Ask me anything (part 2)

I stopped at Reddit recently and let them ask me a bunch of questions. I had posted this previously, but it looked funky so I decided to repost it in parts… So, you can better follow it! Enjoy!

Are there any questions?

Q: Thanks for the AMA! I’m about to start a JD/MA in Washington DC and would like to focus on a lot of what you currently do (trade, conflict resolution, security, economic development). Do you have any recommendations for aspiring lawyers in your field? What opportunities exist and what doors are opened with a JD? I currently have a degree in IR (conflict and security) and my area of focus is primarily in Asia (China and Russia more specifically). Haha I’m sorry for such a broad question but I’m just so goddamn excited to move up to DC and get started!Also, I did a short stint in Shanghai with an UNDP affiliated organization called South-South Gate. Are you familiar with them? Thanks for your time on the AMA and good luck with the e-book!

A: Hey! Good luck on your JD/MA!For lawyers usually is protection and policy-making, but there is a lot of areas you can focus on. Migration and refugee law, women’s rights…I would advise on getting a lot of experience while you are there in Washington to help you define yourself as a professional. See, one issue IR students (and social science students in general) usually have is not be able to explain to the employer clearly what are their strong suits. That way in an interview (or cover letter) or can point blank say: “my qualifications are X, my expertise is knowledge management, but I also have experience with project management and M&E frameworks. I have worked in Shangai, which consolidates my interest and experience in Asia…

ACT did a study on 2006 on what recruiters look for the most when hiring new people and the first thing was related-experience, after was international experience, then cultural awareness… A graduate degree was number 5 or 6 on that list. I don’t mean at all that your JD or MA is not important, trust me, I have one, it is. But don’t rely on it as the most important aspect of getting a job in this field…

I’m not familiar with South-South Gate, but I haven’t got that much experience with China, but knowing UNDP they must been a sound organization because their selection criteria is pretty high. I worked mostly with Kashmir, Nepal, the Maldives and Timor Leste.

Related:  Can graduate school help you land a job in international development?

Q: Thanks for the AMA. I was wondering what’s your view on open markets. If you were to rank the factors of production in terms of openness they’d be capital, goods and services then labor.Have you any ideas on how to make the labor markets as open as the capital markets.Do you think this approach to a countries problems is too theoretical?

A: Thank you for participating! Well, in name of full disclosure, I should say that my thoughts on political economy were largely shaped by Dependency theory and CEPAL, but also with the consequences of IMF’s strict view on open markets and economy and not enough on human rights and participation. Theory is a good place to start, but the issue we usually have is that in reality actors hardly follow the ideal scenario, so you will have to be able to adjust or adapt you original framework to that particular context.

In this case, I don’t know what problem you are trying to solve. Is it a country’s economic system? Is it aid’s approach to economic development?

Q: Sorry for being vague. Lets take Peru as an example. In your work do you consider the economic value of a work visa to the EU or the US.Is the economic value created by the issuing of that work visa considered in international development.(By economic value I mean the value gained by the Peruvian getting the visa and to the Peruvian economy.)

A: Now I see what you mean! Sorry… Well, I usually don’t because I don’t work a lot with Macro economic policies regarding visas .For instance, I would work on how much of Central American government’s budget would go to Security and much money would they spend on prevention, control or rehabilitation. How much of El Salvador’s GDP was lost due to the Mano Dura policies. SALW transfers in Latin America, Caribbean and Africa. Human trafficking, but not much on work visas. Maybe ILO would have something on that area.

Q: How does the rise of radical Islamism effect your efforts? What can be done to stop it?

A: Any rise in radicalism affects our work because it prevents participation and the development of inclusive societies. The main issue I had with Islam was regarding advocating for women’s rights and on that issue sexual and reproductive rights. But, unfortunately, we can’t discard that to Islam, because I had the same issues in Sub-Saharan Africa with the rise of evangelical politics in governments and in Central America, because of the great mix of “machismo” with a catholic streak.

As a development worker the problem for us it is usually because many organisations become targets for extremism and we end up paying the price of representing “West” wrongdoings. In other countries, like Somalia, the issue is not ideological. It’s a business. It became profitable to kidnap international workers.

In terms of stopping, I don’t want to criminalise an entire religion because of the actions of some very few. I also don’t want to go into the more simplistic explanation of saying that poverty creates violence (because that criminalises poverty). It’s important to bear in mind what elements are causing extremism. How those groups manage to recruit people? Drones have been pointed out as a major source in recruitment in Pakistan. Where people can find a sense of community? The really important role of education in breaking the cycle of misinformation and supporting critical thinking. Working with communities to create that sense social cohesion and purpose that many extreme groups create. Work on communities construction of masculinity and what are the role of men within said communities… There is no one “magic bullet”, but fortunately there is a lot that can be done to make people’s life better and create alternatives to extremism.

