From UNESCO Office in Beijing to Americans for UNESCO in Washington

About the author: Dandan Chen just finished her gap year in Beijing, China, and now back to Washington, DC for the last 6 months of her graduate study. She has interned for a variety of interesting organizations. Her most recent experience in China was with UNESCO Beijing. Now she is interning at Americans for UNESCO.

The logo of UNESCO Beijing Office.
The logo of UNESCO Beijing Office.

Two weeks after completing my 6-month internship with Education Sector at UNESCO Office in Beijing, China, I returned to my graduate school in Washington, DC. Here I started working on UNESCO-related projects on education as a GW UNESCO Fellow at Americans for UNESCO, an organization having been advocating UNESCO’s programs to U.S. Department of State ever since the U. S.’s first withdrawal from UNESCO in 1984.

In Beijing

UNESCO Beijing is a cluster office for five countries in Northeast Asia: China, Mongolia, DPRK, ROK and Japan. I truly owe a lot to this place, as all the experiences I had here, in 6 months, are so fresh that enable me to think differently about research, administration and teamwork, and so unique that give me a strong emotional attachment to UNESCO’s work. [Check UNESCO Beijing’s website to find relevant information]

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Education for All movement. Photo from UNESCO.

To be specific, in Beijing I managed to participate in both the research and the administrative activities. Here I observed the daily routines of this lead international agency in mediating between governments to fulfill its global commitment in education development as its top priority.

What made this whole experience particularly meaningful was that the year I was there, 2015, was in fact the last year for UNESCO’s flagship initiative “Education for All.” It was a busy year for UNESCO to assess and evaluate the achievements dating back to 2000 and to compile the lessons to take in setting the new education goals for the Post-2015 Agenda.

During this time, I assisted my Japanese supervisor’s presentation in the national launch of the latest issue of Education For All Global Monitoring Report in China and Mongolia, compiled and proofread materials on education policies and laws in the five countries, and reviewed the literature and produced  annotated bibliographies for the internal research.  In the meantime, I was able to get involved in the seminars and conferences on a pilot project on sex education for the handicapped youth in China’s rural areas, a campaign against homophobic bullying.

The period of 6 months was long enough to even allow me to give the orientation to 3 new interns recruited consecutively for the office and observe their growth during their time here, which was fun!

In Washington

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UNESCO’s booklet against homophobic bullying. Photo from UNESCO.

This summer, I continue to work on several areas of UNESCO’s educational programs in Washington, DC. This experience so far with Americans for UNESCO has been fruitful.

As I am getting to know this organization better, I realize it is a widely connected organization. It works with international organizations, NGOs, think tanks, the U.S. National Commission to UNESCO, and the U.S. Department of State. Its aim is to raise public awareness about UNESCO’s programs in the United States and to enable the civil society to better engage with the work that UNESCO champions.

Most recently, my supervisor called me on to produce several pages in advocating UNESCO’s educational programs for global LGBT groups. Such advocacy in the United States is particularly relevant and important today to UNESCO’s further development as the United States has withdrawn its funding at UNESCO since 2011, which equals to nearly one fifth of UNESCO’s budget. [Check Americans for UNESCO’s website to find more information]

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