Engaging Young Humanitarians in Disaster Response

An intern’s perspective

I entered the United Nations headquarters for the first time in my life in July 2016, after having completed my undergraduate studies. Since then, I have been an intern in the Emergency Services Branch of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, an experience that has shaped my professional skills and helped me to enter into the Humanitarian Affairs field with more knowledge than I could ever have expected.

I was always passionate about Humanitarian Affairs. As a teenager I used to think about how I could use my skills to better contribute to providing relief to populations in need and building resilience among affected communities. Such passion led me to study International Relations with a strong commitment to combining my theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience in complex environments, trying to learn as much as possible about conflict situations.

From day one, I was welcomed into the Field Coordination Support Section as a valuable team member. I was privileged to share the office with senior officers and to interact with the Chief of Section, in both informal and formal settings, as well as to learn every day from my colleagues. Soon I realized that my ideas were welcomed in meetings, and my voice could be heard within the walls of the Palais des Nations despite my lack of experience. Speaking on behalf of all the ESB interns, I can confirm that this is not only a great networking opportunity but also a personal growth experience that stretches our minds and strengthens our sense of respect for others and our capacity to work in diverse environments.

During the last 4 months, I have developed a wide range of skills that I will be able to apply in my career. I have a better and clearer understanding of humanitarian affairs and emergency response. Through active engagement in ESB, interns are exposed to the reality of the field as well as to the mechanisms that are activated in the headquarters to deliver an effective response. FCSS enables a trust-building process in which interns are fully engaged in emergency response and operations, often managing the information posted on the Virtual OSOCC or drafting external communications on behalf of the section.

I am proud to be a member of FCSS team. I would highly recommend this experience and encourage other organizations to give UN interns the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, as this internship prepares us to be valuable young professionals ready to face emergencies with hands-on expertise and knowledge.

OCHA Interns October 2016

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