JPO Story - Emma Honkala

March 1, 2023
UNOPS staff group picture

Emma Honkala, Programme Analyst at UN Global Pulse sitting in the couch with some colleagues at the Global Pulse office in Jakarta, Indonesia


What is your educational background?

I have a master’s degree in Global health from the University of Copenhagen and a bachelor’s degree in Geography from the University of Edinburgh.

What made you apply to the JPO programme/what is your motivation to work with your UN agency?

I’m a public health professional with interest in working at the intersection of health and technology. I have always been passionate about innovation and the different ways technology can be used to support vulnerable populations and accelerate progress towards sustainable development. Prior to applying to the JPO programme I worked in the digital health team in WHO/Europe for three years, building my expertise in this area. When I saw this opening at UN Global Pulse, I knew immediately that it would be a great opportunity for me to broaden my horizon and learn more about the UN innovation ecosystem.  

Emma Honkala UNOPS JPO

What is the most challenging project that you have worked on/are working on?

The most challenging aspect of my assignment has been the fact that over the past two years, the UNGP network has been undergoing a substantial transformation, that has included both a transition to a new operating model designed to allow for increased throughput and efficiency, and a new global strategy closely aligned with the Secretary-General’s priorities. Although these changes have been paramount for the network’s success, learning to navigate that uncertainty and finding ways to be productive has been difficult at times. However, being able to thrive in these difficult circumstances and the skills I have learned while participating in the change process are so valuable that I would not trade them for anything.

What set of skills have you developed most throughout your assignment?

During my first year, my supervisor wanted me to develop a good understanding of the network as a whole. It meant getting exposure to a diverse set of tasks and developing skills very broadly. For instance, I learned about strategic decision-making by participating in high-level meetings with senior leadership and developed skills in partnership building by leading the development of a partnership with one of UNGP’s key internal partners.

What piece of advice would you give to those who are considering applying to the JPO Programme?

I would highly recommend everyone to apply. It is a great opportunity to get a foot in the door. I can also guarantee that you will grow as a professional and learn transferrable skills relevant wherever you may end up next. I would also encourage everyone to prepare their applications carefully. It can be quite time consuming so don’t start the day before the deadline.   

What has been the most rewarding experience to date for you at your duty station? (work and/or non-work related)

Working at the UN headquarters in New York has been extremely rewarding. The diversity of individuals I have had the privilege of meeting from all corners of the UN (and the world!) is what makes it truly exceptional. I have been fortunate to encounter a plethora of colleagues who are both talented and driven, leading to numerous thought-provoking conversations. The atmosphere here is truly inspiring!

UNOPS staff group picture

Emma going on a stroll with interns Anna and Mariya in the Rose Garden at UN HQ in New York


How do you feel your JPO assignment will influence your career choices/opportunities within the UN?

I believe this assignment is an important stepping-stone to a career at the UN. It is such an amazing opportunity to learn more about the UN System and make essential connections for your career.

What is the biggest motivator for you when it comes to your work?

For me it’s always been important to do something meaningful, something that might help the world to become a better place. My studies opened my eyes to the injustices and inequalities that exist in society, but it also fueled my determination to be part of the solution. I am passionate about using my skills and knowledge to shape policies that can bring about meaningful change and improve people's lives. I believe that every one of us has the power to make an impact, and I am inspired to do my part.


"As a JPO, I have the unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on communities and bring positive change to the world. Every day, I am reminded that small actions can have a big impact and that my work has the power to shape a better future"
Emma Honkala