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【SDG 17】Intern Patrick from Brazil introduces the New Taipei City SDG Internship Program

The New Taipei City SDG Internship Program allows university students who are interested in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals framework and international affairs to work in the largest city in Taiwan and to cultivate their soft skills in diplomacy. The program has just finished its fourth term. Let's check out what the latest intern Patrick has to say about himself and his takeaways!

Self Introduction
My name is Patrick Ko, I was born and raised in Brazil. However, my family originally comes from Asia, specifically Taiwan and Indonesia. Furthermore, I am fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and English, while I am still sharpening my Mandarin and Taiwanese skills. I am also interested in learning other languages such as Japanese and Korean to sharpen my own understanding of East Asian international relations. I have double nationality from Taiwan and Brazil, and I hope that just like my family, I hope to strengthen relations between these two countries. 

Growing up in Brazil, I had little cultural awareness of my family's background and their own stories. However, after moving to the United States at age 15, I have become increasingly aware of my own identity as a Taiwanese-Brazilian. Studying in an American public high school made me realize how multicultural the world is due to the presence of students from all over the world and made me want to search more about my own identity. Furthermore, it was in high school that I started to seriously engage in the study of international relations. At age 16, I participated in a summer program on international affairs in Washington DC, while at age 17 during the summer, I went to France to study at the prestigious Sciences Po, at the time ranked 3rd best university in international affairs in the world. It was through these high school experiences that I realized I wanted to start studying international relations. 

I attend university in Washington DC, United States at the George Washington University ranked among the top ten universities in international affairs in the country; where I major in international relations with a concentration in international politics but mostly emphasize Latin American and East Asian affairs. I am part of my university's Global Bachelor's Program which allows undergraduate students to study abroad in three different locations as an integral part of their college experience while pursuing a research topic and participating in classes that enable students to take the most out of study abroad experiences. 

I have decided to engage in research about Chinese influence in Latin America and East Asia as a case study, where I analyze which areas of a country are more susceptible to influence from China. Therefore, upon having the choice to study in Shanghai, China, or Belfast, United Kingdom, I first decided to study in Belfast at Queen's University Belfast where sectarianism is still present in its society until this day. While there, I studied the Irish Revolution, the politics of deeply divided societies, and Northern Ireland’s steps toward peace. These courses enabled me to understand revolution, societal division, and reconciliation which are important topics to understand Chinese influence abroad. 

Then, in order to attain an East Asian perspective on international relations and Chinese international affairs, I decided to study at Yonsei University in South Korea, where I learned about political systems and parties, Global China, and East Asian international security and history. The courses were fundamental to comprehending international relations through an East Asian perspective as well as sharpening my own understanding of East Asian international affairs. 

Finally, I have decided to come to Taiwan where I study at the National Taiwan University to sharpen my Mandarin and Taiwanese skills which together with the internship opportunity at the New Taipei City Government Secretariat. 

Working at the New Taipei City Government allows me to comprehend how Taiwan's municipal governments work and participate in the international stage, while studying and living in Taiwan also enables me to not only research but also experience Chinese influence on the island through more subtle means such as economic influence. 

As an intern, I had to engage in the translation of documents and articles, revise articles in Chinese and English, research New Taipei's SDGs achievements, write bilingual articles, and attend events. One of my most memorable experiences was attending the celebration for the 201st anniversary of the independence of the Central American countries. I had the opportunity to hear a speech by President Tsai Ing-Wen as well as have a conversation with the ambassador of Honduras to Taiwan. 

Participating in diplomatic activities has given me a glimpse of governmental life and networking, as in many events held by New Taipei or from which the city is invited to attend, there are many important attendees. On another note, the working environment is flexible and fair, allowing me to learn a lot from the given assignments. 

Before I started interning at the New Taipei City Government Secretariat, I have never heard about the SDGs nor did I understand the relevance of sustainability for municipal government's policy. Furthermore, as a student of international affairs, I tended to undermine the importance of sustainability in the relations between countries and used to believe that sustainability only had relevance in the domestic scene where the local population could scrutinize or praise its domestic political leaders for ruining or improving the environment. 

