Ivan Zhivkov also interned at the U.S. Department of State in the European Affairs office as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program.
My name is Ivan G. Zhivkov and I am a Master of Arts in International Relations student, focusing on security and diplomacy pertaining to Eastern Europe. Having spent the initial two semesters on campus, partaking in the core MAIR and some fascinating elective courses, I decided to spend my summer 2016 studying abroad. I chose the Graduate Internships in Geneva program, due to the unique opportunity that it offers to intern with an international organization at the heart of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Upon multiple interviews, I was selected by Werner Schleiffer to be a part of the program and placed to intern with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Working in WMO was intensive, educational, and extremely rewarding. I was placed in the Climate and Water Department, serving as an Intern with the Agricultural Meteorology Division. I was in charge of working on Drought Management, National Capacity, and improving the Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP) for Central and Eastern Europe, the Horn of Africa, and West Africa. I had two supervisors, the Director of Agricultural Meteorology, who assigned me to work on drought and flood management, and the Senior Program Officer for the IDMP. I was in charge of researching, assessing, and reporting on National Drought Programs (since only 18 UN Member States have so far implemented them), Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and how they relate to a country’s effort to reduce its Greenhouse Gas emissions, and the indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals.
My responsibilities were wide and diverse. I had the opportunity to attend branch, council, and town hall meetings, learning how WMO functions and where it needs to improve. The statistics bureau of the International Labour Organization was hosted on the third floor of the WMO building, allowing me an easier access to another organization and learning from its work. Working with WMO was an invaluable experience for me. Although it did not directly relate to my focus of studies, some of the skills that I acquired at Maxwell allowed me to thrive in WMO.
Living and working in Geneva opened my eyes to the function of international organizations, their relationship with the local community, and to experience life in Switzerland. Rich and diverse experiences characterized my time in Geneva. I was the only American from a group of roughly twenty interns in WMO, which allowed me to learn from their cultures, share common experiences, and practice foreign languages. Interacting with locals allowed me to make friends and improve my French. Overall, the Geneva Summer Practicum was invaluable to my education, to my development as a future international relations professional, and to my improvement as a world citizen. I would recommend it to anyone and I would not trade it for the world.
Maria Chiara Vinciguerra is currently doing a joint Master’s degree, known as the Atlantis program, which will allow her to obtain a M.A. in International Relations from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, and a Master of Public Policy from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin by July 2017. Last summer she participated in the Graduate Internships in Geneva program.
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern as part of the Graduate Internships in Geneva program with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), within the organization’s inter-agency unit based in Geneva, Switzerland. WFP is the UN agency responsible for providing food assistance worldwide, and is headquartered in Rome, Italy. The WFP Geneva Office I worked for is an extended branch of the organization, responsible for advocacy and public information. The unit consists of a small group of staff with multi-year experience both from the field and the HQ, and with varying expertise covering disaster preparedness, climate change, HIV, protection, and so forth.
As an Inter-Agency Affairs Intern, my work mainly entailed assisting WFP representatives at intergovernmental meetings – the 66th Meeting of the UNHCR Standing Committee being one of them – and reporting on these meetings either by producing inputs for the WFP Geneva Weekly, Notes for the Record, or by providing oral feedback. In addition, I was often tasked to assist my supervisor in the preparation and facilitation of presentations to various audiences, including a group of German graduate students and SIT Study Abroad undergraduate students from all over the USA. Moreover, I supported the preparation of WFP’s Readout on the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), as well as the production of a matrix to monitor WFP’s commitments at WHS. I also made an infographic on the latest “Global School Feeding Sourcebook: Lessons from 14 countries.”
My experience at WFP Geneva was both challenging and enlightening. It provided me with a deeper understanding of the UN system and its inter-governmental networks and inter-agency dynamics. This experience also gave me the chance to further improve my research and writing skills. Paired up with Professor Schleiffer’s class, the Geneva Practicum was a unique experience that I am grateful for.
Sam Connors is a MAIR student on track to graduate this semester. His interests are in Africa, migration, aid, and development, which is why he took part in the Survey of Current Issues In African Migration program during the summer of 2016.
