A Once in a Life Time Opportunity with UNDP Fiji
By Shaza Ahmed
Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.
Photo 1: This is Kadavu House, where the UNDP Office is located. It is owned collectively by villagers and a council, who benefit from the rent.
To begin, I am grateful to be able to work in-person for my UN internship. For the past three years, my introduction to the office environment had been entirely virtual. I didn’t realize how much of the human connection I missed. Getting to know my colleagues during the little breaks by the coffee table or the water cooler, and learning about their experiences working for the UN, and what’s happening around the office have been invaluable. I can’t help but reflect that this would not have been possible last year. Not just being at the office but also being in a different country. Life had changed so drastically; I had managed my expectations to match. Being in Fiji has been dreamlike as a result. My walks to work are next to the Pacific Ocean, with mountains visible in the distance, schools of fish jumping in the water, and bats soaring overhead. Every weekend, our group of interns takes short trips to the Coral Coast, Pacific Harbour, Nadi, or Leluvia. These weekend trips teach us about island life and island living through mountain hikes and village visits. Suva, where we are based, is the capital of Fiji and has an entirely different spirit from what one imagines when they think of island life. While only spanning a few kilometers, Suva has the hustle and bustle of major cities. Especially in the area where our office is located, aptly named the Central Business District.
Photo 2: Our daily walk to work
The UNDP Pacific Office is structured with three project-implementing departments called Resilient Sustainable Development (RSD), Effective Governance (EG), and Inclusive Growth (IG). RSD projects focus on climate security and risk informed development, EG focuses on capacity building and strengthening government institutions, and IG focuses on creating opportunities for employment, industries, women, and others. These departments implement development projects in 10 Pacific Island Countries under their official mandate. These three departments are supported by other departments such as Finance, Procurement, Gender, and Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E), where I am assigned.
As part of M&E, I can engage with projects in all three departments. My current task is to identify and analyze the projects that have expected risks and make suggestions as to how to mitigate them. I was given a large data sheet in excel with results from ongoing projects, which I sorted through to find projects at various risk levels. Organizing data differently, revealed information about the projects such as that many of the projects at expected risk levels are operational and all the projects with expected risk levels that are financial have all been implemented in Fiji. From information such as this, I can narrow down the projects, investigate their project documents and see if there is a structural or common underlying reason to reduce this risk in future projects or address it in current projects.
Photo 3: Coral Coast sunset
Another task I am working on is aiding with the creation of a mobile app for the office that enables people working from the field to collect data in real time and continuously. The app will prevent data from being lost and stored separately. My role is within the app design for which I interviewed program managers and technical advisors to determine how the app can be of most use to them. I learned about their projects and the type of data they work with so our team can concept categories that would capture their work accurately. We are in the beginning phases of app creation, but I am excited to be part of a process that can systematically optimize the development work at this office. The scope of work here varies so much and there is an opportunity to be involved in many different types of projects depending on your interest. I look forward to seeing what other experiences this internship will bring me.