17 May Meet Irem, Cecilia and Valeria – EYP Alumni working for UN agencies
We had an amazing opportunity to get in touch with three EYP Alumni who are currently working at different agencies within the United Nations and ask them about their work and their time with EYP. Here’s what Cecilia Pellosniemi (FI), Irem Tumer (TR) and Valeria Cherednichenko (UA) said:
Can you tell us more about your job at UN? What is it you do and why is it so important to you?
Cecilia: I work for the Justice and Corrections Service of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York. I just returned from a deployment to Haiti, where I was the Special Assistant to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. My office supports conflict and post-conflict countries in building up their rule of law systems, particularly courts and prisons. We also work on accountability for serious crimes. I support mainly Haiti, Iraq, Syria and Burkina Faso at this point, but I also used to work in other countries before. I also support my Director, the Assistant Secretary-General and other high-level officials with speech-writing, process coordination, budgeting etc. I always knew I wanted to work for the advancement of justice and human rights in peace processes, and even though I am quite far from where the action happens in New York, I am trying to help as much as I can. I do see myself going back into the field at some point.
A particular project I am very excited about is a youth leadership toolkit that I have been working on in partnership with Prezi and Columbia University which will reach young people across the globe.
Irem: I am currently a Technical Analyst at UNFPA headquarters in New York and I am responsible for coordinating the youth participation portfolio at the global level. This covers anything that has to do with how we engage with young people or youth organizations. Because I work at the global level, a big part of my work is about creating the technical know-how that can make youth participation more meaningful. It is important to me because I feel like as a young person and someone who spent a decade in youth organizations, I am really able to make a contribution and transform the way UNFPA interacts with youth.
Valeria: I work as an Associate Protection Officer (Statelessness) at UNHCR Regional Office for Europe. I can bet that most of the people who will read this will hear about statelessness for the first time. This is the first reason why I really wanted to work on this issue. When I first heard that there are millions of persons without a nationality in the world today, people who do not belong anywhere, it really struck me and made me realize how many things we take for granted. The second reason why I am passionate about this issue and I think it would also be close to every EYPer’s heart is the fact of having a feeling of belonging, of your identity. Nationality and our background form a huge part of who we are and how we see the world. Many of the stateless persons, despite the fact that they don’t know any other country than the one they were born in, do not have this feeling. In our work, we provide support and expertise in improving nationality legislation so stateless can be avoided, we provide training and raise awareness about statelessness, and provide assistance to stateless persons themselves. I have met quite a few of them during my three and a half years of work at UNHCR and I have seen some of them obtain a nationality. These were one of the happiest people I have ever seen.
How did your job relate to your EYP experience? In your opinion, how much, and in what way did EYP help you get where you are in your career?
Even before high school, I remember begging my teacher to let me join EYP.
Cecilia: Even before high school, I remember begging my teacher to let me join EYP. I had a pretty clear idea of wanting to work for the EU or another international organization, and EYP helped me realize my dream. Before the UN, I actually worked for the EU for many years. EYP boosted my project management, legal drafting (all those resolutions!), and negotiation skills. It also gave me a lot of self-confidence to pursue things at a young age. Because EYP-ers discuss complex topics they may not know in advance, they are able to grasp large amounts of information and structure solutions into both realistic and actionable clauses. EYP also made me a confident facilitator and trainer, gave me strategic communications skills and invaluable networks all around the world. There are quite many EYP-ers at the UN too!
Irem: I usually joke that I am now being paid to do EYP full time! Jokes aside, my job has more to do with my time in EYP than my professional background (which is law). A big part of my understanding of youth civil society, what it means to be truly youth-led and how young people can be motivated to create social impact comes from a decade spent in EYP. I entered UNFPA through being selected as a Global Innovator Fellow, and I feel like the disruptive and positive contribution I was able to make during the fellowship has a lot to do with the skills and knowledge I gained through EYP.
Valeria: EYP has really empowered me and made me feel more comfortable, not only by giving an opportunity to practice my English, public speaking skills, but also by giving an understanding of the fact that your opinion is as important as any other, and that it is okay if your opinion and that of your friend, family member or a stranger is different. I am grateful for the great friendships I have made. The United Nations is in a way similar to EYP: with the same variety of backgrounds, nationalities, characters and countries. And we too aspire to celebrate diversity. I am grateful to EYP and I am really proud to be part of it. I am also extremely happy to be able to continue to be active in a way in EYP through UNHCR-EYP partnership that started in 2017. During last year I have returned to an international session in a new role for me, as an expert, and although it was something very new to me, I felt like coming back home. I hope EYP continues to grow and provide platform for growth to so many bright and wonderful young people in Europe.