2017 Professional Development Trip – Washington DC














Call for Applications – Peace Fellowship Program





Fall 2016 – Rotary Center Review

Our Fall 2016 Newsletter is available here. Read about Class 15 Fellows, and updates on the graduating class of 2016. See where all the Class 14 fellows interned over the summer. Also, read about the latest news and events from the center.





Silviya Nitsova – AFE Blog – Council of Europe, Kiev, Ukraine

I arrived in Ukraine on May 6. For the next three months, part of my afternoon coffee break routine included checking the Ukrainskaya Pravda website. Every day I would read what seemed to be the same headline, with only the numbers changing: За сутки в зоне АТО 2 бойца погибли, еще 3 ранены. 2 soldiers killed and 3 more injured for the last 24 hours in the ATO (anti-terrorist operation) zone. These headlines, the numerous military recruitment advertisements along the escalators of Kyiv’s deep metro stations and the groups of young men in military uniforms waiting for their train on the platforms would be my reminders, that in an otherwise vibrant and colorful Kyiv, armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine is still ongoing. Since its beginning in April 2014, the conflict has resulted in 9,470 killed, of which 2,000 were civilians, 21,880 were wounded [1], nearly 1.8 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs) [2], hundreds of thousands are asylum-seekers, and material losses are estimated at USD 15 billion [3].

I chose to complete my Applied Field Experience (AFE) in Ukraine for two reasons. First, to gain practical experience and learn first-hand about international efforts to support Ukraine in its democratic agenda. My two-month internship with the Council of Europe Office in Kyiv allowed me to do that. Second, to try to better understand the conditions that facilitated the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine – a conflict which only two and a half years ago seemed unthinkable – by doing fieldwork in the regions. In this blog post, I will sketch out the background of the conflict and share some impressions from my experience in two cities – Kyiv and Slovyansk.

1 Graffiti Grushevskogo Kyiv

Graffiti art, Grushevskogo street, central Kyiv

November 2013 saw the rise of a wave of protests and civil unrest in Ukraine. People took to the streets to show their discontent with the decision of President Yanukovych’s government to suspend preparations for signing an association agreement, essentially a trade deal, with the European Union to seek closer economic relations with Russia. Starting as peaceful demonstrations, the protests, which would become known as Euromaidan, grew in numbers and broadened their demands to include the President’s resignation after the government ordered the use of force against a peaceful assembly of student protesters. Maidan activists also called for an end to corruption, deoligarchization, deep and comprehensive reforms across the board. The demonstrations climaxed in a revolution in February 2014. Between February 18 and 20, more than 100 people were killed in clashes in Kyiv’s main square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Due to international pressure, an agreement to put an end to the bloodshed and several months of political crisis was reached between President Yanukovych and the opposition on February 21. On February 22, President Yanukovych surprised the world when he and his closest associates fled, first, to Eastern Ukraine and soon after, to Russia. An interim government led by the opposition was established.

In the aftermath of the Maidan Revolution, a wave of anti-Maidan or pro-Russian demonstrations spread across the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine.

2 Map Pro-Russian_unrest_in_Ukraine


Part of the population in these regions did not approve of the Maidan in Kyiv and took to the streets in protest. The demonstrations in Crimea were followed by Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. In April 2014, pro-Russian demonstrations in the two easternmost regions of Ukraine – Donetsk and Luhansk (together known as Donbas) – escalated into an armed conflict between the separatist forces of self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and the armed forces of the Ukrainian government. Pro-Russian demonstrations elsewhere, despite involving occupation of regional state administration buildings and violent clashes with pro-Maidan protesters, did not escalate into an armed conflict. In the second half of May-June 2014, it became evident that Russia got more actively involved in the conflict by supporting separatists with equipment, arms and manpower. International efforts to manage the conflict have been only partially successful – the fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and Russia-backed separatists continues to this day, though with lower levels of intensity in comparison to 2014.

This chain of events has led to crises at multiple levels and triggered processes, such as nation-building, state-building, democratization, reinvigorated geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West, which seems to reinforce and run counter to each other at the same time.

3 Founders of Kyiv

Founders of Kyiv monument at Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The female figure is dressed in vyshyvanka, a traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt. Many people can be seen wearing vyshyvankas in Kyiv today as an expression of their Ukrainian national identity. In the background: Alley of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes, named after the people who were killed during the Euromaidan

The Council of Europe, a leading regional organization in the field of human rights, democracy and rule of law, has been part of the increased international efforts to help Ukraine cope with the challenging situation. As an intern at the Council of Europe field office in Kyiv, I worked on two projects: Strengthening Freedom of Media and Establishing a Public Broadcasting System in Ukraine and Reform of the Electoral Practice in Ukraine. Apart from enhancing the role of media and improving the integrity, transparency and quality of the electoral process in Ukraine, the Council of Europe Office in Kyiv provides assistance to the Ukrainian government in other important areas, such as decentralization, judicial reform, penitentiary reform, human rights protection of IDPs and others. During my internship, I had the opportunity to attend trainings and conferences organized by the Council of Europe Office and partnering governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations. My internship allowed me to immerse in the local context and actively engage with current debates.

My AFE also gave me the opportunity to live in a city full of life, colors and energy. Kyiv has a fascinating urban landscape, beautiful parks and scenic river sites. It offers many entertainment opportunities and some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. Kyiv is a city with a long history and a big cultural center, something its citizens are rightfully proud of. The city has left me with the impression of “a driver of change” with all the engaged and creative people I had the chance to interact with during my stay here.

4.1. Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Kyiv 2

Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra


4 Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Kyiv

Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra


5 Urban landscape sunset Kyiv

Sunset in Kyiv


6 Mural Kyiv

Mural on a wall of a Soviet-style block of flats. The mural is part of an urban art project called “Art United Us.” The project aims to raise public awareness and attention to the problem of war, aggression and violence.

As I traveled east, the atmosphere changed and war became a lot more tangible. The easternmost point of my journey to the regions was Slovyansk, a small industrial town in northern Donetsk region situated about 640 km south-east from Kyiv. This place that no one had ever heard of, or cared about, became world famous on April 12, 2014, when a group of locals and Russian citizens took control of the town and it became a separatist stronghold for the next three months. Slovyansk was where the first military actions marking the beginning of the war in Donbas took place. The town remained under separatist control until July 5, 2014. It has been in the ATO zone, the territory where the war in Donbas is taking place, under Ukrainian control ever since.

Life 70 km away from the line of contact is hard. Slovyansk did not experience the destructive shelling of other Ukrainian towns, such as Debaltseve and Ilovaisk. Most of the damaged buildings in town have been restored. Yet, destructions remain in the outskirts and areas just outside of town. The local economy has been severely affected and unable to reach its pre-war levels for the last two years. With a bad business climate and about 30,000 internally displaced people from the war-affected areas, about 40% of the population in Slovyansk is currently unemployed.

