The Geneva Summer Practicum was one of the reasons I chose to attend the Maxwell School, and I am so glad that I did. The practicum gave me the opportunity to intern at the UN World Food Programme (WFP) for the summer, a dream come true that led to consultancy in the same office. When I was planning my degree, I organized my studies differently from most students, saving the practicum and internship for the end of my time with the Maxwell School so that I could use the internship as a launch pad for my career. After graduating, my internship was extended for an additional five months, allowing me to gain more experience within the UN while I looked for work. In December, an External Partnerships Officer position became available and was offered to me. My studies at Maxwell and the Geneva Summer Practicum both prepared me for and directly opened the doors for me to be offered this position.
In addition to the internship, the practicum included a class on international organizations and several trips throughout Switzerland. The class connected me with senior leaders in international organizations in Geneva and helped prepare me for my chosen career, while the trips helped me connect with my roots, exploring and learning about the country where my ancestors lived.
Some of the highlights of this experience have been attending the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment at the UN Headquarters in Geneva with my colleagues from the World Food Programme, taking in the mountain views of Lake Lucerne, and exploring the Lavaux vineyards, a breathtaking UNESCO world heritage site. The most important highlight of course, has been getting hired at the World Food Programme and beginning the career I’d dreamed of at the United Nations.
This has been an unforgettable experience and one that continues to change my life. It was the perfect end to my time with the Maxwell School, and I look forward to the next steps as I begin a career of international service, well prepared to carry out the Athenian Oath to “transmit this City (and, I would add, this World) not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
Camilla Urbina Escobar is a DeSardon Glass Fellow and joint MPA/MAIR student expecting to graduate in the summer of 2017.
In many ways, Maxwell has helped me find my professional and personal identity. It has helped me understand my passions and how I can better be of service to my community, my country, and anyone. The journey that started with the opportunity of a lifetime to attend Syracuse University brought me to my Fall Semester studying at one of France’s foremost academic institutions, Sciences Po, and doing my second internship for the World Food Programme in a year. It has been an amazing chance to experience academic and professional life in France in a brilliant historical and cultural environment.
Studying in the Shadow of Giants
The academic leg of my French adventure was at times almost unbelievable, studying against the backdrop of art museums and steps away from historic Paris was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Sciences Po is one of France’s oldest and most prominent academic institutions, the alma mater of French Presidents and Prime Ministers. The professors and courses were a dream come true for a passionate student like myself. I was able to take incredible courses, including Promotion of Human Rights with Professor Aryeh Neier, the founder of Human Rights Watch; Global Health Management with Karl Blanchet, one of the best professors of the London School of Tropical Medicine; and a negotiation class with Alain Lempereur, the man that until recently was supporting the UN talks in Syria.
Sciences Po was the opportunity to learn from amazing professors and make invaluable networking connections by sharing the classroom with people from all over the world, representing Maxwell and contributing my perspectives in one of the most diverse academic spaces I have ever experienced.
At The French Liason Office
As I wanted to take full advantage of my opportunity of being in Europe and continue the work I started in Timor-Leste over the summer, and was accepted to work with the UN’s World Food Programme Paris Liaison Office, which handles all the donations from the government of France and Monaco to the agency.
It has been a wonderful opportunity to understand the relations between WFP and the European governments, and work in donor and public relations for the organization. Supporting their communications efforts and attending meetings with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs about their donations to their countries of interests. Being part of one of WFP’s high performance teams and contributing to their work has given me the chance to improve my French and strengthen the competences I received at the Maxwell School with experience working with the UN in a context of European relations—a chance to put theory to practice.
Being in France gave me invaluable networking opportunities, allowed me to work in a multicultural environment and provided me with insights into the inner workings of the liaison offices of the world’s most effective humanitarian agency. This experience has brought me closer to a dream I have had since I was 12 years old, working for the United Nations to help countries like my native Colombia. Maxwell has allowed me to be one step closer to that dream with the opportunity to have a working and studying experience in France.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Friday, December 11, Catherine Bertini’s class on food security wrapped up here in Syracuse. But, not before PAIA students traveled to Rome to visit key international organizations focusing on hunger, nutrition, and agriculture. As the former director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Catherine Bertini was able to gain valuable access to the WFP, FAO, and IFAD in Rome and arrange for world renowned guest lecturers on food security such as Sir Gordon Conway.
This past week Maxwell offered 24 of my classmates and me the unique opportunity to attend a class on Food Security in Rome. Our classroom was the heart of the UN operations to eradicate hunger: the World Food Program (WFP), the (FAO) and (IFAD) and leading our class was the woman that transformed humanitarian work on food security as we know it, Professor Catherine Bertini.
In what was truly a learning marathon, for three days we visited the headquarters of the WFP, arguably the most effective humanitarian organization in the UN system. We learned the ins-outs of their operations, hearing from experienced passionate practitioners that frankly conveyed the challenges and opportunities of a career in humanitarian aid and international management, intertwined with stories from their years of experience in the field in difficult places like Sudan, North Korea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.[. . .]
The course allowed students to meet and learn from experts at the World Food Program (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on topics ranging from the logistics of food aid distribution to the role of gender and climate change in the forming of policies. Speakers such as Stefano Porretti, director of emergency preparedness and support response for the WFP; Adolfo Brizzi, director of IFAD’s Policy and Technical Advisory Division; and Anna Lartey, director of FAO’s Nutrition Division, were just a few of the experts who shared their experiences tackling food security in an ever-changing global context.[. . .]