Q: I live in a Muslim country (Turkey). Recognizing religion as a  nonsensical dogma and ditching it altogether was one of the best things I did for myself. You are welcome to criticize it any way you like, be my guest.In the past decade or so we have seen sharp rise in neo-liberalism and Islamic extremism. Both happening so fast and in such a coordinated fashion is hard to explain away by natural flow of things. I happen to live in a country where both are happening at the same time, to great detriment of the country.On another tangent, we often say that education is the solution to the problem… and there we stop. I haven’t seen any detailed analysis on what education is most needed, how it is supposed to be delivered, how to make it sustain itself and so forth.

I suspect giving standard curriculum education to Tuareg people won’t be of much use to them right now. They need things like water management, basic infrastructure and so forth, things that will lead to immediate betterment of their lives. Do we even posses know-how that is even applicable to desert conditions? I doubt it. If there are institutions that research this kind of stuff I’d like to volunteer my engineering skills.

A:  I was in Turkey two years ago, but I don’t consider myself to be an expert in the country. I can speak, though, of general trends. The fact that extreme islamism would follow a rise in consumerism and individualism is not uncommon. They seem antagonistic forces, but they are products of globalisation and exposure to global consumer patterns and values, and in some point to themselves. Education, but most importantly social sciences and history are invaluable for the development of critical thinking and it is supposedly embedded in most countries planning. However, if they have the structure, the staff or the willingness to prioritise education is a different matter. As unfortunate as it is, for some politicians out there, there is a case to be made of holding back education in order to have a more “controllable” audience. On the other hand, there are conflict management and masculinity classes and those help – mainly boys – to deal with feeling such as frustration, disillusionment, and anger without resorting to violence.

WASH – water and sanitation is an emergency component. Most organisations need experts on that field. To name a few: Save the Children, Oxfam, UNDP, UNICEF (that actually leads that cluster, so they hire engineers a lot), MSF, ICRC… Engineers without borders also do a lot of work in creating better infra-structure. However, it’s important to highlight what you think or I think is important may not be their priorities right now. So, as a development worker, you will have to balance the priorities of that community (ideally through a participatory assessment), their short-term needs and the long-term needs to address the issue. So, in a coordinate plan – ideally- you will deal with basic infra-structure as well as education, health, governance…

Q: I’ll be definitely looking into these. Thank you.

Q: Know anybody who’s hiring?

A: Tons of people! What are you looking for?

Q: Absolutely anything in the DC area at this point. I have a PoliSci degree and three related internships on my resume. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

A: Where were your internships? Have you looked for NGOs in the DC area? On that related note… Freedom House is hiring

Q: The first was with a state legislator (some ghostwriting, research, etc), at the second one I was a program assistant an interfaith peace summit, then I had a fellowship with a Senate campaign in my home state. I’ve been pumping out around 10 applications a day for anything I can find. I’ll take a look at the Freedom House link, thanks!

Q: What has your career path been like? In other words, how did you get to where you are today? Thanks a lot for the AMA.

A: Hi! So, I have started working on the Red Cross as a Programme Officer on Youth and Local-based solution, basically working with at risk youth and marginalised communities, at the same time, I was doing my BA in Law and International Relations. So, in that sense, I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to work with since the beginning of my studies.

Mid-way through college I got an internship in a local NGO in the Arms Control area and that really was where I learned most of what I wanted to be as a professional, but also what I loved and was good doing. We were in several coalitions in the preparations for the BMS, but we also did a lot of capacity building in my own country (Brazil) than in Mozambique and than Angola. There is where I first started working with UNDP.

So, after 3 years at that NGO, they decided to change their focus to drug and health issues, I was going to let my contract end and apply for a MA, but I saw this position at the regional centre for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama that was a lot like me and I knew about their work on Citizen Security, so I applied and got the job. I stayed there for 2 years. Later, I decided to get a MA because I truly enjoy these spaces for dialogue and discussion, but also because there was so much I could go in my career without one.

That was a great decision; I stayed an entire 2 weeks after my MA without a job. I got a consultancy with UNFPA on a Youth-related programme, than my job with UNICEF Maldives developing a draft Youth Bill. Coming back, UNDP asked me again to work with them (by this point, I was already in their expert roster). On the months in-between jobs I have done consultancies for UNLIREC (twice), Saferworld and Fundación Arias. As well as writing for Beyond Violence and participating on different specialised networks.

Q: Thanks so much for your response. I think it’s always good to get an idea about career paths in a certain field and use this knowledge to inform one’s own choices. I am currently a junior programme officer in a democracy assistance NGO and I enjoy the work and this field, but I’m also trying to get an idea about what’s out there – and more importantly, the kind of choices I should make career-wise to reach those possibilities.

Q: I’m very impressed by the detail in your answer

A: Ha! That’s nice, thanks. I can add attention to detail to my list of “transferable skills”.


Original post:


Ask me anything (part 1)

Newsletter 1: Welcome to the club!

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