7 Destructions Slovyansk Semenovka 2

Destruction in the region of Slovyansk and neighboring village of Semenovka


8 Destructions Slovyansk Semenovka 1

Destruction in the region of Slovyansk and neighboring village of Semenovka


9 CeramicFactory_Slovyansk

A ceramic granite factory in the outskirts of Slovyansk. One of the few factories to invest in restoration and to resume work after the end of the war in Slovyansk. Currently, it provides 250 jobs to people from the region, including IDPs.

Apart from the material side of the tragedy, there is a psychological one. Many Slovyansk citizens held and still hold pro-Russian views. A sizeable part of the town’s population supported the separatists and the so called Русская весна or Russian Spring. After Slovyansk’s returning under Ukrainian control, these people could no longer freely express their true preferences because of the threat of being charged of supporting separatism. The situation was similar with Slovyansk citizens who held pro-Ukrainian views and who had to hide their preferences during the months under separatist control and, arguably, even before that. Because of the war, people have been forced to pick sides, to identify themselves with either one or the other (Ukraine or Russia). My impression is that this has been a painful process not only for people in Donbas, but for many in other parts of Ukraine.

In Slovyansk, I had the pleasure to meet with a small but very active group of local Rotarians. Rotary Club Slovyansk had been among the first non-governmental organizations to get actively engaged with humanitarian work immediately after the war in Slavyansk ended. Rotarians started off by removing the garbage and road blocks from the streets to make the town functional again. They cooperated with other Rotary Clubs across Ukraine to collect 500,000 Ukrainian hryvnas (about USD 20,800 in current exchange rate) for humanitarian purposes and helped deliver about 200 tons of in-kind aid to people in need. Focusing on everyday problems, whose solution is in the interest of all, has been Slovyansk Rotarians’ strategy to foster peace in their community. I have been humbled by the dedication of these men and their readiness to literally roll up their sleeves and do the work. The town is lucky to have them.

10 Slovyansk city library

Slovyansk city library. Rotary Club Slavyansk recently donated books there.


11 Slovyansk at dusk

Slovyansk at dusk

The three months in Ukraine have given me a lot of food for thought, unforgettable experiences, new friendships and, last but not least, an opportunity to connect with local Rotarians. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Rostyslav Lukach from Rotary Club Kyiv-Center, Sergey Pustovit and Artur Nasibian from Rotary Club Slovyansk for their receiving me so warmly and for making my experience in Ukraine so much richer. I wish them all the best of luck and already look forward to our next meeting.

12 New District 2232 Belarus _ Ukraine

Marking the start of a new Rotary District 2232 Belarus & Ukraine in Kyiv



  1. Humanitarian Bulletin: Ukraine Issue 11, 1-30 June 2016, available at http://reliefweb.int/report/ukraine/humanitarian-bulletin-ukraine-issue-11-1-30-june-2016
  2. OCHA, UNHCR. UKRAINE: Humanitarian Snapshot (as of 21 July 2016), available at http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/humanitarian_snapshot_20160721.pdf
  3. Zubko assesses cost of Donbas restoration at $15 billion, 25 June 2016, Kyiv Post, available at http://www.kyivpost.com/article/content/ukraine-politics/deputy-pm-assesses-cost-of-donbas-restoration-at-15-bln-417200.html

Gonzalo Pertile – AFE Blog – UNDP, New York, NY

Living a Dream – Summer Internship at UNDP

This summer I am doing my applied field experience at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) headquarters in New York. By now I’m halfway through the internship, just starting my sixth week and so far it has been a unique and amazing journey. I’ve met inspiring people, attended high-level conferences and witnessed the first-ever internationally televised live debate between UN secretary general candidates – to be honest, I feel like a kid in Disney World. I remember when I was in high school back in Uruguay and one of my classes was covering the UN System. We studied the UN creation and its history, its internal organization, its bodies and main agencies. The fact that today I am working for this organization, walking through the hallways of its headquarters and attending sessions at the General Assembly feels surreal for a moment. Then I come back to reality and I reflect about my path and how I’ve always wanted this to happen, I realize that I worked so hard to be where I am now, and that, with some help from the universe (and Rotary!), dreams do come true. I can’t help but feel thankful with life.

Working for UNDP

While looking for an internship, I knew I wanted to have the perspective provided from working in a headquarters office. My previous experience with the Inter-American Development Bank was in the Guatemala country office, so I knew well what working in the field involved. I have always admired the UN, so I applied to a few positions within the UN System. I was offered a summer internship at UNDP, in the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy (BERA), under the Partnerships Group and the Financial Institutions Team.

UNDP is one of the most important agencies of the UN, it has offices in about 170 countries and territories and offers global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. UNDP also helps countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnerships, and institutional capabilities in order to effect lasting change. I am working in a young area of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, which was created in May 2015, with the objective of establishing and strengthening partnerships with International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs).


Sustainable Development Goals board at UN Headquarters

I come into the Financial Institutions Team of UNDP under a global context where the financing mechanisms for development are changing. The world has agreed on a new development path; the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which is a ground-breaking framework for people, our planet and prosperity. This agenda sets clear priorities aimed to end poverty in all its forms, significantly reduce inequalities, and build peaceful, inclusive, and resilient societies. All in all, it is a global consensual agreement that will bring forward our world with a shared vision for the future of humanity, ensuring that no one is left behind. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set demanding targets that represent a considerable task for the UN Development System. This challenge draws special attention to UNDP, which will play a central role in helping countries to achieve the SDGs.

Implementing the SDGs will require leverage of all sources of finance – domestic and international – complementing and reinforcing each other. The development arena needs innovative approaches to complement the traditional development methods, and under the new era of global development, partnerships arise as a powerful resource to catalyze impact. In the area where I am interning, we are focused on strengthening and growing partnerships with IFIs and MDBs, working together, sharing resources, knowledge and innovation to achieve inclusive and sustainable life on earth.


At the General Assembly Hall during the Townhall Debate with Secretary General Candidates

In 2014, about $23.9 billion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to all developing countries was channeled through IFIs, which represents 14.5% of total ODA from all donors. The International Development Association (IDA) accounted for 58% of the ODA flows, followed by Asian Development Bank (AsDB) with 12%, African Development Bank (AfDB) 9% and Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) with 8%. Moreover, taking into consideration Other Official Flows (OOF), the IFIs have mobilized $42.6 billion to developing countries, representing 71.4% of the total OOF contributed by all donors, with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) accounting for 37% of total OOF, IADB 21%, AsDB 18% and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) 11%[1].

Under this scenario, UNDP is a partner of choice for both governments and IFIs in order to support grants and loans implementation in a variety of sectors where UNDP is able to offer extensive expertise and knowledge together with administrative and operational acumen for effective project execution. Recently, IFIs have announced a new strategy[2] on scaling up financial support, technical assistance and policy advice to help achieve the SDGs. The plan sets out their intent to pursue not only traditional modes of financing, but also a more catalytic role, through partnerships, to mobilize new funding sources. This new setting opens up new opportunities for UNDP to engage much closer with IFIs and MDBs.


