Nationality

New Zealand

Education

Master’s Degree in International Politics, University of Melbourne, Australia

Waiopehu College, Levin, New Zealand

Officer Training, Royal New Zealand Air Force Command Training Squadron, New Zealand

Languages

English

By nature, I enjoy problem solving and working with people. Perhaps as a consequence, I feel drawn to situations involving conflicts and the need to resolve them; situations where compassion, a calm disposition and clear thinking are needed. My work in Darfur involves helping communities address what are often very complex and deep-seated causes of conflict, in sometimes quite tense situations. The challenges can be considerable, but the potential rewards, measured in improvements in the daily lives of people affected by conflict, make the risks and sacrifices all worthwhile.

For example, I and several colleagues recently travelled to an area where inter-communal fighting was taking place to mediate between the parties to the conflict. Upon arrival we found additional troops had been deployed to the area and communities were fearful. We met with representatives of the parties and community leaders in the briefing room of a Rwandan peacekeeping unit on the outskirts of town. A lengthy and sometimes heated discussion ensued. Eventually, through the combined efforts of my Civil Affairs colleagues and I, UNAMID peacekeepers and the parties themselves, constructive dialogue took place that resulted in an agreement to cease hostilities and pursue reconciliation.

One of the beauties of working for the United Nations in the field is every day is different. Typically though, I start by reading situation reports and checking messages to obtain the latest information about the situation in Darfur. Then I meet with work colleagues to develop responses to problems that have arisen; draft reports or position papers on emerging issues; arrange for funds to be dispersed for peace-building activities or work to support staff deployed to regional offices.

Overcoming challenges associated with cross-cultural, inter-personal communication can be an enjoyable, but sometimes frustrating, aspect of working for the United Nations. This can make communication and collaborative problem-solving challenging at times. When I find myself faced with such challenges, I try to listen carefully, be patient and considerate, and find something we can all laugh about.

Friends from home sometimes ask whether I find it demoralizing working in a place where people are suffering. I tell them I find the opposite is true. I am constantly amazed and encouraged by the tenacity, courage and warmth of the people I meet whose lives have been devastated by conflict. People who carry themselves with degrees of dignity and grace that leave me feeling humble and inspired. People like the Darfuri tea lady I often see cheerfully carrying her wares from a displaced persons’ camp on the outskirts of town to a makeshift tea stall in the market; the tribal leader who welcomed my team and I warmly and insisted we stay for lunch even though he had little food to spare; and the overworked commissioner who patiently explained the historical background to an issue even though he was busy and had little to gain from doing so. These people, and others like them, inspire and motivate me to continue working for the African Union and United Nations in Darfur.

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