Reflecting on my first month as an intern at the Order's Permanent Mission to the UN, New York
Making the 3,600 mile journey across the pond to a city where I didn’t know anyone, was of course exciting, but also quite daunting. Should I have been anxious? Absolutely not, because, in true Order of Malta fashion, I was welcomed into a very warm and hospitable environment. James, the Assistant to the Ambassador, Carina, a fellow intern, and, of course, Ambassador Beresford-Hill himself, all spent much time and effort to help me fit in. I am incredibly fortunate to be working with such kind and accomplished colleagues.
My first day at the office started just 11 days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Given the current geopolitical landscape of the United Nations, I was thrust into an incredibly challenging and dramatic atmosphere for modern diplomacy. With the sole focus of our Mission being to serve the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable on this planet, we have been actively contributing towards high level discussions concerning humanitarian impacts of this aggression, especially with the displacement of refugees and families, as well as the threats of human trafficking, to name but a few.
As a Permanent Observer, we are given access to all areas of the UN, and have the ability to speak and build on our diplomatic relations with other missions. Also, we are in a unique position as a Mission as we are apolitical. This means that we can collaborate with other organizations and nations with fewer obstacles in our way. We are also given full access within the UN HQ. As you can imagine, walking around the various conference rooms and meeting halls, whilst simultaneously bumping into some of the most recognizable UN diplomats of today, remains surreal.
I would love to describe what a typical day looks like, however it’s quite difficult since very rarely are any two days the same. Some things remain constant, for example; each morning we all get together to discuss our plans for the day, as well as addressing any urgent matters that need attention. Each day we check the UN Journal to see if there are any meetings occurring that align with the work that is most concerning to us. We tend to focus on Third Committee items because, as I have already mentioned, our main concerns are with humanitarian services. This last month, I have attended meetings in the Security Council and General Assembly regarding war-timed provoked sexual violence, the humanitarian impacts of the Horn of Africa Drought, the Commission on the Status of Women, the International Migration Forum, and multiple emergency meetings concerning the Russian aggression in Ukraine. On more than one occasion Ambassador Beresford-Hill and Fra’ Nicola Tegoni (a member of our delegation to the UN) have both addressed the General Assembly concerning the humanitarian crisis unfolding as a result of this war. Recently, I was present in the GA when the Russian Federation was, by vote, historically suspended from the Human Rights Council. As you can imagine, these have been unbelievable experiences. Furthermore, after attending these meetings, myself and Carina are responsible for writing reports to be sent to the Sovereign Council’s Foreign Office in Rome. As interns, we are treated incredibly well, and are supported in specific interests of ours that we want to pursue.
The UN social life can’t not be mentioned too! There are multiple group chats with many different events happening, all with open invitations. Also, every Friday there is a pub down the road that extends their happy hour for UN badge holders, so there are always large groups of international interns that meet here after a week's work. Throughout the week there are possibilities to meet up with friends and colleagues at the delegates lounge, or even to go for lunch at the Delegates Dining Room inside the UN.
So far I am having one of the most amazing experiences I could have asked for. I am living in New York, whilst working at the United Nations with our sole focus being humanitarian assistance. If anyone reading this is considering applying, then all I can say is that this month has been one of the most exciting, educational, enlightening, and extraordinary months of my life. So hopefully that has sold you!
Oh, and one more thing worth noting is that our office is based on 47th St and 3rd Ave, this means the walk to the UN HQ takes no time at all. More importantly, it takes even less time for me to get a Rueben sandwich from the Deli for lunch.
Written by Theo Whyte
Theo Whyte has been volunteering with the Order of Malta Volunteers (UK) since 2016. With the OMV, Theo has volunteered in Lourdes, Vienna, Lebanon, and across the UK at various activities. Upon further research into other branches of the Order, Theo came across the website for the Mission in New York, and applied at the end of 2021. He started his seven month internship in March 2022.
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