Name: WAI Lok Yan Venisa
Year 3 Bachelor of Social Sciences (Government & Laws) & Bachelor of Law
University of Hong Kong
Position: Development Coordination Intern at Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator- UN Myanmar
Duration: August 2017 – February 2018 (6 months)
Sponsorship: United Nations Peace and Development Foundation
The six-month internship at the Resident and humanitarian Coordinator’s Office (RC/HCO)- Myanmar was truly life-changing and yet challenging. Working in the United Nations (UN) has always been my dream- it is such an influential organization that strives to coordinate interstate efforts in positively changing the world. As one of the first cohort of Peace and Development Foundation’s (PDF) interns sent to Yangon and an undergraduate student myself, it took me a great deal of bravery to embark on this journey and leave school behind. Yet, I will never regret making this decision- it most certainly pays off.
Work in RC/HCO has been intense and interesting. If I have to pinpoint one thing that I feel most privileged to have earned/ acquired through interning in the development coordination team of the RC/HCO, it must be the perk of having been able to work on a wide array of strategic development coordination and conflict-related issues at the country level, with different professionals and organizations, at this unique period in the country’s history.
My main responsibility under the development coordination team is to support the formulation of the UN Development Assistant Framework (UNDAF). Through coordinating and participating in the work of the UNDAF thematic group and Monitoring & Evaluation working group activities, I acquired immense programmatic knowledge and coordination skills- in particular how to balance opinions among different actors, be it state or non-state- which I believe will be helpful in pursuing my future career.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC) is the designated representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to Myanmar and is responsible for the coordination of all UN agencies within the country. In Myanmar, the Resident Coordination is also designated as the Humanitarian Coordinator and is thus overseeing the strategic and operational coordination of humanitarian actions. As my supervisor is not only the head of development coordination team but also the head of RC/HCO who supports the RC/HC and the UN Country Team which comprises heads of all UN agencies, I was afforded an invaluable chance to get a glimpse of UN’s “way of thinking” through assisting and participating in, among others, UNCT meetings, high-level missions attended by senior officials from the UN Development Group (UNDG)/ UNDP HQ and undertaking research and analysis related to development priorities and operational context in the country.
Towards the end of the first month in the office, the country experienced one of its greatest conflicts in history in the Northern Rakhine State. Sad but true, this incident allowed me to critically analyze the institutional constraints posed by the UN, and more importantly, how the UN promptly and strategically responded to it in a coherent way that complies with inter alia, the overarching vision of “leaving no one behind”, “do-no-harm” principle, sustainable development goals (SDGs), international standards and norms and national priorities. It also encompassed an opportunity for me to test the water in regards to aspects like peace building, conflict resolution, international human rights, gender, international criminal law and the like. By tapping into the caliber, resources and capacity that the RC/HCO/ possessed, I am proud to say that I have learned a lot more than I could have ever expected.
During my internship, I have been helped tremendously by my RC/HCO colleagues- without whose support my work life wouldn't have been as vibrant. Beyond taking time out of their hectic schedule to teach and guide me, they also brought me to different “out-of-office” occasions including a movie night at the UK Ambassador’s residence in which I met the last royal family of Myanmar, a three-day trip to Shan State visiting my colleague’s hometown, party at my supervisor’s residence, UN Day, Myanmar traditional folk dances& drama at the National Theatre, etc.
I also want to make a note on the diversity of this multicultural, complex and captivating country, Myanmar. The country is characterized by a great miscellany of landscapes and wide diversity of its population- I am always fascinated by her colorful mosaic. That said, I was not so into this country at first- I literally couldn’t step out of the hotel/cross the street for my first few days in Yangon, for fear of getting hit by cars in such a hustle and bustle city! Yet, soon after I did fall in love with most other parts of her!
All in all, I am more than grateful for this internship opportunity in which I could work with people and experts who advocate and fight restlessly day and night for peace, human rights, equality and justice for all people in Myanmar. It has not only shaped my future career but also enlightened me to make a change to this world, however small it might be.
Special and sincere thanks to the Peace and Development Foundation- without whose support the past six months of internship would not have been possible.