Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies, Società Italiana per l'Organizzazione Internazionale, Rome, Italy
Master’s Degree in Law, La Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Italian, English, French, Spanish
I was sitting in my office in Port-au-Prince, Haiti when everything started to shake. I had no idea at the time that this was just the beginning of a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that would devastate the country and claim the lives of over 300,000 people, including 100 United Nations personnel. I was there as a United Nations Volunteer with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti.
I wanted to help in whatever capacity I could. My background is in law not medicine, but the doctors were understaffed, so I asked what I could do. The next thing I knew I was putting on a mask and gloves and administering first aid to those injured in the earthquake. Among all the rubble, I had my most gratifying experience as part of the United Nations. As truly horrifying as the destruction was, the Haitian people could see that they were not alone, that UN staff were there and ready to help, that there was hope. Many people are alive today because of the support my colleagues and I were able to provide.
One year after the earthquake, I relocated to Sudan to work as a Conduct and Discipline Officer as part of the UN African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). My job is to prevent any form of misconduct that might occur where a peacekeeping mission operates – anything from sexual exploitation and harassment to abuses of authority.
I also assist UN staff members in settling workplace conflicts. My particular location amplifies the challenges that come with the role because, in Darfur, thousands of UN personnel work and live in the same compound under arduous conditions, far from their families and with few opportunities to relax or socialize. As is the case in any UN locale, the staff’s diversity means a wide range of customs, religions, and politics, and thus room for occasional misunderstandings. I’m here to maintain a harmonious work environment and help my colleagues cope with the inherent stresses of their jobs. I do that by creating a welcoming, confidential space where individuals can feel comfortable voicing their feelings and starting a dialogue.
Additionally, I work with the local population – particularly those most vulnerable to abuses – leading workshops to raise awareness about the UN standards of conduct and measures available to them for preventing, combating, and reporting crimes.
UNAMID aims to protect civilians and promote peace in Darfur; whether directly or indirectly, all of us stationed in Darfur contribute to achieving these goals. By helping individuals within and outside of the UN overcome their differences and hardships, I feel like an ambassador with a message of tolerance, respect, and, most of all, hope.
While there’s no denying that working in a conflict or post-conflict zone can be challenging and frustrating, it is extremely rewarding, and there is nothing I would rather be doing. One quality I’d say is essential for peacekeeping work is optimism. Staying positive, looking at the bigger picture, and acting with more concern for the overall success of the operation than for oneself are imperative. Every day I am proud to know I am making a difference in the lives of others.