However, by interning at the International Affairs Division, I came to understand how sustainability can be applied to international relations. The main policy of the New Taipei City Government has been its SDGs, a policy adopted from the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides a blueprint for prosperity and peace for everyone and includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals that tackle specific areas for sustainable development. 

The New Taipei City Government emphasizes SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and held several events that implemented SDGs in the city, such as the New Taipei Food Wise Little Masters Film Competition. Furthermore, the city government also encouraged citizens to act and adopt SDGs as well, leading to many schools implementing zero-carbon emission policies, mobilizing students to collect trash from beaches in New Taipei, and so much more. 

Also, sustainable development policy in New Taipei City has repercussions abroad, winning awards such as the "Outstanding City Award for Livable City" at the 2022 APSAA Asia Pacific Sustainable Action Award and the 2022 TSAA Taiwan Sustainable Action Award. Besides international recognition from awards, New Taipei City engages on the international stage by cooperating and sharing common goals with cities that also adopt SDGs. Therefore, sustainable development allows and encourages municipal governments to engage in the global stage, which is traditionally seen as the area of national governments.

After Taiwan, I will return to the US to compile and present my findings after one year and a half of study abroad opportunities. I hope that by reading my brief introduction, you will better understand my background and how I decided to intern at the New Taipei City Government.
New Taipei City SDG Internship Program
In 2019, the New Taipei City delegation visited a number of Southeast Asian countries. While in Singapore, the Mayor talked to several young entrepreneurs and representatives from Enterprise Singapore to better understand their public–private partnership. The discussions and events that took place during this trip are what inspired the SDG Internship Program.

In March 2020, a memorandum of understanding between the New Taipei City Government Secretariat and EverComm (a startup from Singapore) was entered into with the aim of creating SDG sister spaces within Comma Lab and EPI Technology Venture. The spaces are to be used for a series of workshops and training sessions that are designed to bring local youth into the ecosystem. In the summer of 2020, a pilot scheme for the SDG Internship Program began.
Projects of Former Interns
  • 2020:

After three rounds, Yu Shu-Min and Chao Ting-Ting were selected to join the New Taipei City Data Agent Youth SDG Internship Program, which was jointly organized by the New Taipei City Government Secretariat, National Taipei University, and Singapore's EverComm.

This program was first proposed by the UN as a way of encouraging local youth to pay attention to their neighborhoods and to help collect first-hand SDG-related data, such as that regarding energy consumption of buildings, to improve policy-making. New Taipei's Data Agent Youth SDG Internship Program was one of the best energy projects recognized by the Youth Sustainable Energy Hub of the UN MGCY. It was also the world's second city-level data agent project after the UNDP Singapore and Nanyang Technology University collaborative project.

Shu-Min and Ting-Ting were also able to experience international cultural activities and diplomatic events as New Taipei City Youth Ambassadors.

Furthermore, Shu-Min and Ting-Ting planned an online forum and invited Kari Chang, the founder of the nonprofit organization ZAZA, Chen Yu-An from the Young International Opportunity Online Platform Skyline, and Singapore-based startup EverComm CFO Yan Ting. These young people from different fields and with an average age younger than 25 gathered online to share their feelings about realizing sustainability issues.

  • 2021:

The Secretariat extended the Data Agent Youth SDG Internship Program to all college students wishing to apply in 2021. Four interns were recruited: Becky Tsai from National Cheng Chi University, Lee Wei-En from National Taipei University, Lu Ting-An from Yuan Ze University, and Lin Pin-Yun from National Tsing Hua University. The senior intern Chao Ting-Ting performed well as mentor.

This year's interns contributed the Data Agent Program to the UN MGCY's Youth Action on COVID-19 platform. In addition, the program won first place at the 2021 Energy Conservation Promotion Evaluation held by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

  • 2022:

The Secretariat ran the third term of the SDG Internship Program with National Cheng Chi University in 2022. Tina Yuan from the International Master's Program in Asia-Pacific Studies and Kevin Lai from the Department of Diplomacy produced articles of high quality on the New Taipei City SDG website and raised the profile of our internship program through active participation in diplomatic events.

The fourth term of the SDG Internship Program welcomed Patrick Ko, the first intern from National Taiwan University.

Competent Authority: Secretariat × EverComm × Colleges in Taiwan
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