UN Secretariat Building

My tasks here at the Partnerships Group and the Financial Institutions Team in UNDP involves closely monitoring the current partnerships with the major IFIs[3], develop and update cooperation profiles with IFIs, develop knowledge products for country offices to better understand the partnerships models and closely liaise on the field with IFIs and governments. I am also helping to develop a UNDP publication, which will document UNDP’s experience supporting loan and large-scale grant implementation through tripartite partnerships with governments and development banks.  This is intended as a marketing product for external partners, to showcase UNDP’s added value to help overcome implementation bottlenecks while building capacity and implementing national development priorities. It is also envisioned as a knowledge product for country offices to learn from UNDP’s experience across all regions in helping to improve project delivery through tripartite partnerships.

I am working in a multicultural environment, my colleagues are from Mexico, Guyana, Indonesia, Denmark, Japan, United States, Belgium and I could go on with the list…but the point is that I am exposed to a diverse setting with a plurality of traditions and it is exciting to learn from each one of them. I am taking turns going out for lunch one-on-one with most of my colleagues, so that I can hear their unique points of views and get to know them better. So far, I feel that I have learned a lot and I am excited to continue my journey through this organization until I head back to Durham for my second year of studies.

Inside the UN Headquarters in NY


Security Council Chamber

In addition to my tasks within the internship I get the chance to take advantage of several events, forums and conferences that happen in the headquarters of the UN. This is a great way to network and learn about the work the UN is doing worldwide. It is also very impressive to walk through the Secretariat building, the different chambers (Security Council, General Assembly Hall, Economic and Social Council Chamber, etc.) and just appreciate the architecture and the pieces of art from all around the world.


I was able to attend some events, of which the following are worthwhile remarking:

  • Session at the General Assembly Hall where the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was discussed and examples of its implementation in different countries.

United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy discussion


  • Global Townhall with UN Secretary-General Candidates[4], this was a major event, where the candidates for the post of Secretary General had a debate and it was the first-ever televised live debate in the UN General Assembly Hall, which was broadcasted by Al Jazeera. In this event I was able to meet Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP and Chair of the United Nations Development Group, who was also the former prime minister of New Zealand. I was also able to meet Irina Bokova, who is currently the UNESCO director and Bulgaria’s former acting minister of foreign affairs.

In the GA Hall


With Irina Bokova, UNSG Candidate, currently the UNESCO Director, also Bulgaria’s former acting Minister of Foreign Affairs


With Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, currently head of the UNDP













GA Hall during the UN debate with secretary general candidates


SG Candidates at UN Debate, Irina Bokova, Igor Lukšić, Christiana Figueres, Danilo Türk, Helen Clark














  • High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which is the first comprehensive and inclusive forum that takes place after the SDGs were launched. Its aim is to promote and review the implementation of sustainable development and to provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations.
New York, 13 July 2016 - High Level Political Forum - Mainstreaming Gender and Aging in the SDGs: Leaving No One Behind.

Conference Room 8 in the UN Conference Building, during a Side Event of the HLPF. Source: UNDP Flicker

Conference Room 6 in the UN Conference Building, during a Side Event of the HLPF. Source: UNDP Flicker









Living in New York

Living in NY during the summer has been quite an experience. Coming from Durham, which is a quiet city, NY seems to be a bit overwhelming from moment to moment. During the first month, I lived in the financial district, just half a block away from the NYSE. During the mornings I walked my dog through Battery Park and it was amazing to see the Statue of Liberty every day. Although the area was nice and conveniently located to many subway lines I felt like I was living in the middle of a touristic spot and by night the area would be empty and everything was closed. I felt overwhelmed by the hordes of people walking in the street at the same time in the mornings, so I decided to move to Brooklyn, and since the beginning of July, I have been living in Williamsburg.

Living in Brooklyn completely changed my after office hours. Williamsburg is a small neighborhood with artistic and hipster people all over. There are parks with live music, open air movies and lots of restaurants and bars. It’s not uncommon that you are walking through the streets and a neighbor invites you to their backyard garden full of patio string lights, where an unknown band is playing live music on a Saturday afternoon. And, of course, this is the place where you will find in the street a Duke t-shirt guy and shout “Go duke!” and laugh with a stranger for a few seconds. You will also find the UNC t-shirt guy strolling around Williamsburg, although in this case, I restrained myself from boo-ing the guy!

[1] Data obtained from OECD Query Wizard for International Development Statistics

[2] From Billions to Trillions: Multilateral Development Bank Contributions to Financing for Development, http://www.worldbank.org/mdgs/documents/FfD-MDB-Contributions-July-13-2015.pdf

[3] Asian Development Bank (ADB) , European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), Islamic Development Bank Group (IDBG), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), KfW, World Bank (WB), African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), New Development Bank (NDB), etc.

[4] This debate can be seen online in the following link: http://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2016/un-debate-secretary-general/

Nkole Zulu Thompson – AFE Blog – InStepp, Durham, NC & ISHR-Columbia University, New York

On the first day of my internship at InStepp Inc., I attended an orientation session which explained the importance of understanding the numbers associated with human trafficking. ‘There were 110[1] cases of human trafficking that were reported by phone service in North Carolina NC in 2015” as reported by Polaris-the leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. These cases are an aggregate of both women and men. In 2014, 118[2] cases were reported. Each of these individual calls serves as a means for identifying victims of human trafficking.  The referral mechanism for human trafficking is the same for both women and men: each victim is identified, referred for assistance,[3] offered the opportunity for reintegration and also repatriation.

Who are the Service Providers?

Service Provisions for victims/survivors of human trafficking have been well laid out through coordinated efforts spearheaded by the Salvation Army in Durham, NC. Hence, within North Carolina, a new project called Nueva Vida has been created by InStepp Inc., to provide services to survivors of human trafficking and victims of assault. InStepp Inc. is a dedicated, community-based non-profit company that is passionate about helping regional communities thrive by empowering adult women and adolescent girls to overcome the challenges in their lives and succeed personally and professionally through innovative, gender-responsive training, education and prevention services.

Services for Women

Noting that there are needs specific to women, InStepp Inc., created the Nueva Vida project, whose core mission is the empowerment of Hispanic/Latino women survivors of human trafficking. Instepp Inc. has defined empowerment as self-sufficiency. The program has targeted Hispanic/Latino women survivors of human trafficking that have undergone initial post-trauma counselling as recipients of services. My work at InStepp Inc. focused only on human trafficking.

Strengthening Service Provision for Survivors of Human Trafficking

In 2013, the President’s interagency task force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, released the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States, 2013-2017. This plan highlighted the importance of “comprehensive and specialized services that address their specific needs and aid in their full recovery.[4]” To meet this highlighted goal, Instepp Inc. focused on creating partnerships for empowerment of Hispanic and Latino survivors of human trafficking, offering outreach through non-English media and offering training and mentorship.

