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Chinese broaden their horizons at UN

By LIU XUAN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-09-15 09:13

Cai Yinan's story

Cai Yinan (center) with other interns. PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

After completing a three-month internship at the Department of Public Information at the UN headquarters in New York, Cai Yinan chose to return to her hometown of Beijing in 2016.

Cai, 29, now works for an NGO focusing on climate change, but her experience at the UN "more or less" influenced her career choice.

"The internship gave me a better understanding of multinational organizations and their work, allowing me to accept a diversified working environment," she said, adding that she now has frequent meetings with foreign colleagues and has adapted well to this international working style.

In 2016, after obtaining her master's in communications, culture and technology from Georgetown University in Washington DC, Cai started her UN internship. She was mainly responsible for operating social media platforms at the visitors' center.

She and a senior officer helped the center develop and launch an app to guide tourists on virtual visits to all UN agencies.

Cai and her colleagues also assisted at meetings or conferences held at the UN headquarters, where they handled work such as arranging receptions.

Some of these meetings left a profound impression on Cai, including a briefing in 2016 by a staff member from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The briefing, on the situation facing refugees in the Middle East, included a vast amount of firsthand material such as photos, videos and interviews, which left Cai feeling "shocked and touched".

"If you are not part of the UN system, you may feel that these things are very distant from you or are none of your business. However, if you are on the inside, you will have more empathy and a deeper understanding of what's going on around the world, " she said.

Working for the UN can also help people better accept and respect a diversified world, Cai said, adding that this could be one of the reasons the organization is attracting more young Chinese.

More recruits

At the end of last year, of the 114,000 employees working for the UN around the world, more than 1,300 were Chinese, according to annual figures released by the organization.

Cai said: "Of course it's good to see more Chinese working in the UN system. As China is now playing an increasingly important role in the global community, it's no surprise that more young people from the country want to take part in international affairs."

Guo, from UN-Habitat, believes that more "true information" about China will circulate as a result of the rising numbers of Chinese working for the UN.

"China has done a lot to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, but if there is no one from China to tell those stories, the international community won't realize how hard we've been working," Guo said.

On the other hand, she said active participation can enable Chinese to familiarize themselves with the rules and methods required for international affairs, as well as gaining more experience.

"With more and more talent and experience, we can use these rules to better play our roles, at the same time better protecting our rights and interests," she said.

Ge, from UNICEF, said that in addition to the enthusiasm needed to work for the UN, it is important to work out "what you want to do, which part of the work you are most interested in, and where you want to start".

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