My final project is on public-private partnership (PPP), a term to which I have never really paid attention before coming to the UN. I chose this topic out of curiosity about development policies’ implementation, since partnership and its various forms -- ‘global partnership’ ‘multi-stakeholder partnership’ ‘public-private partnership’ – pop up so often in the UN discussions and sound like promising solutions to world problems.
I first tried to study PPP’s effectiveness as a financing tool and yet found that my financial knowledge was too limited to answer that question. I then turned to research on PPP’s effectiveness in providing infrastructures for poor countries. I learnt the basics of public finance and gained a flavour of various ways governments mobilize resources for social construction. I also argued that PPP could only be successful in certain environments. Contrary to my initial belief that weak global partnership contributes to unsuccessful SDG implementation, I found there are actually a huge number of partnership initiatives, commissions, organizations, and companies working on various issues, and I wonder whether there is a way to precisely assess those partnerships’ progress. Besides, I am also unsure about why the ratio of public and private investment is what it is today, whether this ratio itself really causes any economic consequence to development, how MNCs might push governments to make favourable fiscal policies, etc. Overall, I was challenged to grasp a brand new concept in a limited amount of time, and the selection of resources was important. I managed to skim through many official statements, event recordings, UN documents, pamphlets, brochures, knowledgeable people, and credible online articles and videos and to sift through useful information.
I am glad that I have had the opportunity to look inside the UN and actually see how high-level delegates and diplomats attend meetings and network. Because of my interest in politics and society I have imagined a career in the government. Yet now I am more determined to focus on systematic academic research and gaining ground-level first-hand experience of the real world. I would also like to further develop my advantage in theoretical and logical thinking. Working solely on the administration level and studying very specific policies and agendas is, I feel, too detached from living people and may lead to unrealistic conclusions. My coming into contact with civil society groups and private sectors also confirmed this view. However, I could never firmly feel that without working in the UN first.
Another important take-away I gained is the significance of communication, the exchange of ideas. I listen more actively to others, and I express my own ideas in a more calm, organized, and assertive way thanks to various skill-building workshops and the UN experience. (Among the workshops, I am particularly fond of the public speaking one. The physical bad habits in speaking often go unnoticed, yet they make such an immense adverse impact! For example, I need to practise to speak used to making assumptions about people’s opinions and what they have to offer, yet while interviewing people in the UN and interacting with invited speakers in workshops, I frequently found conversations turning in totally unpredicted and interesting directions. Others’ diverse perspectives and experiences allow me to look at things in a more sophisticated way. My colleagues also often surprised me with their personality or unique expertise and I built good relationships with them.
I have had a lot of disappointing experiences with summer programs; nonetheless, I think the UN internship has made a positive and profound impact on me in many ways.