Partnerships to Empower victims/survivors for a New Life

The Mexican Consulate in Durham is a strategic partner identified for the empowerment of Hispanic/Latino victims of human trafficking who wish to repatriate. InStepp Inc. formalized this partnership by signing a memorandum of understanding with the Mexican Consulate in 2014. However the Mexican Consulate has also been a key partner in offering training services as well, and the New Mexican Consul General in Durham, Remedios Gomez Arnau, will be a key speaker at InStepp’s 2017 International Women’s Day conference.

Outreach through Non‐English Media

InStepp Inc. has produced materials for survivors of human trafficking, which offer opportunities to access services for empowerment. Effective communication for the purpose of outreach is important, especially for women survivors of human trafficking, as it is a means to foster knowledge sharing, and empower survivors to help prevent the possibility of being re-trafficked.  Effective communication has also been delivered through translating important messages into Spanish, which focus on immigration requirements and services available to victims of human trafficking.

Working at InStepp Inc. gave me the opportunity to work in a diverse cultural setting and gave me appreciation for their programs: first as a measure to bring empowerment to women, and second as a measure to bring recovery to victims of a well noted crime, while also helping these women to start a new life.

As my summer internship at InStepp Inc. came to an end, I sat to read the U.S. State Department’s newly released Trafficking in Persons Report for the year 2016[5]. The content of the report impacted me-it not only provided a benchmark to better understand the numbers and the activities implemented, but also explained the need for efforts to end human trafficking-such as the tireless efforts of the staff at InStepp Inc., working to empower women victims of human trafficking.



Photo above From Left Gilda Wimble (InStepp Inc.), Mr. Javier Diaz de Leon (centre) immediate Past Consul General at the Mexican Consulate in Durham, and Martha Morales (InStepp Inc.) Mr Javier Diaz de Leon was the keynote speaker for 2014 international women’s day. conference

The end of my time at InStepp Inc. marked the beginning of another internship in New York with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) at Columbia University. The Institute is housed on the 7th floor of the Riverside Church. The church is itself a place of historical importance renowned for being a  venue for speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and former President Bill Clinton.

As an intern at ISHR, I have helped to explore the human aspects of examining and addressing the historical legacy of conflict through the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA). The program centers on an essential question, how to look forward, while carrying the burden of the past, in order to foster conciliation and democracy promotion. In practice, my first week in the ISHR office exposed me to two of AHDA’s activities: the Mapping Historical Dialogue program and the AHDA fellowship program

Mapping Historical Dialogue

The goal of the Mapping Historical Dialogue project is to address violent pasts and conflicting narratives about the past. The Mapping Historical Dialogue project was launched with a focus on measuring field work and capturing best practices. It was created to foster better understanding of the impact that historical dialogues have on conflict transformation.


Steps towards the Mapping of Historical Dialogue

The Mapping Historical Dialogue tool uses a crowd sourcing model and digital visualization to enable end-users to provide information that answers three important questions: (i) Do you know of a project that has been targeted towards fostering dialogue about a conflict or civil strife? (ii) Is information about this project accessible online? (iii) What is the duration of the project? With this information at hand, the process of contributing to the website[6] is all but completed. The project sends a message that best practices in the field of historical dialogue do exist and are possible to determine. Furthermore, the additional message is that facilitating dialogue on historical conflicts and strife does have a proven track record of contributing to social change worldwide.



Ariella Lang (Front Left), Elazar Barkan (Back Center) and the 2015 AHDA Fellows.

Projects developed by AHDA fellows in 2015

The story of AHDA is further presented through the work of the AHDA fellows. The AHDA fellows create projects that embody the goal of facilitating dialogue in post-conflict countries. In 2015, three AHDA projects echoed my experience of searching for methods to foster peaceful societies.

The first was a project by Friederike Bubenzer[7], senior Project Leader at the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation in South Africa, who developed a project to enhance understanding of how trauma is transmitted across generations. The project was dubbed ‘Trauma, Memory and Representations of the Past’. My own experience of working with survivors of conflict suffering from trauma has indeed provided evidence to show that trauma can be transmitted across generations. Healing trauma through the approach put forward therefore seemed to me to be a means to give hope to future generations to manage the recurring memories from the traumatic pasts of conflict ridden societies.

The second was a project by Pawel Nowacki[8], Project Manager at the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity Poland (ENRS) who explored how European countries used 20th century history as a policy making tool during identity and financial crises, targeting High School aged children. My fascination is with the use of education policy for the purpose of post-financial crisis recovery. I believe this work presented the opportunity to further explore the many opportunities for implementing conflict sensitive programs in the education sector.

The third project, by Okot Komakech Deo[9], Research and Documentation Officer at the Refugee Law Project in Uganda, centered on documenting the voices of victims and survivors of massacres that were not reported by the media, providing Ugandans in war-affected communities with a digital documentation platform for the collection and dissemination of information that will help to share their memories and experiences and receive balanced information about their history. It was anticipated that this would provide a means for reconciliation and accountability, and could be used in the long run to develop a warning system with which to predict and prevent future conflict. I think the use of technology to share memories of war for the purpose of creating an early warning system is indeed a powerful nexus not only for the past and the present but also for preserving peace in the future.

As I continue on my day-to-day assignments in the ISHR, I can see the role that technology plays in post-conflict peacebuilding. Technology will help to tell the story of conflict, post-conflict peace building and also forewarn future generations. I will conclude my internship in New York by making a presentation with the help of Michelle Breslauer (Institute for the Study of Peace and Economics) on the 2016 Global Peace Index[10].  I am thankful to both Instepp Inc. and the ISHR for accommodating me in their offices over the summer.  I will return to Duke enlightened by experiences that span beyond Durham and New York and have global impact on policy and programing to make the world more peaceful for men, women and children.


Nkole4 Nkole5


[1] https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/state/north-carolina

[2] https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/state/north-carolina

[3] support  available to survivors emotional and practical support, including health care, legal aid, psychological assistance and referrals

[4] http://www.ovc.gov/pubs/FederalHumanTraffickingStrategicPlan.pdf

[5] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/258876.pdf

[6] http://historicaldialogues.org/mhdp/

[7] http://humanrightscolumbia.org/sites/default/files/documents/ahda/Program_Report_AHDA_2015.pdf

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/our-gpi-findings



Ignacio Asis – AFE Blog – UNDP, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Para leer este blog en español, haga clic aqui

The spicy taste of life in Sri Lanka

On Reconciliation, Head Waggles and Local Hospitality


A little over a month ago, I arrived in Sri Lanka with the sole objective of working for a couple of months at the United Nations. The goal: Contribute to the peacebuilding strategy in the country. It’s not my idea here, to write about the socio-political situation of the country, nor an economic analysis. On the contrary, in these following lines I’d like to share a bit about Sri Lanka, based on the eight weeks I’ve been living here. I will first talk about my professional experience, and then, move onto a more personal approach, as a “long-term” tourist.