Considering this was my first time traveling out of the United States, my summer spent in Ghana was unlike anything I have previously experienced. Interning with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was not only an opportunity for me to test my professional ability in a new environment, but a chance to explore the dynamics of migration – the focus of my studies.
The IOM program in Ghana was an ideal fit for me due to my interest in migration but also considering my desire to gain field work experience with an IO. I was able to gain a comprehensive understanding of working as an expat in both the field and capital city of another country, splitting my time with a month in the field and a month in the IOM office in Accra. Another Maxwell student, Emily Hoerner, has captured our experience in Accra well in a previous PAIA blog entry, and I suggest learning of that portion from her entry.
My time spent in the field was working with IOM’s counter trafficking department in the Ho West district, 3 hours north of Accra. This time was without a doubt the most interesting and impacting facet of the program for me. Not only was I able to participate with the IOM on one of their projects, I was also given a stipend along with my fellow Syracuse students to design a small aid project of our own in the region.
The IOM counter trafficking project was targeted at preventing the selling and trafficking of children in the Volta region of Ghana. This effort took the five of us to five different rural communities in the surrounding area – though we resided in one community (Dodome Tsikor) for the month. Along with local government officials, we would introduce a program designed to educate these communities concerning the rights of a child and perils of trafficking. This introduction was ceremoniously celebrated with a painting by the whole community – the tree of life – as a symbol of the community’s commitment to protect their children.
It is not possible to fit the sheer volume of information and lessons I gathered during my time in Ghana in one blog post. It is not possible for me to quantify the personal and professional growth I experienced working for an IO in a foreign country. The most important professional lesson I gathered is the simple yet oft underappreciated lesson of – communicate, communicate, communicate. The most lasting personal lesson I found reinforced in Ghana is of similar characteristics – live with love and understanding will follow.
Janessa Price is a Public Diplomacy student who will graduate with a Master of Science in Public Relations (MSPR) and a Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) through the Newhouse School and the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. She wrote this account of her internship in Geneva last summer.
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern in Geneva, Switzerland with the United Nations Office at the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU). Pursuing a career with the United Nations has been a goal of mine for quite some time so I was very excited to be presented with this opportunity.
The JIU is the only independent external oversight body of the United Nations system mandated to conduct evaluations, inspections and investigations of most of the UN’s programs, funds and specialized agencies.
While the JIU typically focuses on monitoring and evaluation, this year the Unit is celebrating its 50th anniversary and opted to launch a communications campaign to highlight the Unit’s work and achievements since its establishment. Since the Unit does not have someone internally who would typically perform this type of work, I as a public diplomacy student, had the opportunity to utilize the knowledge and skills I had acquired both at the Maxwell and Newhouse schools to help coordinate a series of activities and events to celebrate the Unit’s 50 years.
Since I’ve started at the JIU, my main responsibilities have included:
Providing support to the organization for events and the preparation of the communications campaign
Preparing and reviewing a series of public information/communications papers on various aspects of the history and the work of JIU
Designing and procuring a number of visual communication products to accompany written material
Drafting various materials (invitations, letters, etc) for outreach to various members of the United Nations and Geneva diplomatic community
My experience thus far has given me a glimpse into what work at a UN organization would be like, specifically in a communications role. While the role entailed a great deal of responsibility, I’ve felt thoroughly prepared because of my education at Syracuse University.
I’ve had the opportunity to learn the ins-and-outs of JIU while simultaneously getting a better understanding of the United Nations system as a whole. Additionally, living and working in Geneva this summer has allowed me to meet with and learn from a number of individuals working with various international organizations, including a public diplomacy alum! Coming to Geneva has been one of the best decisions I have made both on a personal and professional level and I am happy I was able to take advantage of this opportunity.
Corena Sharp is a MAIR student currently interning at the United States Department of State’s Office of International Labor Affairs in Washington, DC. She interned at UNICEF as part of the Graduate Internships in Geneva program.
This summer I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland for an internship with UNICEF. While the headquarters of UNICEF lives in New York, nestled next to Lac Leman and a botanical garden is UNICEF’s Private Fundraising and Partnerships Division. Within the Division, I am a part of the Advocacy and Innovative Partnerships Unit.
