My journey with UNDP started in my own country, Lebanon, more than 20 years ago, managing the environment portfolio. But prior to this, I was part of a programme that involved helping internally displaced people return to various parts of the country. This programme had a big impact on me, and my future work, because it not only gave me insight into understanding the serious problems the country was facing at the time but also made me feel like I had a part to play in addressing a national priority in my own home.
I resolved to carry that feeling with me into my job with UNDP, and into every country I found myself working in. In a sense I will adopt that country, caring for it as much as I care for Lebanon, to ensure I am giving the people of that country the best of what the UNDP platform has to offer.
The ripple effect of impact
During my time in Lebanon, one of the things we did is support the government in developing a network of protected areas. Our focus was to create an environment that enabled the government to thrive in the future, from assisting them with implementing legislation to developing management plans. These days, whenever I go back to my country to visit, I’m so proud to see the impact we made being lived out through rural development and ecotourism businesses. Seeing that transformation is extremely rewarding.
And that is the beauty I have found in working at UNDP. It provides this flexible platform that is able to adapt to the different contexts and countries we find ourselves in to serve them in the best way possible. Whether assisting with the development of peaceful, inclusive societies; building communities free from poverty, advocating for and raising awareness about climate change; or creating communication strategies that inspire sustainable change, UNDP provides a platform that not only empowers its own diverse teams to give, support and serve, but also inspires and enables the governments we work with to adopt our approaches. A sort-of ripple effect of impact.
Developing a cross-cultural, cross-sectoral mindset
I regard that experience of working in Lebanon, and my many experiences working in other countries following that, as being crucial in the lead up to my current role as Resident Representative of UNDP where I’m expected to engage with officials, governments and various partners, while also managing my own team. I believe that the national staff are the backbone of every office within this organization, and from the opportunities I was given to work alongside national staff in different countries, I learned how to have a cross-cultural, cross-sectoral mindset, and how to engage people at all levels of the organization to ensure they own up to the process. In fact, I’m still learning.
Building on our knowledge daily
Working at UNDP means you are in an ongoing process of learning: from staying up to date with the latest climate change information, and understanding what’s happening with local development in various countries, to innovating new ways to boost economies, and figuring out how to adapt to a new way of working amidst a pandemic.
But for me the biggest learning occurs when I’m reminded of the impact we’re having — such as the moment Moldova, with the help of our programs and partnerships with the EU, became the fourth country in the world to submit its nationally determined contributions — which are the efforts of the country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
It’s in those moments I see how all the knowledge the Team and I acquire is being applied in order to give back to the very communities I’m learning from. I’m reminded of my time in Lebanon, and how much I’ve learnt and grown since working there. And I’m reminded of this strong sense of purpose, continuously cultivated within me by UNDP and in turn inspiring me to cultivate it within those I lead and serve too.