Nationality

Ireland

Education

Master’s Degree in Environment and Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom

Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Languages

Chinese, English, German, Irish

I am stationed in Kabul with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), where I assist the government of Afghanistan in building national projects for conservation and ecosystem protection. My job as a Protected Areas Expert involves providing capacity building and technical assistance to environmental administrations in post-conflict nations. Put simply, I help government and communities come together to manage and protect their natural resources. The natural environment is the foundation for all economic, social and political progress in a country. My role as an environmental officer in Afghanistan is therefore a critical, if little-known, part of the peace process, which helps to rebuild trust and equity in a war torn society.

As a staff member of the United Nations in Kabul, I treasure the opportunity to contribute to a more stable environment, and thereby future, for the people of Afghanistan. We are attempting to protect forests, rangelands and watersheds that are home to rare species of wildlife, and which are also critical for agriculture, traditional livelihoods and tourism. For example, I am currently working with the Afghan national government to build a systematic plan for conservation, as well as a national biodiversity action plan. These two national frameworks will help ensure that Afghanistan’s fragile ecosystems are protected, so that future development of the country’s resources is sustainable and environmentally friendly. Some of the remarkable species that we are striving to conserve include the rare and endangered Snow Leopard, Persian Leopard and Asiatic Black Bear as well as the remaining forest cover in the unstable eastern regions.

I also try to raise awareness of environmental issues in Afghanistan every year, by helping the government to organise outdoor learning activities. Last year a day-long ‘Trek for Peace’ through Afghanistan’s Central Highlands brought together schoolchildren, their families and national leaders to mark the International Day of Peace and celebrate the unique beauty of Afghanistan’s mountain environment. Bringing communities together to make meaningful connections with each other and the environment is an effective post-conflict reconstruction tool, as it helps people understand the value of the natural world to their future.

UNEP is headquartered in Nairobi but it has staff based all over the world, including 3 international and 12 national staff here in the Afghanistan Mission. We live and work in a United Nations compound just outside of Kabul, which hosts 1,000 people in just one square kilometer. I start my day at about 5am by getting some exercise around our compound, where the buildings are made of shipping containers, and enjoying the cool mountain air of Kabul before the sun is up. By 7am I am responding to emails from UNEP offices in Geneva and Nairobi, before catching a ride to the Ministry of Agriculture or Environment Protection Agency. There I work on planning conservation projects with government ministers and officials. I also attend meetings with national and international partners of the region’s different development and peace-building projects, before returning to the secure United Nations compound for supper.

At the United Nations, every office is a miniature world comprised of a multitude of nationalities, languages, religions and ethnicities. Our diverse backgrounds contribute to the overall effectiveness of our work, as each colleague brings a wealth of knowledge to his or her position. There are few organisations in the world where you can work alongside so many remarkable individuals. There are also numerous chances to travel and work in exciting places, from Kenya to New York. I would recommend the United Nations to any budding professional looking to use his or her skills to give back to humanity and the planet. The Organization affords you one-of-a-kind opportunities, which make the risks and sacrifices of working somewhere dangerous like Afghanistan well worthwhile.

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