Marianne on the Dynamism of Indonesia

My first four months in Indonesia have been thought-provoking, challenging, and fascinating. As a student of international affairs and having friends who had travelled in the region before, I had learned plenty of textbook lessons about Asia - political, social, geographical - and in my own research, about Indonesia specifically. However, I was unsure about what to expect in practice - from the day-to-day city-living in the mega-city of Jakarta to the professional expectations of a UN Country Office.

Jakarta has been a whirlwind. The streets are often packed to a standstill with honking cars or busy with drivers of cars and motorcycles trying complicated maneuvers to shave minutes off their commute. Roadsides are crowded with food vendors, displaying their offerings through glass-fronted carts. Strolling to work, to food, or for pleasure is met with greetings called out every few minutes. In short, it’s a hectic place. While none of this is particularly surprising, it has been pleasant discovering how alive the atmosphere can make you feel. That said, an occasional escape to the gorgeous countryside can be very refreshing.

My time at UNDP has been no less hectic. As an evolving organization working in an incredibly dynamic country, UNDP and the other UN organizations with which it collaborates are exploring new approaches to engagement. This is particularly true of the area in which I’m working - health governance. With shifting disease profiles - a common trend throughout low- and middle-income countries - and the implementation of universal health care in Indonesia, the needs and challenges of the Indonesian health system are often a moving target.

In this changing context, I have been supporting the development of a Health Governance Programme Strategy, and been involved in work on a number of key health issues, such as health inequality, HIV, and affordable access to medicines - expanding my knowledge of issues like patent law and procurement beyond what I had ever expected. I have also been learning about the internal processes of the UN, such as quality monitoring and reporting requirements for projects. Additionally, with several agencies having slightly overlapping mandates – an effect of the interconnectedness of many issues - there are plenty of inter-agency meetings and workshops, giving me plenty of opportunities to meet passionate, interesting people doing important work.

As the end of my placement is drawing closer and I begin to reflect on my time in Jakarta, it’s clear that this experience has been incredible – both professionally and personally – and has given me the opportunity to meet inspiring people and build valuable new skills.


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