21 December 2006
by Oliver Bridge, UNV Human Development Advocate
Lilli Oberndorfer, UNV Human Development Advocate in Syria, interviews a water expert during a roundtable discussion about the issue of water scarcity.Damascus, Syria:
What is that one month takes you to the borders of a war zone and an impromptu refugee camp and the next month has you attending a gender mainstreaming workshop and visiting a national biodiversity project? These are common experiences for UN Volunteer Associates serving as Human Development Advocates out of the offices of the UNDP in Syria.
The concept is a new one, developed by the UNDP and UNV Programme in Syria. Initially the position was created to ensure that UNDP and UNVs in Syria had a constant stream of articles to advocate their issues, work and messages through their websites. The idea was to capitalize on the enthusiasm for development of the young international community that it is an ever-growing feature of Syrian life, and to focus this enthusiasm towards advocating development. Accordingly UNV Human Development Advocates have hailed from a plethora of different backgrounds ranging from Australian to German to, of course, Syrian.
This position not only provides the volunteer with a perfect opportunity to become genuinely acquainted with the actual work of the UNDP and UNV Programme in Syria, but it also ensures that their good work, as well as relevant development issues is successfully and continually advocated. The breadth of experience that is offered to these volunteers is therefore almost unparalleled. Whereas other UNVs and UNDP staff members are usually confined to working with one project or with a specific group, the Human Development Advocates have the chance to become acquainted with the organizations as a whole. A chance which certainly ensures that these volunteers bring to their next jobs a wealth of experience that is unmatched at a junior level.
The contribution of the UNV Human Development Advocate in Syria, in the wake of the Lebanon 2006 Crisis, however, underwent a serious change which expanded the jurisdiction of these volunteers. It was clear that in response to the crisis there was a need to coordinate the output of the UN in Syria as a whole. Accordingly, these UNVs became available as advocates for all the UN agencies. Suddenly the breadth of the experience got considerably broader and, owing to the extant crisis, became somewhat more intense.
Thus, both in times of crisis and during the more regular work of the UN in Syria, these UNV Human Development Advocates have shown themselves to be very helpful. Communications often lies at the core of an organization's success, and this is no less true of the UN. Step by step the core messages of the UN are becoming more widely disseminated, and in Syria this is also thanks to the efforts of the UN Volunteers. So, if you are looking for an opportunity which is going to expose you to a wide range of experiences, while at the same time working for the improvement of people's lives, try considering serving as a UNV Human Development Advocate in Syria.