The second edition of the Summer Research Program—a joint initiative of the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) and IE School of Politics, Economics & Global Affairs’ Bachelor in International Relations program—was a resounding success. The resulting report, Lessons Learned and Good Practices in Monitoring Progress Towards SDGs, is now being presented at the Spanish Secretariat of State for International Cooperation (DGPOLDES).

Gabriel Barceló is a fourth-year student in the Bachelor in International Relations who participated in this unique initiative. Born and raised in Mallorca, he moved to Madrid in 2019 to study at IE University. We sat down with him to ask about his experience.

Why did you decide to join the UNSSC-IE Summer Research Program?

One of my career goals is to work at the United Nations to improve living conditions or ensure peace, stability and economic prosperity in the world. I’m particularly interested in Latin America and the political, social and economic future of the region. 

I was looking for a summer internship at the UNSSC when the opportunity to join the Summer Research Program arose. It allowed me to explore those interests while analyzing and identifying the areas on which those countries should focus to ensure they meet the 2030 Agenda.

What can you tell us about your project?

My team analyzed six different countries—Bolivia, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay—and our research focused on producing our report, Lessons learned and good practices in monitoring progress towards SDG in the Americas.

Our main assignment was to analyze the Voluntary National Reviews provided by the member states, compare the different policies, identify potential weaknesses and propose directives and recommendations for these countries to include in their SDG policy framework.

The policy proposal aspect was one of my favorite parts of the program. It was a truly rewarding experience. And despite the long hours, I would do it again.

The Bachelor in International Relations at IE School of Politics, Economics & Global Affairs prepares you for an international career in the private, public or nonprofit sectors. You learn how international organizations, states and multilateral agencies work and how to carve a space for yourself in any of those areas.

Gabriel Barceló
UNSSC-IE Summer Research
UNSSC-IE Summer Research Program

How was your experience of participating in this edition of the UNSSC-IE Summer Research Program?

It was very positive. The Summer Research Program allowed me to develop my teamwork, communication and coordination skills, as well as my research skills—specifically, how to read the data provided and how to write extensive reports.

The main challenge we faced was ensuring the objectivity of the data provided by the various national governments. Several countries omit unflattering statistics from their national websites and gaining insight into the way those countries handled the COVID-19 pandemic emergency at the social, economic, health and political levels was a very interesting process.

What was it like to work with the United Nations System Staff College?

The UNSSC has amazing professionals who guided us throughout the whole process and taught us the skills we needed to create high-quality and effective reports. The UNSSC network is so diverse and its partnerships with other agencies made it easy to access UN information.

It was great to work with so many different people from so many different countries. The cultural exchange aspect of the program was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

So, what were your main takeaways from this experience?

My number one takeaway was that small actions can have a huge impact at the local, national and even international levels. This experience was amazing because it gave us a glimpse into how multilateral organizations operate and what to expect if we want to work in those institutions. But it also taught us how to consider different policies from various points of view.

Another important aspect was the experience of working with students from other programs or who are at different stages of their education, as well as working with people from different parts of the world. It’s important to understand teamwork, but also to be proactive, speak your mind and not be afraid to make mistakes. We are all learning!

Do you have any advice or recommendations for future students who want to follow in your footsteps?

There are two recommendations I’ve been making every time I’m asked about my experience with the UNSSC-IE Summer Research Program. First, create a mechanism to keep all team members accountable. Freeriding shouldn’t be an option, especially in a program like this. It’s important to set deadlines, have progress report meetings and define courses of action.

Second, agree on the way you want to approach the project as soon as possible. This is key to keeping the document consistent and makes it easier for other team members—and readers—to understand the mechanics of the project and how we decided to tackle the task at hand.

What about the Bachelor in International Relations? How does it help your future prospects?

It helps you become a better professional. The program gives you a broad understanding of many different aspects of global affairs—from politics to economics, as well as social and historical aspects—and the skills you need to apply them to any future path.