On Conflict and Resilience

I came to Sri Lanka with a contract letter from the United Nations Development Programme, in order to work for the Peace Fund Pre-Secretariat, which is housed in the Office of the Resident Coordinator of the UN. This is the office in charge of coordinating the work of the 22 different agencies of the United Nations in the country, seeking to channel their individual actions in attention to a broader and strategic framework, previously agreed with the national government, and oriented towards the development of the country.

Working in Trincomalee with displaced families and resettled communities

Working in Trincomalee with displaced families and resettled communities

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, became a UN Member State in 1955.  Since then, over the last 60 years, the specialized agencies have provided technical expertise and financial assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka to assist the people during times of war, strife, natural disasters[i], and now on post-conflict reconciliation and peacebuilding.

Sri Lanka was embroiled in a civil war for 26 years. For 26 years the country was deeply affected by an ethnic-territorial conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils, which left an estimated balance of 70.000 to 90.000 deaths[ii]. Sadly, as a by-product of any war, there were scores of exiled people, displaced communities, and refugees – most of whom are nowadays resettled. As of today, the country still appears to be recovering from the ruins of devastated cities, crushed families and the remembrance of fear; not forgetting the fact that this has also led to a wounded social fabric and generalized distrust in public services and institutions.

Lessons on the relation between conflict and development - Written in Tamil, Sinhalese and English on a wall in Colombo

Lessons on the relation between conflict and development – Written in Tamil, Sinhalese and English on a wall in Colombo

It has been 7 years since the end of the war.  It was not a victory for “alternative dispute resolution” or for negotiated agreements. What prevailed, instead, were the strength of the weapons and the partial elimination of the adversary. The milestone was not a peace agreement but the mass killing of those from the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam; not to mention the death toll of the Government led forces and of the civilian casualties. On Tuesday 19th of May, 2009, the former President delivered a victory address to parliament, formally declaring the end of the war.

The following day, it seemed that a lot had changed in the country. Since then, Sri Lanka is picking up the pieces, rebuilding and restoring all what was lost. I will not dare to say it is the beginning of a peaceful era, but maybe an era of a significantly lower impact of armed violence. For those of us who study and work on the dynamics of social conflict, this was the kick-off of a new stage for “intervention”: a Peace-Building phase. What does this mean? I will say it is an organized, multidimensional, and slow movement towards the reconstruction of the social fabric – the strengthening of institutions, and the recovery of the economy in a wide sense, with the hope and endeavor that this will unfold an improvement on the living conditions of the citizens, their opportunities, security, and development factors

This is what I am working on. My previous work experience was mainly focused on Peace Making, i.e., the prevention and mitigation of conflicts through multiple tracks, where Peace Education, Negotiation, the Facilitation of Dialogues, and Mediation are some of the technical tools. Here, I am contributing and learning from the other side of the conflict curve, in the Peace and State-Building processes aimed at the development the country. This is materialized in projects on reconciliation, transitional justice, and governance with a conflict transformation approach. It is a model that attempts to set in motion processes to mend relations through the combination of national ground-based reconstruction programs and citizen mobilization in discussions and participatory planning. The idea is to shorten the distance between the different communities, and between people and the state, in order to eliminate mutual distrust and leverage a better response from the institutions.

It has so far been an incredible experience for me, challenging and enriching in equal parts. I’m surrounded by marvelous people, who are also very bright professionals. I am happy and grateful.

Living in Colombo

In a very different tone, I would like to tell a bit about my post-office and weekend life. Although I would like to talk about Sri Lanka in general, the shorts trips that I’ve done so far are not enough to have a holistic view, hence I cannot  speak with legitimacy about the country as a whole. I have been able to explore many of the most important cities, but I understand that my thoughts are mainly based on what I have seen so far, which is not much. Also my travels have so far been limited to the South and West of the country. Here are some of the things I would like to share:

Colombo, to me, is a faithful reflection of the diversity of the country. For example, talking about religion; even though 80% of the people are Buddhist, while you walk around the city it is very easy to come on Christian Churches, Hindu Temples and Mosques of different shapes and colors. This is explained by the history of the country, as the reign of Ceylon was a Portuguese, Dutch and British colony. I was lucky to arrive on a Poya Sunday[iii], on a weekend in which people were celebrating Vesak, which is the annual celebration of the main events of Buddha’s life[iv]. Streets were covered in colors, with hanging flags and paper lanterns. On the side of some of the main avenues, worship stations where families would show mock-ups made from different materials, and remembering the life of Siddhartha Gautama. As if embellishing the city were not enough, they would also cook food and tea in great proportions, which they would later share with the random walker, regardless of the religion (this is called “Dhansal”). It was an impressive welcome which, for what I have been told, was much smaller compared to previous years because many people were still mourning or putting their energy in flood relief efforts in the aftermath of the  floods that stroked a large part of the country during April, affecting more than 200.000 families.

Sri Lanka is a multi ethnic, multi religious, multi lingual, and multi cultural nation

Sri Lanka is a multi ethnic, multi religious, multi lingual, and multi cultural nation

There is plenty of life in public places, the reason why the streets of Colombo -and every other city I’ve visited- are packed with Tuk Tuk (also known as Rickshaws). These three-wheeled, covered vehicles are the cheapest transport after the public buses. Their big plus? Their capacity to maneuver between other cars and narrow streets during the traffic hours…. which are many and long.

Since I arrived, it was a self-imposed challenge to get used to spicy food. Rice is everywhere and it is generally served with different curries, being a very traditional dish of local cuisine. Generally mixed with eggs, fish or chicken; it is prepared in a way in which all people can easily eat with their fingers, without wasting anything, and mixing the different flavors in a display of nimbleness that I lack, but that I’m trying to achieve. Other very tasty specialties are the spicy scraped coconut (Pol Sambol), lentil curry (Dhal), rice noodles (String Hoppers), eggs served in a pancake (Egg Hoppers) and, one of my favorites, Kothu Roti, which is chopped flatbread mixed with whatever the person who is cooking wants to add.



Sri Lanka’s tropical climate, with mean temperatures of 30°C and a heavy rainy season, provides the country with crazy flora and fauna. Sri Lanka has the highest density of biodiversity of Asia, including a great amount of Asian Elephants, Leopards, Monkeys, and Whales. Nevertheless, what I personally like the most are the trees. I know, that is super boring. But let me tell you that these impressive, very old, specimens are spread not only in remote areas or national parks but also in downtown Colombo, painting in bright green and curvy shapes a landscape which otherwise, will be dominated by whitish houses.

