Update from the UNESCO Jakarta Office

About the author: Yishan Ding is MA candidate in the International education program at GWU. This summer she is working for the UNESCO office in Jakarta for 3 months as a GW-UNESCO fellow.

By far I have been working in the Jakarta office for more than two months. I can’t believe that I will leave the lovely place and people in about 20 days! The whole experience is full of first-times to me, first time working for UNESCO, first time working in the area of science, first time coming to Jakarta, first time experiencing Ramadan… Out of all the wonderful and memorable moments and feelings, three keywords mark my time here.

Challenging: With all my educational and working experience limited in the field of social sciences, working inside a natural science unit is quite academically challenging to me. It was especially so when working on my first assignment of writing a literature review on eco-biotechnologies of water management. I had to take several online courses and read corresponding textbooks in the first week, in order to understand the technical terms and theories. Now that I have been working here for more than 2 months, I find the whole science learning experience was truly useful not only just for the first assignment itself. It also helps me understand what the Jakarta office is doing currently. Besides, the scientific insights I gained largely helps my next and current task, which is about water education. Without the foundation of basic knowledge in scientific stuff, I believe I will still get lost in this task, although it is closely related to my background.

Mind-opening: My interdisciplinary learning quite opens up my mind. It inspires me to jump out of my previous role as an educator, so as to consider stuff from other perspectives such as a scientist and policy maker. Besides, a lot of work done here is in the intergovernmental level and both of my two assignments so far targeted to the whole Asia- Pacific region. Working under such an environment is also quite mind-opening for me. In the past, I was used to think only from the perspectives of either China or the US, where I have been lived and studied for relatively long time. Many times working inside UNESCO requires me to think from a larger continent and global perspectives.


Prambanan Temple
Prambanan Temple

The Jakarta office is so fantastic on its parties and events! I have joined two so far. The theme of the first party is 80s, during which people are dressed in colorful 80s costumes. Another one is the Iftar event to break fast in the middle of the Ramadan month. Each time it was not only a joyful time to relax and talk with each other, but also a feast to enjoy the unique and delicious food in Indonesia!

Borobudur Temple
Borobudur Temple

During last weekend, I visited Yogjakarta, where hosts two UNESCO world cultural heritages: the Borobudur Temple and the Prambanan Temple. Severely damaged by natural disasters and war, both temples were restored in the past a few decades by the cooperated efforts of UNESCO and local government. Speechless by the magnificent buildings, I felt more respectful for what UNESCO has done in the area of cultural protection.

Work at the UNESCO office in Jakarta: First impressions

About the author: Yishan Ding, MA candidate in the International education program at GWU. This summer I am working for the UNESCO office in Jakarta for 3 months as a GW-UNESCO fellow.

Who work in the Jakarta office?  Like many other international organizations and companies in Jakarta, the UNESCO office here consists of national staff and expatriates. The expatriates are usually managers nominated by the head office, consultants, volunteers, or interns. While the expatriates, especially the international volunteers and interns, come and go frequently, many of the Indonesian staff have been working in this office for more than 10 years, even 20 years. Another interesting finding is that in this office, most staff, national or international, are women.

I have been to the Southeast Asia for several times. Still each time I am here, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the hospitality of local people. Once again, the first day I was here I felt the sincere kindness of people: all the colleagues at the UNESCO office were all incredibly nice to me; they were always smiling and always ready to help, no matter how trivial my problem was.

Where is it? 

Galuh building of Jakarta office

The UNESCO office in Jakarta is located separately from other UN organizations. It is not in the business area, but in a quiet and beautiful living neighborhood, surrounded by plenty of tropical plants. The building of the UNESCO office used to be a personal house, making it very homey. Indonesia is a mid-developed country, with very sharp wealth gap. While as I just said, the UNESCO office is located in a beautiful and classy neighborhood, it is Slumdog just a street away.

Street view in front of the office

Jakarta is a huge and modern metropolis. You can find everything you are supposed to see in a large city, skyscrapers, luxury brands, and especially the unbearable bad traffic. It is common for the local staff in the office to spend 3 to 4 hours on road everyday.

What do people do here? The UNESCO office in Jakarta is a Regional Bureau for Science Regional Bureau for Sciences in Asia and the Pacific and Cluster Office to Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor Leste.

My first assignment was to proofread and review a strategic paper. Part of this assignment was to compile two appendix tables. I need to summarize information from a much larger data base, check whether the information was updated and then organize it into a new table. It is not very difficult, but requires more of carefulness.

Yup, above is my first impressions about work here! Do come back to check my as well as 6 other fellows’ updates about our wonderful experience in UNESCO!