What This Means
UNICEF has three main parts: Headquarters, Country Offices, and National Committees. National Committees are their own NGOs who are affiliated with—but not technically under the UNICEF administrative umbrella in rich countries—as compared with Country Offices that are direct extensions of UNICEF in developing countries. In practical terms, this means that National Committees cannot run any programming and must get permission to use UNICEF branding. The existence of National Committees is based in the agreement that UNICEF’s true focus needs to be where children are most vulnerable, yet recognizes that rich countries are by no means perfect advocates for the rights of children. The 34 National Committees fundraise and run political advocacy campaigns to help improve the situation of children domestically and abroad.
This is where my team comes in. We help coordinate between the National Committees and Headquarters and give support in a variety of ways. I participated in two Working Groups on Humanitarian Emergency Advocacy and the SDGs. I helped National Committees strategize and learn from each other, by creating documents of best practices and drafting content for UNICEF’s intranet.
One of my primary projects was to design a 125-page interactive document that maps the Convention on the Rights of the Child with the Sustainable Development Goals. It capitalizes on the momentum of the SDGs by exploring the inextricable links between the rights of children and each goal. When I completed the document, I helped develop the dissemination materials. The document will be circulated across the organization as well as to external partners, such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
I was also given the freedom to explore human rights outside of the office. While the 32nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council met, I was encouraged to go and attend meetings. My two favorite days were watching the council vote to appoint an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and attending a panel on ‘Violence against indigenous women and girls and its root causes.’
This was truly an amazing experience that will carry close to my heart as I continue to work for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere.
Emily Hoerner used her previous experience in the non-profit sector to contribute to IOM Ghana’s mission through the Survey of Current Issues in African Migration global program. This program gives students experience doing field work for a UN agency.
As a joint-degree MPA/MAIR, my first year at Maxwell has been a whirlwind. Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my Maxwell experience so far has been the two months I spent interning with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Accra, Ghana this summer.
I was drawn to IOM’s Ghana program because it offered me the opportunity to work on the ground with a respected international organization. I wasn’t disappointed. After a week of cultural and professional orientation to Ghana and IOM, I spent four weeks working with IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return & Reintegration (AVRR) team. The AVRR program aims to help migrants who have left Ghana and wish to return, providing them with reintegration assistance like accommodation or support if they wish to start micro-businesses.
My time with the AVRR team was spent primarily working on their reintegration database. I looked at trends and best practices from other IOM missions’ AVRR databases, and suggested improvements to the system the Ghanaian AVRR team was currently using. I then worked with a member of the AVRR team to re-build their database from the ground up, in the hope that this new framework would allow them to capture, input, and report out on migration and reintegration data more effectively and efficiently. When the database was complete, I also performed some trend analysis for the team on their migration data from the past five years, creating charts and graphs from the data that the team could use for informational one-pagers about the AVRR program.
The final two weeks of my internship were spent doing a bit more fieldwork: traveling in and around the greater Accra region to speak with beneficiaries of the AVRR program. This was, by far, my favorite part of the internship. Though I knew the database work I completed was important, having the opportunity to speak one-on-one with AVRR beneficiaries put a truly human face on the program. Some of the beneficiaries I spoke with were quieter or more reserved than others, but I loved having the chance to speak with these people and hear their stories of hardship, perseverance, and sometimes triumph.
Overall, my internship with IOM Ghana’s AVRR team was a fantastic introduction into the world of international development, and what it is like to work in a country office of a complex international organization. My time with IOM was replete with frustrations, challenges, and opportunities for both personal and professional growth. Above all, my internship solidified my desire to work in the complicated, frustrating, and rewarding field of international development.
For the past three months, I’ve been living in Geneva, Switzerland while working for the United Nations Development Programme as an intern. In less than two weeks time, I’ll be heading back to Syracuse to complete my last semester as a graduate student. The experience I’ve had this summer has provided me with working knowledge of how the international humanitarian and development systems function, and provided me with the opportunity to develop and sharpen the tools necessary to be an effective contributor in such an environment. Also, living in Geneva, a city with incredible natural beauty and wonderful history, has been a dream come true.
