Swornima Pandey and Sebastian Coronel Internship at UNDP

By Swornima Pandey & Sebastian Coronel

So, what exactly does your internship at the United Nations entail? 

In terms of overall work, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) plays a critical role in helping countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNDP has many smaller teams that focus on SDGs in various capacities. For instance, SDG Goal 13, is to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” Specifically, the team that we work on is called the Equator Initiative. The work that we undertake attempts to bring together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. The Equator Initiative has three key action areas: the Equator Prize, the Equator Dialogues, and Equator Knowledge, all three of which are critical.

As Programme Assistants on the Equator Initiative Team, we have been working specifically on the Equator Prize, which is awarded annually to recognize outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. In the past few months, we have been conducting extensive research and investigation on over 500 organizations across over 40 countries worldwide, and have been collaborating with technical experts and management to narrow down to 10 winning organizations. Now that the 10 winners have been announced, we have been devoting the majority of our efforts towards publicizing, promoting, and planning for the upcoming Equator Prize on November 30, 2022. During this process, we have been using our language skills and cross-cultural communication to ensure that the 10 winning organizations’ work can be promoted in a manner that reflects the communities themselves and the ability of local knowledge to tackle climate concerns.

Implicit in this work, we have been granted the privilege of engaging with numerous community members, UN workers, and directors of various nonprofits worldwide. While working from the UNDP office in midtown Manhattan, we were able to attend various conferences on the SDGs inside UNHQ. We have interviewed the leader of an Indigenous community in Argentina and learned firsthand how Indigenous rights and practices have safeguarded various communities in Northern Argentina from the effects of climate change and unsustainable farming practices as well. We have also learned substantially from the talented, articulate, professional, supportive staff on the Equator Initiative Team and have gained a better grasp of how the UNDP affects the lives of many worldwide.