Topic Youth Engagement in the Community and at the UN
Date November 22, 2017
Category
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Youth Engagement in the Community and at the UN with Mishti Sivaramakrishnan

Sharmishta Sivaramakrishnan (Mishti) is the Youth Ambassador for World Summit Awards and the UN Youth Representative for Caring for Cambodia. She is a Singaporean citizen who was raised and educated across the Middle East, Europe, South/Southeast Asia and North America. She is currently pursuing her Master Degree in Development Studies at the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland and is working on partnerships at the World Economic Forum. Mishti has numerous professional experiences in the public, private, and NGO sectors. Some organisations she has worked at and volunteered her time with include the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, UNAIDS, the Asian Development Bank, the Council of Foreign Relations, CARE International, UN Women Singapore, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Ashoka Changemakers, and Deloitte Singapore among others. Her various public speaking engagements include at the Palais des Nations, the International Telecommunications Union, the Asian Development Bank and at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Additionally, she has published her work on platforms such as the Harvard Kennedy School’s Singapore Policy Journal.

   

On the 22nd of November 2017, Mishti hosted a live 30 minute q&a session on Goodwall talking about volunteering and the UN. The session was joined by 74 students from around the world.

"There is a long list of criteria and due to a huge number of applicants, I understand how it can seem intimidating and discouraging when you don't get a response or you feel the requirements are too difficult. My first piece of advice would be to not let these deter you. I always find it helpful to be as open as possible in reaching out to people as mentors, you would be surprised at how helpful people can be, even if they may be in a senior level position."

How did you get involved in the UN? —Clintia

To begin, if you want to work for the UN, whether at the HQ or related entity, I would begin with volunteering. I began my own personal involvement with the UN by volunteering for the UN Women National Committee in Singapore. Since Singapore did not have a formal UN office and I was only in high school, it was my most direct link to making an impact within the UN from a grassroots level! I used to volunteer there during my summers and as time went on, I was given bigger tasks to handle and also became close with the team there.

How old were you when you started? —Faisal

I was 14 when I began.

If I want to volunteer for the UN, where should I start? —Massimo

There are all sorts of volunteer programmes available. You could begin my looking at which UN offices are available in your city and reaching out to them via e-mail to see if they require volunteers.

Have you ever done an online volunteering project? —Kra Emmanuel

I have not taken up an online UN Volunteering project before but I have heard great things about it and would recommend it!

What was your most direct link to the UN because you didn't have a formal UN office in Singapore? —Neha

The National Committee for UN Women Singapore, you can have a look if your city has a national committee too!

I have an interest in becoming a UN ambassador in the future. I volunteer a lot within my community but, I would like to know the steps in how to involve myself in the UN? Especially what would be my major in the future once I go to college? —Karla

I double majored in International Affairs and Economics and minored in Sustainability in college. However, I would study what you feel you are most passionate about more so than what what you think would be suitable for a career at an international organization. They are always looking for diverse candidates from different academic disciplines.

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How much importance do organizations like the UN put on academic excellence? Do you think that is fair? What if your strong suit is not taking exams? How can you stand out? —Yoav

I am afraid I cannot answer the emphasis that is put on academic excellence but I will say that being well-rounded is always beneficial. Doing well at school and doing well outside school (in extracurriculars or volunteer work) are both equally important!

Is it a problem if my academics aren’t as strong as the community service initiatives I’ve undertaken? —Abhinav

With regards to community service, I have been with Caring for Cambodia since age 14/15. I joined the high school chapter of the NGO after visiting Cambodia and continued my engagement over the years. Upon graduation from high school, I found out that CFC had a large presence in the DC/MD/VA area and decided to get engaged. When the position opened up to represent the NGO at the UN, I applied and was selected.

With the internships, I will caution you that there is a rule usually that you can’t start a staff contract after the internship done until a certain grace period (usually 3-6 months) has been completed.

Do you know of any international summer opportunities at the UN? —Faisal

To emphasise, I would widen your interest to look into summer volunteer opportunities at other organisations too. Pick a cause or two you are passionate about and I promise you there are plenty of NGOs who may be working on those and provide summer opportunities!

What were your main responsibilities/duties as representative of the NGO at the UN? —Brady

Great question ! Let me backtrack and say that there are actually two representative platforms for civil society at the UN: DPI-NGO (https://outreach.un.org/ngorelations/) and ECOSOC. I represent CFC at DPI-NGO at the UN HQ in New York. In the past, I have spoken on behalf of CFC at UN panels, I’ve networked with people within the UN system and generally provided an advocacy role through social media sharing and the like.

I understand the work is satisfying, but since college tuition is expensive, is the work well paying in terms of covering student debt? —Abhinav

This will depend on the type of staff contract or job you have.

I'm looking into International relations and development as an academic interest, and I'm passionate about it. Was it fulfilling for you personally? —Abhinav

Yes it was! I am now pursuing my Master degree in Development Studies with a focus in Sustainability and Economics, a great transition from my undergraduate degree in Washington, DC. If there is a specific area of IR you are passionate about, be sure to look into universities that allow you to explore them as some are more interdisciplinary than others.

Does a student pursuing computer science have a chance at internship at UN? —Deepa

Yes for sure! Depending on the internship function and office, they do like having diverse candidates. You can always highlight how studying computer science improves your capabilities or skills in the internship.

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Have you ever felt that your citizenship held you back from good opportunities in D.C? —Abhinav

Not really. Of course if you are not an American citizen, there are certain requirements for working but as a Singaporean, I have always had great geographic mobility. In Switzerland, it has been particularly easy to work and study.

Topic Youth Engagement in the Community and at the UN
Date November 22, 2017
Category
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