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Life on the Blue Pacific Continent

By Mehnaz Hossain

Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.

Image 1: JPC Mehnaz Hossain

As I write this post, I have completed my sixth week at the UNDP Pacific Multi-Country Office located in Suva, Fiji. The Fiji office is responsible for providing regional and country support to 10 countries- Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Therefore, while I sit at my desk in front of a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean, I can be working on projects based in any one of these 10 countries or even a regional project with stakeholders from multiple countries.

I got off the plane on a beautiful early morning in Nadi, Fiji having left a major snowstorm behind in Toronto. As soon as I walked out, I was greeted by sun and heat- an amazing feeling being a world away from the North American winter I had left behind. I made my way to Suva, Fiji which is the capital, and started work on January 30th. From the moment I walked inside I was instantly made comfortable by everyone. UNDP Fiji is an office that promotes work-life balance with a wonderful, mix of people who work collaboratively to make change happen.

Image 2: Nadi, Fiji

There are two things truly making my time here one to remember.

The first- as I mentioned briefly- is the amazing collaborative atmosphere of the UN teams at the UNDP. My colleagues- a mixture of international consultants and local staff- are always forever welcoming and supportive. As I have learned- a compassionate team of people who you can laugh with is one of the most important things you can have in a workplace like the UNDP.

The second is that the wonderful part about working within the Pacific Island countries is the hands-on experience you can get as a member of the UN due to the smaller country size. Going into the communities and engaging with stakeholders on the ground is a normal part of the work here. The other day I was fortunate enough to visit the Fiji Police Academy and sit in on an International Women’s Day celebration with the female recruits where we were able to hear from women police officers and physically see the difference that the projects and events were making. On another day, I had back-to-back calls with female-led civil society organizations (CSOs) from the island of Vanuatu. Each project has given me the scope to see real change taking place with my own eyes and it has been a pleasure to be able to contribute to them.

All in all, I can safely state that the opportunity to work with the UNDP has given me more valuable insight into how a gigantic body such as the UN functions along with insights on more technical tasks such as drafting concept notes and research. Working on projects regarding everything from parliamentarian gender equality to anti-corruption initiatives in the Pacific has given me a wide range of knowledge on various governance issues that will be instrumental to me moving forward in this field. As the day nears to an end- I will pack up and walk home on a path that runs parallel to the Pacific and return to the friendly waves of the locals who are always quick with a smile and greeting.


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