Field Trip to Geneva

On the 11th of February 2013, the delegation made a “detour” on its way to New York to Geneva, Switzerland to gain first-hand advice from actual practitioners of international diplomacy. From our base camp, the hostel Home Saint Pierre in the beautiful old town, we spread out towards the Australian and the German Permanent Missions to the United Nations, on the first day. Referent for Humanitarian Assistance und Media, Mr Herbert Beck, introduced us to the structure and functions of the German mission and he also talked about negotiation strategies inside of the UN-framework, especially in the field of humanitarian assistance. One common strategy is the cross-regional approach, which aims to ease negotiations through ensuring other nations that there is no hidden Western agenda.

Mr Nicholas Purtell, the Deputy Permanent Representative and Ms Namdi Payne, the Second Secretary, welcomed us to the Australian Mission. All delegates had the chance to ask questions concerning topics that were to be discussed in their committees in New York. Nevertheless, we mainly discussed issues of Human Rights, such as the indigenous rights in Australia, and conventional weapons in the framework of the Disarmament Conference. In the evening, the delegation was proud and happy to welcome Lizzy Openshaw who shared with us her courageous step from a comortable teaching job at the British Council in Bangkok to a career in the field of human rights. Her bright and lively talk encouraged us to continue to pursue our own way into an international career.

On the second day, the delegation went out again into the snow to attend several meetings with international organizations and specialized agencies within the UN framework. First off, was the International Labor Organization (ILO), which was introduced to us by Ms Christina Behrendt of the Social Security Department. She emphasized the most important strength of the organization, which is that it combines governments, employers and unions. Her interesting presentation revolved around issues such as employment, social protection and rights at work. Her colleagues from the Sectoral Activities Department, Mr Edmundo Werna and Mr Elvis Beytullayev, explained how projects are carried out. For instance, when starting a project how to identify target groups like women and youth. As an example they used the Decent Work Agenda, which promotes a fair income, social security and freedom for workers in agriculture worldwide. At the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) we attended a conference together with students from a university in Barcelona.

Ms Diana Barrowclough, the Economic Affairs Officer of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, talked about the major pillars of the organization: consensus building, technical cooperation and data collection. She also made a quite interesting point in a critic of the deficit cutting measures of European countries, which in her opinion may lead to massive unemployment and also may not promote the needed economic growth. The last point on our schedule was the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Mr Carlos Villacis explained to us the importance of capacity-building instead of solely relief work, in order to create actual development instead of creating dependence on development aid.

After these two days, which were full of intense and interesting discussions, we finally rewarded ourselves with a delicious cheese fondue. Finally, we departed from Geneva with crucial knowledge both about the how to conduct diplomatic negotiations and about how the Specialized Agencies interact with each other. We could not wait to leave for New York in order to practice what we had learnt!

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