Anabella Palacios, Class 8 (2009-2011)
Twenty Blogs for 20 Years
Anabella Palacios’s (UNC City and Regional Planning MA ’11) interest in promoting peace and international understanding began when she participated in a year-long Rotary Youth Exchange program in Istanbul, Turkey. It was another Rotary exchange program that introduced her to the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center in North Carolina, where she learned about opportunities provided by the Rotary Peace Fellowship and would ultimately end up joining the program herself a year later. Since graduation, Anabella has served with organizations such as the World Bank, the Nature Conservancy, and the Multilateral Investment Fund to promote sustainable development, climate-smart city planning, and international cooperation. She now works at the Inter-American Development Bank, where she provides technical inputs for policy dialogue and climate finance support to regional countries implementing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Accords.
I learned about the Rotary Peace Fellowship while participating in the Group Study Exchange (GSE) program in 2008, when I was part of a group of four women visiting North Carolina. Throughout the program, we learned about the country’s culture, institutions, southern legacy and history, and how our vocations are practiced abroad. It was a fantastic opportunity for developing professional networks and long-lasting friendships while learning about the similarities and contrasts between North Carolina and Argentine BBQ. Over juicy sandwiches and sweet tea, we learned about each other’s cultures, traditions, and Rotary’s global impact.
During one of our visits, we met Susan Carroll at UNC’s FedEx Global Education Center, who introduced us to the Rotary Peace Fellowship. I was drawn to the opportunity right away. I felt a flow of energy focusing on each detail and requirement, wondering if I could apply.
A year later, I was packing my bags to start graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where I would earn a master’s degree in urban planning and economic development two years later. This experience changed my life in so many ways.
I felt privileged to be a part of a world-class academic program, to meet people from various countries and realities, including Burma and African countries, to make new friends, and to adopt an American family who were incredible hosts that year (Mary and Art Kamm) and who continue to be present in my life to this day.
During the program, we learned that the concept of what it means to foster peace grows in tandem with the globe. We used to think of peace as just the absence of war, but we now know that it encompasses much more. Peace includes many facets of our life, such as urban planning, climate change, and women’s rights.
As a peace fellow, I learned that establishing safe and accessible public spaces, designing sustainable infrastructure, and promoting gender equality are all critical components of promoting peace – these are the fundamental elements that have driven my professional career and interests to this day. Urban planning may be a strong instrument for addressing the complex issues confronting our society today, such as climate change and socioeconomic injustice.
As an urban planner, I am committed to encouraging sustainable development and the creation of more peaceful communities. My approach to urban planning is based on my belief in the potential of community engagement and cooperation, and my work focuses on incorporating equity and social justice ideas into urban planning processes in order to develop more resilient and inclusive cities. By listening to the needs and concerns of those who are most affected by urban development and climate change, I am able to create more effective and sustainable plans that benefit everyone.
As a peace fellow, I also began a leadership development pathway that in 2018 allowed me to set sail for Antarctica along with 89 other women scientists from 26 countries with the goal of increasing the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our world.
Throughout this journey, I was reminded of the importance of international cooperation and global awareness in promoting peace and sustainability. I was able to cooperate with scientists, environmentalists, and policymakers from all around the world to investigate and confront the effects of climate change on the white continent and the planet. I gained a deeper understanding of the urgent need for global action to address this critical issue, which is one of the greatest threats to peace and security in our world today.
I would like to end this blog post that celebrates the first 20-years of this dear center that not only produces incredible peace makers but also nurtures values of collaboration, networks, inclusion, and friendship even when we are long away from our graduation days… Many, many thanks again to the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center and countless Rotarian supporters as well as the incredible cohort of Class 8 Peace Fellows, who were truly inspirational during my journey and made possible this experience of becoming a better person and better peacebuilder throughout these years.