Dutch UNESCO intern Floor Oudendijk

Not only the Permanent Delegation of the Netherlands to UNESCO is offering Dutch students an insight into UNESCO’s world. There are several Dutch students interning at the various departments of the UNESCO Headquarters. On a rainy Paris afternoon we talked to intern Floor Oudendijk. From her desk in UNESCO’s headquarters, where walking through the corridors you will pass works of Giacommetti, Le Corbusier, Miró, Picasso, Appel and many more, Floor explains us how she experiences her internship at UNESCO.

Nice to meet you Floor, could you shortly tell us who you are and what your background is?

My name is Floor Oudendijk, I was born in the western part of Holland, close to Amsterdam. I am studying Future Planet Studies at the University of Amsterdam, majoring in International Relations. Last semester I did an exchange at Sciences Po in Paris, where I mostly focused on development studies. Currently, I am working as an intern in the Division of Sciences at UNESCO, for the International Hydrological Programme.

How would you describe your department at UNESCO?

The International Hydrological Programme consists of eight staff members and 25 other colleagues (consultants and interns). The Programme is a large one in the sense that it has one of the largest networks in the Natural Sciences Sector. However, it is definitely not the department that has the most employees. Our department is responsible for many things: with the help of the delegations we coordinate activities concerning water sanitation and water education, but also river management.  Furthermore, the IHP Intergovernmental Council has its secretariat here and the World Water Development Report is coordinated from here, together with offices in Perugia. All in all, I could say it is a very dynamic and active division, where people work hard to support development in the water field.

What would a typical day at the IHP department look like?

I start looking at my emails around eight in the morning and start working on what has been assigned to me the day before. This can vary from writing letters to ministers to request their presence at an event, to contributing to a report on global water media coverage or summarizing the results of an activity. I am also contributing to the Anniversary Book of IHP, in which we will celebrate and commemorate the past decades of IHD (International Hydrological Decade) and IHP. Next to that, I am working for ‘the Bureau’, where the activities of IHP are discussed by the six Member States that are currently in the board of the IHP. It is a lot of work, but this is compensated by cultural events in the evenings. A few weeks ago, for example, I attended the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards, where five women were praised for their excellence in science, and not long ago I attended a Turkish ballet performance for the celebration of Nowruz.

What were your expectations of an internship at UNESCO and do these expectations correspond with your current experience?

My expectations at UNESCO were that I would not have a lot of responsibility. However, I can say that I do have responsibilities and that I am contributing to significant activities. Naturally, everything is checked by my supervisor, but I can do a lot myself. Being given responsibility, makes you learn so much about yourself, about work and about how the organization works. There is a multicultural atmosphere here at Unesco that I really like. What I didn’t expect but also like about UNESCO is that everybody just says ‘hi’ to each other in the corridors.

Do you see the topics you learned in your studies reflected in your internship?

Yes, my background in Environmental Sciences makes me understand how my department tries to mitigate global problems, such as desalination or lack of sanitation. Next to that, my background in International Relations makes me aware of the power field in the water sector. In my internship I can see how states are more interested in certain programmes than in others, depending on their own priorities.

What would, according to you, be the importance of IHP for The Netherlands?

I think it is safe to say that the Netherlands is a “water country”. The Netherlands is globally perceived as belonging to the top in the field in water management. This is why the UNESCO-IHE, Institute for Water Education, is based in the city of Delft. In Delft, students are educated to be the world leaders in water management. IHP is a platform for governments, scientists and NGOs to work together, splitting the costs for activities that help development in all countries. The Netherlands is part of the IHP Council, as one of its 36 Member States. This offers the Netherlands the opportunity to express its interests in an international setting. Furthermore, participating in the IHP provides international exposure of Dutch expertise in water management. Lastly, the international cooperation is, at least I think, very valuable for our country.