Before I started my work with UNDP this summer, I was slightly apprehensive that I would be given limited job responsibilities and relegated to a position with little ability to make a meaningful contribution to the organization. This assumption turned out to be completely incorrect. My two supervisors at UNDP gave me the structure necessary to ensure that my work would be impactful, while granting me the freedom to take on assignments that were of particular interest. My work was primarily focused in the health sector, specifically on reducing the global burden of non-communicable diseases, and working with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
The sheer scope of this work allowed me a wide range of options when considering possible project opportunities. In my time with UNDP, I feel that my work made a positive impact while also further developing my abilities.
While the internship with UNDP may have been the most rewarding experience of the summer, living in the beautiful city of Geneva has enriched my day-to-day life for several reasons. First, while Geneva is quite a small city, there is always a festival or celebration going on each weekend. For example, this past weekend was the Fete de Genève, which was celebrated by great music, delicious food, and the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen. It lasted nearly an hour! Second, there is a tangible and exciting sense of international community that can be felt throughout the city. While being one of the most international cities in the world, it is only slightly larger than Syracuse. Lastly, Geneva has more natural beauty than any place I’ve ever lived. I consider myself an avid outdoor enthusiast, and I’ve been able to find a great hike with extraordinary views each and every weekend.
This summer has been a great opportunity for personal growth, while also being exciting and fun.
Camila Urbina is a joint MPA/MAIR student who secured her internship at WFP by writing directly to country offices and looking outside well known locations. For her Fall 2016 Semester, she plans to study at Sciences Po in Paris through one of SU’s World Partner Programs.
Amongst the amazing opportunities the Maxwell School has provided me during my joint degree, this summer was certainly the most life-changing. I could have never imagined the incredible professional and personal experiences and growth that awaited me while working for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste is one of the newest countries in the world, the proud and resilient Timorese gained their independence from Indonesia after a terrifying war only 16 years ago. With one million inhabitants and a young government, Timor is navigating post-conflict, much like my native Colombia, with the help of the UN.
The country has the world’s worst stunting in the world and some of the worst malnutrition numbers in Asia; this is why the World Food Programme is supporting the Timorese Ministry of Heath to conduct a mother and child nutrition programme. The programme provides nutrition screenings, education and supplementary foods for pregnant and lactating mothers and malnourished children under two years old in 6 of the most critically malnourish municipalities in the island nation. WFP is also providing technical assistance and capacity building to the Timorese so that they may eventually take full control of the program.
My three months were divided into working in the main office in the capital Dili, supporting the monitoring and evaluation department, and working in the field, providing food and nutrition education for the country’s most remote and malnourished communities in the mountains of enclave province of Oecusse.
The WFP country office in Timor is aiming at creating a social accountability mechanism to include in their nutrition program. During my time in Dili, I was tasked with creating a benchmark of the mechanisms and strategies used by those other UN agencies and NGOs in Timor to get feedback from communities and help put together a proposal to create the country office’s own social accountability system. Furthermore I was in charge of creating a gender action plan for the office, based on the guidelines provided by WFP headquarters in Rome, in order to help materialize WFP’s commitment to women empowerment and gender balance in all aspect of their work. I also supported various communication needs, writing stories, interviews and particularly covering the work in the field during international Breastfeeding week.
It was a profoundly enriching experience to be a part of the country’s learning process in matters of nutrition and social resilience and to experience not only the challenge of working with government in a different culture but more importantly the joy of serving in the remote and beautiful villages. This summer was an incredible experience, serving the resilient and loving Timorese and living amongst the wild and the unbridled beauty of their island-home has provided me with new perspectives on humanitarian work and given me the opportunity to practice all the theory provided by the Maxwell School to the benefit of the most vulnerable.
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.
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.
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.
For the third year in a row, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs received top honors for “Outstanding Delegation” at the annual Model UN Conference in New York City. The team, composed of 20 undergraduate students, won the top prize for its research and portrayal of the island nation of New Zealand, the country assigned by conference officials[. . .]
[. . .]Kyra Murphy, a graduate student in public administration and international affairs and graduate assistant for the delegation, credits Model UN with rounding out her degrees. “Today, as I get ready to graduate from Maxwell, I can confidently attribute my oral presentation and public speaking skills, my knowledge in diplomacy and international etiquette, and my comfort in new situations to the time that I have spent with Model UN.”