Finally, a special mention of the Sri Lankan people. During the first few days in the island I wandered around the city with classic –but moderated- tourist distrust. Like an Argentinean from Buenos Aires, always aware of the surroundings and security. As weeks went by, and with more and more interaction with people, this “precaution mode” started to disappear up to the point in which I currently walk in very random places during late hours, looking for hidden places of the city. When I do this, 9 out of 10 times the result is the same: I meet WELCOMING and HAPPY people. This is one of my favorite “features” of the country. People I’ve met where I am living, as well as my colleagues at work, are a constant reminder of this. Generosity, hospitality and smiles everywhere. I must mentioned that, in a country where people live and breathe Cricket, Messi and football seem to be the first triggering topics to initiate a conversation with an Argentinian. For this reason, I have taken it upon myself to learn about Sangakkara and Mahela, the biggest stars in local cricket. Loved by everyone, they helped Sri Lanka win, in 2014, their first world cup in the T20 modality. Now you know too.

Some other colorful info

Last but not least, here is some curious data about Sri Lanka. There is a still a lot to be written:

  • In Sri Lanka, when someone shakes their head from side to side with a slight wiggle, it generally means YES. I have to say this is very catchy. Watch this short and fun video so you can better understand the Head Waggle”: https://youtu.be/zjsDSQURekc.
  • Before Sri Lanka became famous for tea, it was famous for coffee – but the coffee fields of Sri Lanka were wiped out by leaf blight in the 1870s. Lipton Tea was originated here.
  • There are more than 7,000 wild elephants in the country. The great elephant migration, which takes place during the dry season, is usually known as “the big gathering”, and it is considered one of the greatest natural events worldwide.
  • If you go for drinks in Sri Lanka, you have to try Arrack. This is one of the typical drinks, which can be drunk with ice, or mixed with coke, gin or different fruits juice.
  • Sri Lanka has had many names, one of which was Serendip, given by the Persians. The term Serendipity, which means a fortunate and unexpected discovery, was coined after a traditional Persian fairy tale called “The Three Princes of Serendip”, in which the protagonists were always solving their problems by accidental discoveries.

[i] The most recent being the Tsunami in 2004, and huge floods in 2010 and 2016.

[ii] It is important to clarify that, as it usually happens, this is still a disputed number, not accepted by everybody.

[iii] Term that derives from Sanskrit and means “fasting day”. In Sri Lanka, it implies a rite in which devotes celebrate and visit temples as a sign of worship. More information here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/kariyawasam/wheel402.html#ch3

[iv] More details of the celebration here: https://www.lanka.com/events/vesak-festival/

Gabriel Maisonnave – AFE Blog – Center for Conflict Resolution, Uganda and Children Peace Initiative, Kenya

“Is he purposely hitting every pothole on the road?”

As I try to hold on to something, anything, on the cargo bed of the pick-up so I don’t completely embarrass myself falling off, I couldn’t help but think that the truck driver was messing with this “mzungu” (white person), and just testing how far I’d go before asking him to let me get into the main cabin.



Depending on the conditions of the road, it takes around 15 hours to drive from Kampala to Kaabong and one more hour to get to the Ik settlement in the mountains. During the rainy season (April – October) the weather can change drastically within hours, and the lack of roads and infrastructure make it impossible to predict how long a trip will take or if it will be even possible to reach your destination.

We were bringing over 200 packed meals, composed of a boiled egg, some beef and a sort of fried bread, to the Ik; a community in the northern mountains of Uganda. My counterpart seemed unfazed by the bumps and jumps while my hands were hurting from clenching the metal rods on the side of the truck. As we got further away from town I could see the black clouds hovering above us. Rain was imminent. During the rainy season, any dirt road can become a river in a matter of minutes and leave you stranded for hours.

I managed to store my equipment inside the main cabin before it started pouring down. I closed my eyes and held my breath while the raindrops hit my face with the force of little stones being thrown from the sky. It was no longer just the driver, it was the universe testing my limits.

I wasn’t going to just give up even though every fiber of my body was asking me to. I didn’t want to show weakness during my first week in Uganda. After all, this is what I wanted out of a summer internship: to be out in the field. To see firsthand what it means to work in International Development.

In that moment I couldn’t help but wonder if I was cut out for this or if I had chosen the wrong career path.

It takes about an hour to reach the Ik settlement from Kaabong, one of the last towns before crossing into South Sudan. Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, are all part of the Karamoja region. Karamoja is still one of the poorest and most underdeveloped regions of the world. A 2011 report from Mercy Corps estimated that “Cattle raids, theft, poor agricultural productivity, illiteracy, abysmal maternal and child health, aid dependency, and the breakdown of traditional semi-nomadic livelihoods combine to prevent the estimated 1.2 million Karamojong from living secure and productive lives.” [i]

The Ik, currently settled in Kaabong district, are regarded as the most marginalized of all ethnic groups in Karamoja. Located between rival tribes such as the Dodoth in Uganda, the Turkana in Kenya and the Toposa in South Sudan, the Ik have been victims of constant attacks and violence.



Members of the Ik community await the delivery of the packed meals, following a community meeting to address the issues of cattle raiding.


A raid the night before we arrived to their settlement had resulted in a member of the community being shot and killed.

And here I was, in the middle of nowhere with my camera, my zoom recorder and my big headphones. Around me, a community was grieving. I never felt more like a fraud in my life. I came to Uganda to use media as a tool for peacebuilding but there was no amount of footage, audio or photos that could fix what had just happened. A man had just died. His body was laid down in front of me, covered in flies. A few feet away men were digging his grave. Next to me was his mother, covering herself from head to toe with a blanket, and I could still hear her crying. I couldn’t even tell her that I was sorry for her loss; the Ik speak their own language.



Cattle roaming around in the streets of Kaabong.


A quick Google search of “cattle raid in Karamoja” will give you a series of different statistics and numbers of people killed every year as a result of the raids. Statistics are important, they help us make sense of any given situation, but they also make us forget that behind those numbers, there are sons, fathers, mothers and daughters.



Infographic developed for the Center for Conflict Resolution regarding cattle raiding in the Karamoja Region.




I came to Uganda and Kenya looking for stories. Stories that would shape the way I see the world and allow people to connect with each other in a more humane way.

I can’t say with certainty that I was successful in my quest so far, but I was lucky enough to meet Rarcad and Awi (not their real names), two refugees now living in Kampala. Rarcad is a refugee originally from Burundi. He left his home village three years ago after his house was attacked because of his father’s involvement in politics. He is now going to school during the day and working as a security guard at night. He sleeps an average of three hours per day.



Even as he talked me through the hardships he had to overcome to be where he is right now, the smile on his face never faded. Nor did his optimism.

Awi’s expression on the other hand was stoic, as if she had relived her memories so many times that her skin had grown thicker, preventing any emotion from surfacing. She came from South Sudan 13 years ago. Afraid for her life and her children’s future, she parted ways with her family and, while pregnant and carrying her three kids with her, she started her journey to Uganda.




The hope of a better tomorrow is what keeps most refugees going, even when everything seems to go wrong.

That’s my intention behind stories like these. That maybe someone out there who listens to them will find the hope they need to overcome a problem they are facing. To know that someone, maybe next door, or all the way across the world; someone like them, has overcome the same feelings of desperation, hopelessness and fear.

