What is a career in the UN really like?
Ian Howie, an Honourary Associate Professor at the Nossal Institute, has released a unique account of his career as a young graduate from Australia who spent 30 years working as a United Nations’ official.
From his first assignment in Bangladesh working at village level, through Africa, Asia, and UN HQs in New York until his last as Representative to Viet Nam, Ian has focused on programmes aimed at improving primary health care and reproductive rights. Answered in the book are questions commonly asked such as how does one join the UN, what was it like, how did you cope with transitions and, most importantly, did you make a difference.
Ian shines a light on the separate identities that make up the UN and the complexities involved. He discusses the reforms he was able to introduce to reduce duplication of resources and increase the localisation and institutionalisation of UN programmes. He encouraged vertical and horizontal integration of bureaucrats to reduce the interagency competition for funding. He introduced programmes to upskill the local workforce and was able to transform the UN’s role from one of project administration to one of highlighting successful project delivery and then working with policy makers to upscale these interventions.
This is thoughtful reflection on a career well spent. It is unique in that it not only shows the value of engaging at a local level but also the challenges faced in managing country programmes and a global workforce.
Reflections on a United Nations' Career: An Insider's Account is available online.