Issue 15: Internship at the United Nations in Beijing

By Cyrus CHOW (ELED alumnus)

The internship at the Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO) provides me with a good opportunity to make substantive contribution to and learn from the work of the UN in China. As a fresh graduate, I entered the UN Compound with curiosity about how the UN cooperates with different stakeholders for the development of China, and left with an improved understanding of foreign affairs, transferable working skills and friendship.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator (RC) is the highest UN official and the chief of UN diplomatic mission in China, leading the coordination efforts of the UN Country Team (UNCT), which comprises all heads of UN agencies. The work of the RC is supported by RCO, which ensures the implementation of the RC and UNCT decisions and supports the coordination of the UN System’s joint workstreams.

Speechwriting did make a good part of my work at the RCO. I was given many chances to compose messages and presentations for various occasions. With the constructive feedback from my supervisor Arpan throughout the process, I have improved my writing skills a lot. Now I understand better how to compose a “good speech” – one that is informative, engaging and easy to read.

The tasks did not only sharpen my language skills but also shape me to be a faster learner. In order to present reliable information in the speeches, I needed to fully comprehend the various work of the UN, such as South-South cooperation, multilateral food assistance and international labour standards. In the process, my expert colleagues who work in related fields were helpful in clarifying concepts and guiding my research. The experience is challenging and yet always fulfilling.


Event planning is another core of my work. The official visit of Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon is not only exciting, but also undoubtedly a precious chance for me to observe how professional senior executives cooperate and coordinate various affairs. I was assigned to modify Mr. Ban’s programme for New York’s approval, in few hours after the focal points report their latest action plans every day. With the guidance of my supervisors Pablo and Patrick, the experience showed the true picture of high-level officials’ work rhythm.


There was also much to learn from the preparation of UN Day. After communicating with numerous tenders for quotations of service, my business Putonghua has improved a lot. I understand the importance of effective communication in performing various duties as well. To ensure smooth programme flow, I took the initiative to ask my intern friends to help the expert musicians backstage. Though they have been briefed what their task was, some buddies were still confused. As time was pressing, I asked them to pair up with the performers and do a dry run with them. The performance turned out well and finished on time.


Apart from speechwriting and event planning, as soon as I familiarised myself with the work of RCO, I have made attempts in different areas. I had the chance to perform a comparative analysis on UNDAF 2011-15 and the assistance agreements in other Asian countries. The analysis serves as the reference for the heads of UN agencies in the process of formulating new partnership agreement with China after 2015. It enabled me to know more about the policy aspect of development partnership while training my research skills. Besides, my aesthetics has been improved through accepting the challenge of desktop publishing. In addition to designing covers for various documents, I was responsible for liaising with the publisher. I have acquired the know-how of color-matching and layout design. The ad-hoc tasks that sprang up made me become more open-minded and flexible at work.

The people I met were also inspiring. My intern buddies have been very friendly, supportive and resourceful. We would have dinner gathering every Monday to enjoy different cuisines and chatting. When preparing speeches and compiling policy documents, I have learnt a lot of valuable insights from my expert colleagues who are experienced scholars in the field of economics, development studies and foreign affairs. I also got to work smarter on operation matters through cooperating with the management officers. Needless to say, I have observed a bundle of leadership qualities from my supervisors. They are decisive and treat their work seriously while remaining humorous. They are also good at time management and asking the right questions to discover issues and problems straightaway, such as building web server and coordinating external service providers. I hope I can perform as professionally as they do one day.


I also want to make a note on the vibrant city where I interned in. Although I do not have many chances to make local friends here, the modern city landscape has changed my perception of Beijing in 1997 when I first visited there. Through the cooperation opportunities with the Government of China, I realized that the softwares – the policies and law – are also gradually improving and developing. Nevertheless, there are things that I hope would never change: Beijing cuisine and the locals’ friendliness! Last but not least, I would like to thank CUHK for providing such a good internship opportunity. I also want to encourage my fellow schoolmates to grab the chance to explore the new face of the developing China.

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