2013 - Tiina Turunen, who was a Finnish-funded JPO with UNDP, shared with us her experiences and insights on her assignment in Lesotho and South Africa. Tiina has been part of the specialised in UNDP Strategic Policy Unit, and her work focused on supporting the government of Lesotho on various national plans and policies, in particular developing the next National Development Plan for Lesotho.
My name is Tiina Turunen. I joined UNDP Country Office in Lesotho in 2009 and afterwards moved to the UNDP Regional Service Centre in South Africa after two years. Initially I was funded by the Government of Finland and later by UNDP. Before joining UNDP I completed a Master's Degree in Economics and Business Administration as well as a CEMS Master's in International Management Degree.
I was always very interested in international issues and I used every opportunity to study and work overseas. After my studies I worked as a researcher in the Center for Markets in Transition and focussed especially on Latin America and South Africa economic and business environment research.
At the time that I applied for the JPO programme I was living in South Africa and doing research on Southern Africa. An opportunity in Lesotho, 'just across the border', at UNDP Strategic Policy Unit seemed perfect. The job description was a great fit with my professional and academic background and I was really happy to hear that I was selected!
Working for the UN had been my long time dream and plan as it is a very unique organisation which can really be a neutral partner to so many stakeholders be it on a local, national, regional or global level. I see working at UNDP as a great opportunity to achieve some long term sustainable results in the development field.
Lesotho...and South Africa
I joined UNDP as a JPO in 2009 and worked in the Lesotho Country Office as a Programme Analyst for two years, after which I moved to the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Eastern and Southern Africa for another two years. The activities in the Country Office level were focussed on supporting the Government of Lesotho and other national stakeholders in different national development priorities, national planning, policies as well as programmes. As Lesotho was a self starter in the Delivering as One Initiative, there was also quite a bit of work related to the UN System collaboration. In the Regional Office the focus is slightly different and we work to support the African Union, different Regional Economic Communities as well as our own Country Offices based on the demand. We also collaborate with a lot of other regional actors.
At the Lesotho Country Office my work included designing and managing projects, research and report writing, supporting UN System coordination efforts especially in the economic and employment related fields, and supporting policy development and national planning. At the regional level my work is more thematically focussed to Inclusive Market Development but geographic focus is wider, the whole Sub-Saharan Africa. The tasks are mainly related to technical support, capacity building and research, coordination, planning and Monitoring and Evaluation.
There have been lots of enriching and really interesting tasks along the way I must say. Just to list some the most interesting ones, definitely being part of developing the next National Development Plan for Lesotho, the policy development work on both national as well as on regional level, the upcoming regional publication on inclusive business and also the work on supporting cross-border and regional value chains.
I have really enjoyed both of my duty stations. Especially positive aspect has been the people! Both in Lesotho and in South Africa the people are very welcoming and fun and it is easy to work together. Naturally, sometimes there are hard days too and those times I've received great support from the people around me. I've really had super teams and the multi-cultural aspect of the UN system has been really enriching.
In terms of challenges, especially at the beginning the UN system bureaucracy can be a bit tricky to navigate. But there are always colleagues who know the rules and procedures and can help to make it easier.
Which random words come to your mind when thinking about your JPO assignment?
Empowering, busy, challenging, multifaceted, fun!
What kind of advice would you give to new JPOs?
Make use of the opportunities to develop yourself and shape the work based on your areas of passion. It can be really a great benefit for your career development and professional growth. Also remember to tap into the network of JPOs and other colleagues globally!
How do you feel your JPO assignment will influence your career choices/opportunities within the UN?
It’s very good work experience and opens up a lot of opportunities.
By the way...
What/who inspires you?
Recently I was really inspired by a group of young African agribusiness entrepreneurs from all over the continent that we had invited to one of our events. Their energy and drive was something really special that I won’t forget quickly. Really inspiring individuals walking the talk!