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.