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From the Other Side

From the Other Side

Joyce Xu 許樂怡BJ 2014

What's your first impression of Beijing? The Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Hutong, smog, the capital of China... And, what about inter-governmental organisations?


I took a rather unconventional path when I completed my undergraduate studies. Instead of finding a job with a media agency, I headed to Beijing as a communications intern at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China office.


Colleagues at the UNDP China come from diverse backgrounds, and all bring with them a variety of skills, experiences and passions. Our team includes advocates for humanitarianism, gender equality, environmentalism as well as protectors of minority workers. We all come together to work towards the common goals of championing the rights of the poor and disadvantaged in today's complex world. For instance, a colleague from Yi zu 彝族, an ethnic minority group in Yunan province, has witnessed the traditional prejudices and plight faced by Yi women. She volunteered at UNDP with a mission to improve the livelihoods of this vulnerable community by promoting their traditional embroidery products and, at the same time, driving women's entrepreneurship and societal inclusion.


As a journalism graduate, I provided communications support and worked on different advocacy campaigns with government agencies, civil society and private sector to build, promote and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I was fortunate to gain hands-on experience, which has led me to have a stronger and holistic understanding of the many opportunities and challenges facing China, e.g. economic development and the growth of civil society. the unprecedented of urbanisation and poverty eradication, and China's role in global development and UN pace peacekeeping missions.


Daily observations and dialogues with local people also helped me to discover more about the cultural differences whilst discerning some commonalities as well. I was also intrigued by the diversity of the Chinese provinces. For example, people from Northern China are more straight-forward and free-spirited while those from Southern China are more tactful and indirect. Chengdu people are known to be more carefree and Shandong people tend to be more outspoken and hospitable. Comprehending Northern accents and local slang was certainly a learning experience.


I am grateful to have worked with many inquisitive and passionate minds and learned to perceive everything from a broader perspective without prejudice.


To quote from the then UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson: "The future is your vision and the horizon you have for your life, but the future is also the steps you take tomorrow to reach that vision". The world is out there. Let's explore and rise to the challenges in the vast array of opportunities.

The future is your vision and the horizon you have for your life, but the future is also the steps you take tomorrow to reach that vision.

  • Joyce's colleagues from the communications team at UNDP China
  • An innovative Public-Private Partnership using Big Data to tackle e-waste problem in China