Communication for development is not a new concept. In the early 1950s, UNESCO and other international organizations saw how rapid mass media, and in particular television, was growing and realized that a free flow of information and the development of local information agencies would be key in the development of a more peaceful world.[ii]

If the rapid growth and massive reach of TV was enough to catch the attention of those trying to influence behavior in the 1950s, you would think that the emergence of the smartphone, internet and social media would have revolutionized the world of development. And it did, but for the wrong reasons.

Organizations everywhere started to see how far their messages could reach and the impact those images and stories from the field could have. People’s hearts were touched by the image of a child with a distended belly in a faraway village somewhere in Africa. Donations came in and organizations began to see the power that media had to raise money, forgetting the power that media could have to create sustainable change.

Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to go into any international development organization’s website and not find mention of storytelling or a compelling testimony of one of the beneficiaries of their projects. What it is hard to find is an organization that uses media as an integral and fundamental part of their projects.

In its early days, the aim of communication for development was to affect behavior using mass media. Any international development project that claims to be sustainable should, in one way or another, try to influence behavior. And yet, finding a project that includes a comprehensive communication strategy as part of its methodology to achieve whatever the project’s goal is, seems to be as difficult as finding real love on Tinder.

Both organizations where I’m doing my internship this summer – the Center for Conflict Resolution in Uganda and Children Peace Initiative in Kenya – are no strangers to this practice. Through no fault of their own, they are in need of funding to be able to run their programs, and they see in those appealing videos and stories a way to attract funds. In the five weeks I was in Uganda and with the three weeks I have left in Kenya, I know that I won’t be able to change that. But my time here has shown me that even if I can’t find my place in an organization yet, I can still get those stories out and hope that someday the world of international development will stop looking at their bank accounts and start looking at the impact they can have on people’s lives.

Before starting a journey, the Ik, toss a shoe in the air and they interpret the results[iii]:

  • If the tossed shoe falls on the same line with the one on the ground, it means that one is going to meet another person on the way and it is safe to travel
  • If the tossed shoe falls and crosses over the one on the ground, it means a good travel and one is likely to be successful in his/her mission
  • If the tossed shoe falls opposite the one on the ground, it means death and a person intending to travel is likely to meet enemies
  • If the tossed shoe falls on top of the one on the ground, it means a grave and a person intending to travel is likely to meet enemies/death
  • If a tossed shoe falls upside-down, it means a gun and a person intending to travel is likely to meet armed enemies

I didn’t toss a shoe before starting my trip but even with all the ups and downs, surprises and disappointments, I can certainly say that if I had done it, it would have fallen and crossed over the one on the ground. As to Communication for development’s fate, that shoe is still up in the air.



[i] MercyCorps (2011). Cattle Raiding in Karamoja: A Conflict and Market assessment https://d2zyf8ayvg1369.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/karamojaconflictmarketassessment_june_2011.pdf

[ii] McAnany, E. G. (2012). The History of Communication : Saving the World : A Brief History of Communication for Development and Social Change. Urbana, US: University of Illinois Press.

[iii] CECORE (2011). The Ik of Kaabong district. http://cecore.or.ug/wp-content/downloads/Ik%20report.pdf.



Divina Sabino – AFE Blog – Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, Barbados

Building Capacity through Regional Coordination Mechanisms in Small Island States


Over 230,000 human lives lost, 1.7 million people displaced, an estimated US$ 9.9 billion in losses and damages, and a long and expensive recovery process to build back better that is still ongoing. Fourteen countries buffered the waves and paid the ultimate price. In them, the already vulnerable and marginalized populations were the most severely affected. The impacted countries suffered the loss of decades of development. If only effective early warning systems were in place, to evacuate people into shelters on time. If only we believed that an eventuality of this magnitude could happen, we could have stockpiled food and water. If only we had planned and prepared better. If only funds were set aside to help us recover faster. If only… In the history of disasters, no other event has forced the world’s leaders and international developmental aid organizations to rethink their approach towards disasters. This was the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26th, 2004.

I woke up to the news of reports on a tsunami and widespread flooding. Seychelles heard rumors that the tsunami was on its way to our islands. “Impossible”, I thought. Seychelles was paradise on earth and my paradise. Everything bad happened only on TV. A few hours later, 3 Seychellois were dead, a bridge had collapsed, a yacht was on a building, water was everywhere and our economy incurred US$30 million in losses and damages.

The UNISDR Terminologies for Disaster Risk Reduction (2009) defines a disaster as “a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources”. In the past, governments were, as much as possible, responsive to disasters. Today, most governments have adopted an integrated, comprehensive, all-hazard approach to disaster risk reduction and management. In other words, any eventuality that threatens human life, well-being and the economy, not limited to natural phenomena, should be assessed for risks, worse case scenarios should be highlighted and prevented through proper planning and policy. Disasters were a necessary evil and they will continue to be a necessary evil until we are all convinced that climate change is real, and failure to observe best practices in development means that we will continue to endure the consequences of our actions and inaction.

My internship with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency’s Coordinating Unit (CDEMA CU)

 My internship in Barbados coincides with the Caribbean’s “Hurricane season”, where Caribbean islands are on “high alert” for emergency response, due to the potential and unpredictable disruptions and destruction brought about by the weather this time of the year.  Similar to the Indian Ocean and Seychelles, our “wet season” from October to March is when we ensure all emergency mechanisms are in place and that we are as ready as possible for emergency response and coordination. These would be the times when the sound of heavy rain wakes emergency responders up while everyone else in safe homes fall peacefully asleep. This is not to say that we should not always be prepared but there are specific seasons where natural phenomena increase the probability of catastrophes.

What is CDEMA?

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is a regional intergovernmental agency for disaster risk management within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Currently, it consists of 18 Caribbean participating states. There are 4 sub-regional focal point countries, each responsible for participating states within their region. The Coordinating Unit (CDEMA CU) is headquartered in Barbados. CDEMA is responsible for mobilizing disaster relief, supporting participating States to coordinate emergency response, and developing and encouraging participating states to adopt best practices and policies in disaster risk reduction and management.

CDEMA Staff are from several of the participating States, namely Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St. Lucia and Guyana. I enjoy hearing the various Caribbean accents on a daily basis and feel privileged to be exposed to different Caribbean cultures and talent.



CDEMA Map of Participating States (Source: CDEMA CU)

CDEMA Map of Participating States (Source: CDEMA CU)



Sub-Regional Focal Points and Participating States they are responsible for

Sub-Regional Focal Points

CDEMA Headquarters, Barbados

                                                                                CDEMA Headquarters, Barbados


Regional Disaster Risk Management Platforms: Why did I choose CDEMA?

My interest in CDEMA stems from regional projects I have been involved with back in the Seychelles. With the help of the World Bank and the UNISDR, we have been looking into ways to build regional capacity across the Indian Ocean islands towards disaster risk reduction and management through financial protection mechanisms for disaster recovery, training of trainers programs, investing in public education, sensitization and awareness, improving our laws and policies and beefing up our information and communication systems.

