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“Interns with a Mission”

10 April 2014
“Interns with a Mission”

Opening remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva

“Interns with a Mission”
Palais des Nations, Room XII
Thursday, 10 April 2014 from 15:00 to 17:00

Distinguished Ambassadors
Dear Interns
Dear Future Leaders:

A warm welcome to all of you. I think that when we started planning for this event, we had no idea what kind of turn-out we would have. The participation of you all today has really surpassed all expectations. I am very happy to see all of you and one conclusion that we can draw from the numbers today is that this initiative fills a gap. I thank you very much for responding positively to the invitation, and for wanting to be part of our community and of the conversation about the future of the United Nations.

First of all, let me thank the Ambassadors and the Permanent Missions of Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands for their support; your good initiative is very much appreciated. But the biggest thank you goes to the outstanding group of interns from different Missions who are the highly creative driving force behind today’s event and the organizational wizards who have put it all together. So, let me ask Elko, Kim, Irene and Constance to stand up and I hope you will join me in thanking them most warmly. Thank you again from all of us for your work on this event.

And thank you to all of you for what you already contribute to the United Nations. We do not often have the opportunity to thank our interns but we obviously should do it much more often. I know from the experience in my own office that the work of the interns is both valuable and very highly appreciated; it not only adds to our daily efforts, but it brings new thinking and fresh approaches and it challenges us. Thank you for that.

I will not take long in opening. Like you, I am more interested in the discussion that we will have based on your answers to the questions on the dedicated Facebook page, all of which focused on your vision for the future of the United Nations. A topic very close to my own heart. There is nothing that United Nations bureaucrats like more than discussing the future of the Organization so I am looking forward to that part with you.
But I want to take the opportunity of having the floor to share with you just a couple of reflections on the importance that we attach to internships, and a few practical initiatives that we are taking to improve the internship experience and to create lasting partnerships with the interns in Geneva.

As you all know first-hand, interning with the international community in Geneva – whether it is with an organization or with a Member State – is both an opportunity and a challenge, on substance as well as logistics.

Strengthening the support for interns – within the frameworks that are given to us – is a priority for me so that we can attract talent like you. I think it is important that we make the internship experience as rich as possible. On a programmatic level, the United Nations emphasizes empowerment of youth and facilitating their participation in our work, so it is only logical and right that we do the same with the young people who have already shown a commitment to our work by wishing to intern with us. One of the first things I did when I took up my functions was to initiate a dialogue with our interns, meeting with about a dozen interns from different areas, to see what was needed and what was feasible.

As a direct result of those discussions, we have developed a new Guide for Interns, which has been placed on the UNOG website. Potential candidates are now provided with more detailed information about the programme and the website includes a number of useful links to facilitate the journey here. Looking ahead, we will also explore with partners in Geneva the possibility of reduced rates for public transport and the possibility of more affordable accommodation through the residential halls of the universities, and we will be putting in place a system whereby our colleagues who are interested can house interns during their stay. And while obviously we cannot promise that this will yield anything, as the results will depend on the readiness of others to engage, you can certainly rely on us to pursue these options actively. To ensure a better balance and ensure opportunities for all, we will pursue with Member States the possibility of better support for interns for developing countries. It is clear that there is currently an imbalance because the United Nations cannot provide paid internships and access to internships will be determined by access to funding but we will be looking at ways to address this.

We always welcome good ideas and hope that you will keep them coming so we can explore them together.
Logistical challenges aside, I know that you agree that the most important aspect of the internship is the substance, the opportunity to learn how the multilateral machinery works, and to play a part in shaping what happens at the United Nations. And this is what we are going to focus on today: what kind of United Nations are you expecting and what kind of United Nations would you like to see in the years to come.

An important aspect of today’s event has exactly been to bring you together, the interns who work with the United Nations from different angles – whether as part of a Member State delegation or as part of the institutional machinery of the Organization. Wherever you are coming from, our mission – as the title of this event indicates – is the same: to build a strong United Nations that can confront the challenges of today and tomorrow more effectively. I will not pre-empt the discussion by sharing my own views on the future of the United Nations straight away. But it is no secret that I believe we are experiencing very fundamental changes in global governance – with respect to the expectations of the people we serve, the involvement of civil society and other partners such as regional organizations, the influence of technology, and, not least, the role and reach of the State as we know it. Migration patterns, climate change, cross-cutting security challenges, economic growth – all of these are global developments that are changing the way we do business. There is no longer a clear distinction between the different levels of governance, and we will need to determine on a case-by-case basis what is the most appropriate level for any particular challenge to be dealt with.
And these are also all developments that will necessitate reform of the institutional structures of the United Nations – in fact, much deeper reform than what we have seen so far – and I very much welcome that you want to be part of that discussion.

My hope is that today’s event will only be the first of a more regular interaction among interns, across organizations and across Missions. You can rely on the support of UNOG and our commitment to doing our utmost to give you a substantive and challenging internship experience that will help your future career choices and aspirations – an experience that will be the beginning of a life-long partnership and friendship with the United Nations.

I hope you will all be tweeting about the event today, using the hashtag created: #YourfutureUN.

With those words, I will hand over to our moderator and I look forward to hearing your views

Thank you very much.