James Murray Does Impactful Work at UNDP

James Murray is a MAIR student who obtained his internship at UNDP with the help of Emily Fredenberg, a former participant in the Graduate Internships in Geneva program. He wrote this post in August 2016.

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.

James Murray in Geneva, Switzerland
James Murray in Geneva, Switzerland

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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

Getting Your Foot in the Door at the UN

It's easier to get in on the streetside
The UN Secretariat in New York
Source: Wikipedia

One of the challenges of finding a position within the United Nations is how to begin one’s search.  The UN employs more than  44,000 staff around the world, with operations that affect the 193 member states and bridge specializations from information policy, to peacekeeping, to international health, to logistics.

As many of you have expressed interest in working with the United Nations Secretariat, its constituent funds and programs, or its specialized agencies, we thought it useful to give some background on how one can get one’s “foot in the door” with the United Nations.  Continue Reading