Youth Vie for U.N. Jobs

February 29, 2008
Costa Rica may soon boost its presence on staff at United Nations offices across the globe.
Some 92 young professionals took a competitive exam this week to join the six Costa Ricans who now work for the United Nations.
A high score and a strong interview will land them a spot on the staff at a U.N. office in Lebanon, Ethiopia, Thailand, Switzerland, Kenya, Chile, Austria or the United States.
The exam, a grueling 4.5 hours with no breaks, was administered in 56 countries. Making the cutoff is tough, said Ana Parrondo, a U.N. examinations officer.
“You are basically competing against candidates from all over the world and only the best are going to make it,” she said.
The U.N. held the exam here because Costa Rica has traditionally been under-represented on the U.N. staff, said Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, who met with contestants Monday to wish them luck.
“We have a youth willing not only to familiarize themselves with faraway countries, but also to compete,” he said.
The United Nations calculates an “ideal” number of staffers from each country based on its population and contribution to the organization. Costa Rica’s suggested quota is two to 14, although more can be hired.
“We want to be appropriately represented (in the U.N.), and with some luck, overrepresented,” Stagno said.
Applicants had to be college graduates under 32 years of age, with English or French fluency and a degree in one of six areas: finance, information technology, political science, environment, human rights or auditing.
Successful candidates will be listed on a roster, from which the regional offices will draw to make hiring decisions at a junior level. Adriana Quirós, who took the human rights exam, wants to escape from what she calls the Costa Rican “bubble.” In search of a “fresh perspective,” she went to college in the U.S. state of Virginia, and is now vying for a U.N. job in Africa.
“Costa Rica has always been very closed,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know what’s happening in the world and how it affects us.”
 
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