The importance of involving government is developing accountability and credibility for member states.  The platform will ensure that no member state is left behind and that we progress together.


My work with CDEMA

“Excuse me everyone, is this the bus I take to CDEMA?” I asked. I had entered a bus, full of people and announced this question as if I were addressing a classroom full of students. This approach I took was one that a bus driver from another bus told me to take. A friendly man reassured me that he knew where I was headed and that he would stop the bus when we got there. I had become one of the many “lost tourists” I used to see around back home in Seychelles.

“Shake! Shake! Shake!” I heard over the intercom of the Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Elizabeth Riley’s office. She was briefing me about the CDEMA strategy no later than the first hour of my first day of the internship. They were conducting an internal Earthquake simulation and I had ended up under the table being told to “drop, cover and hold”. I knew then that these 10 weeks would be challenging but in the most enjoyable way.

My main task for the 10 weeks in CDEMA CU is to support the Education and Training Specialist in developing products to consolidate their Regional Training Center, mainly to enhance their media training program and to conduct a training needs assessment customizable for all 18 participating states. In addition to the work assigned, I also partake in activities organized. In Disaster Risk Management, practitioners wear various hats depending on whether it is “normal time” or “emergency time” and preparing for these “times” require staff involvement in all preparedness and drills so that in any eventuality, staff are equipped with at least the basic know-how of the emergency. It is crucial that there is no lack in knowing what one’s role is during an emergency and being able to plug-in to the gaps if one’s colleagues are not present. I have already benefited from radio training, the opportunity to observe the Regional Security System training at Barbados’ Paragon military base and other emergency simulations.


Training Police force from Various Caribbean Participating States, Regional Security System at Paragon Military Base, Barbados

Training Police force from Various Caribbean Participating States, Regional Security System at Paragon         Military Base, Barbados


How will this benefit my career?

After graduation, I will resume working with the Seychelles government and fulfil our Disaster Risk Management Strategy which is in line with my interests regarding the potential establishment and development of an Indian Ocean Disaster Risk Management platform.


Visit to the Rotary Club of Barbados

Rotary International mural outside Bridgetown's bus terminal

Rotary International mural outside Bridgetown’s bus terminal


Thanks to a wonderful network of Rotarians in North Carolina and Barbados, I was introduced to and invited for lunch with the Rotary Club of Barbados. I delivered a short presentation on my journey as a Rotary Peace Fellow so far and enjoyed the questions they asked about Disaster Risk Management.


President Jedder Robinson, 2015-2016 President, Rotary Club of Barbados

President Jedder Robinson, 2015-2016 President, Rotary Club of Barbados


Much appreciation goes to the entire CDEMA CU team for their incredible support and guidance with regard to my internship. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center for supporting my decision with much enthusiasm, the Rotary Foundation and Rotarians for allowing us this incredible opportunity. I would also like to extend my thanks to the Division of Risk and Disaster Management, Seychelles team who have played a crucial part in the development of my vision for the future of Disaster Risk Management in the Indian Ocean Region and for Small Island Developing States.



Oxfam. (2014). The Indian Ocean tsunami, 10 Years On: Lessons from the Response and Ongoing Humanitarian Funding Challenges. Oxford.

United Nations Environmental Programme. (2005). Seychelles Post-tsunami Environmental Assessment. Victoria: UNEP.

UNOCHA. (2006). OCHA in 2006: Activities and Extra-Budgetary Funding Requirements. Retrieved June 20, 2016, from unocha.org: http://www.unocha.org/ochain/2006/chap6_1.htm

Siddharth Dixit – AFE Blog – World Bank, Washington DC

Inequity is often the cause of conflicts small and large, whether it is reflected in the denial of basic rights and privileges to marginalized populations or the lack of institutions and structures which prevent these groups from climbing up the socio-economic ladder.

As a child growing up in Raebareli, India, I often accompanied my mother to work. She worked with the state government for the implementation of development programs. I witnessed poverty and illiteracy that riddled the backward areas she visited. Through the experiences of my father, who is a farmer, I was exposed to the struggles of farmers in the country. Growing up, I realized how many of these issues were casualties of poor policies and government programs, and instilled in me a life-long interest in the role of badly designed public policy in propagating or reinforcing inequity.

I am particularly interested in agriculture, a sector which still employs more than half the working population of India. In India there are approximately 600 million people, 53% of the total population are engaged in agriculture. A large portion of them are either small and marginalized cultivators who have less than 3 acres of land or small producers engaged in other related activities. Deep rooted fissures in the society have given rise to numerous conflicts between urban and rural populations, between farmers and the state, and between different communities. Moreover, these conflicts are further exacerbated by the changing economic structure, expanding roles of the private sector, and the changing development discourse, and changing priorities of state. The situation of farmers is not very different in other parts of the world, especially in middle income and poor countries. According to the World Bank, two-thirds of the working population is engaged in agriculture, and approximately 750 million or two-thirds of the global poor work in agriculture. (World Bank Group n.d.)

Through my past experiences, I have come to understand that it is the policies and institutions which inhibit the growth of agriculture. Therefore, when I started my graduate studies at Duke University, I was very clear that I wanted to pursue my internship in an area of agriculture that focused on the legal framework, regulations and policies affecting agriculture. Through my research I found out that in 2013 the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group published a report for ten countries which was based on the laws and regulations for sectors that affected agriculture like seed, mechanization, fertilizer, land, finance, markets etc. The report was published by a group at IFC called Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA). The idea behind starting EBA was to benchmark laws and regulations in agriculture across different countries in the world. Indicators were created for these sectoral areas of agriculture which were scored between 0-100 (0 being the lowest score and 100 being the highest score). Based on these indicators, each country was scored on each of these sectors, including seed, fertilizer, finance, mechanization, etc. These scores tell us how the laws and regulations are helping or impeding the growth of agriculture in a particular country. It also helps in formulating correct policies to promote the growth and development in the agriculture sector. I found the work performed by EBA relevant to my interests, therefore I applied and was accepted for the internship position for the summer at EBA.


Source: International Finance Corporation



Source: The World Bank


In 2015, EBA expanded their research to 40 countries (the report can be found at: http://eba.worldbank.org/). This year they are benchmarking laws and regulations for around 60 countries from across the world and the findings will be published early next year.  I mainly work on mechanization topics with the EBA group, but I have also helped other teams, focusing on fertilizer, seed and ICT (Information and communication Technology). Currently, I am involved in researching laws and regulations for India and many other countries in Africa. The next phase of my internship will involve scoring different indicators for various countries. Hopefully, I will get a chance to work on the report for next year as well before the end of my internship in August. It has been a very fulfilling and intellectually stimulating experience for me. I hope to continue to expand my knowledge about agriculture and the impact that laws and institutions have on its growth.



International Finance Corporation (IFC)


World Bank Group. n.d. Enabling the Business of Agriculture . Accessed June 19, 2016. http://eba.worldbank.org/about-us.


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