What Are Our Graduate Students Doing this Summer...
This summer I’m working with the office of the UN Resident Coordinator to Somalia, which plays a strategic planning and coordination function for the UN Somalia Country Team, a set of more than twenty UN agencies working in Somalia. It’s a very exciting time to be in this office: Somalia is undergoing positive political change, experiencing some gains in security and governance, and the international community is beginning to increase its engagement with the country. My primary responsibility is to support the Head of the Resident Coordinator’s office, a job that has so far involved taking notes in high-level meetings, drafting or reviewing documents, and preparing for the UN Somalia Country Team retreat. These first six weeks have has given me a fantastic bird’s eye view into the statebuilding process in one of the world’s most notorious failed states.
Immediately after arriving in Nairobi I wrote a document that outlines the UN’s youth strategy. Youth engagement in the political, economic and social spheres is a critical part of building peace and an inclusive, functioning state in Somalia. Approximately 70% of the population is under 30 years old, grew up without a functioning central government, had poor quality education and limited access to services, and faces few opportunities to engage in the country’s underdeveloped economy. Writing this document allowed me to learn more about the situation of youth in Somalia and what has been proposed to increase their access to the political space and provide youth with viable economic opportunities, among other things. My final projects in 502 and 508b revolved around youth involved in conflict in Africa, which gave me a good base from which to start this project.
Perhaps even more exciting has been my work on the Integrated Strategic Framework (ISF), a document that outlines the UN strategy to help the Somali Government meet the peacebuilding and statebuilding goals it laid out last year in the Somali Compact. The UN is currently finalizing the ISF, so I spent the last two weeks preparing for a Country Team retreat to validate the ISF and decide on the next steps. This meant sitting in on weekly meetings on the ISF, drafting presentations based on the strategy, creating or assembling background materials to supplement the discussion, preparing slides for the Heads of Agency to present, and taking notes at the retreat. It was a fascinating assignment that put me in the room while some very important decisions were being made.