workings of a large UN organization as well as exploring ways the international community comes together to tackle some of the biggest issues we face today.

As an intern at the WHO, I worked on a small team within the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) department. Our team works jointly with another large international organization, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), on mobile-based health interventions designed to reinforce healthy habits and decrease the likelihood of NCD risks. Lots of these programs are focused on helping people quit smoking as tobacco use directly leads to health, economic, and social losses in every county no matter how rich or poor. You can find examples of these programs on the Be Healthy, Be Mobile website.

Mobile-based health interventions are new, exciting territories for health providers and governments. As technology continues to progress, the Internet becomes more accessible, and service costs decrease, there will be even more opportunities for mobile interventions. Yet the definitive proof is still yet to be found. Part of my internship this summer has been to identify best practices for these programs, figure out ways we can convince governments of their cost-effective benefits, and create a guide that will supplement their recruitment policies by using social media outreach.

Besides learning about the new ways technology is changing the way we think about behavioral health interventions, being at the WHO and in Geneva allows me to learn about many other organizations I had little interaction with before. The WHO constantly has talks from experts on different health challenges. The interns here also organize their own talks from experts and other interns to share what they are working on.

Perhaps the best part of the Maxwell class is this kind of introduction and exposure to the different work done by organizations around Geneva. Coming from the private sector I did not know much about international organizations and their roles in influencing global priorities. During this summer, we had Q&As with over 10 different organizations in Geneva. In today’s culture of “leaning in,” many of our guests included women in high positions, which was not only inspiring, but allowed us to ask candid questions about their experiences becoming leaders. You just can’t get this kind of access every day.

My summer in Geneva taught me a lot about the type of organization I wish to work for in the future, the kinds of leadership to look for, and challenged me to think critically about why and how we do the work we do. Many thanks to Professor Schleiffer, my Maxwell family, and the Cramer Global Programs for making this summer a reality!

Sarah White in front of the Matterhorn.
Sarah White in front of the Matterhorn.

On the Ground in Ghana with the International Organization for Migration

2014 IOM Ghana summer interns
2014 IOM Ghana summer interns. Photo: Joanna Kitts for IOM

For the past several years, PAIA students have taken part in SU’s innovative partnership with the International Organization for Migration’s Mission in Accra, Ghana to develop the field skills needed for success as development and humanitarian workers. Continue reading On the Ground in Ghana with the International Organization for Migration

Getting Started in International Development

Remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint
Getting started in Development
Source: flickr.com

For those of you interested in working in the international development field, starting your search will involve more than just deciding on what the focus of your studies will be, but conceptualizing the development landscape to make sure that you are pointing your career search in the right direction.  Luckily, Michele Carter, an Association of Professional Schools in International Affairs (APSIA) aluma wrote an essay that can offer some additional tips to those of you interested in the field.

Continue reading Getting Started in International Development