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From Sri Lanka To Washington DC Passing Through Bosnia and Herzegovina: Conflict Zones And Post Conflict Transition

This time last year, I would wake up every morning in one of the worst and most protracted conflicts in the modern history. For almost seventy years, Palestine has been subject to hundreds of military offensives. On the summer 2018, I had the chance to 1) intern for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Peace Building Mission in Sri Lanka, 2) attend the Sarajevo Post Conflict Transition Symposium in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 3) intern with the United Nations Relief Agency in Washington DC.

During my internship period, I had the opportunity to join the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Peace Building Team and provide assistance in supervising, evaluating and assessing the implementation of the transitional justice plan. During my internship period, I had the valuable chance of meeting government officials, attending high-level meetings, listening to beneficiaries at the grassroots level and reviewing and assessing peace building projects. It was a deeply inspiring opportunity to experience the positive transition of a post-conflict zone. I learned to use indicators like economic growth data provided by the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to track progress and predict possible relapse into conflict. I helped in the evaluation and follow up process on the SL government efforts in meeting the post-conflict transition four pillars; truth, justice, reparation and non-recurrence. During my work with the Peace Building Mission, I came to know that Sri Lanka is a country with the world’s second highest number of disappearances, with over half a million missing persons. I worked with the UNDP on the process of locating mass graves and identifying victims of mass killings. I had the chance to closely examine and experience the government–NGOs dynamics and interactions, and explore the complicated entangled area of mutual work.

In mid-July, I flew to Bosnia and Herzegovina to attend the Sarajevo Symposium on Post-Conflict Transitions. Sarajevo itself is described by academics as a big laboratory for post-conflict transition. Although the symposium theme focuses on topics related to community reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction for peace, I continued searching and inquiring about intervention strategies during active conflicts. The guest speakers have different backgrounds ranging from former presidents, state ambassadors, UN senior directors and distinguished academics, allowing me to discuss and enrich my understanding of the transition process and the role of international peacekeeping missions as well as cases of historical failure.

In late July, I flew to Washington DC to work with the United Nations Relief Agency. As the agency is going through a financial and political crisis. My work was focused mainly on; 1) advocate the agency mission, 2) represent the agency in meetings with directors of NGOs and government officials and 3) research and provide a new framework to cut the agency’s operating costs. My work with the UN agency exposed me to new concepts and skills as; humanitarian diplomacy, soft advocacy and operation research. I also managed to closely examine the NGOs dynamics at a high organizational level.

This rich summer experience has equipped me with rich knowledge of conflict and post-conflict transitions. I realized that humanitarian work is one of the pillars to promote peace and solve conflict, but reconciliation, good governance, prevention of reoccurrence are of great importance as well and should be considered in any transitional plan. Due to the intense humanitarian crisis the world is currently witnessing, I’m still interested in researching humanitarian effectiveness in an attempt to provide a response that meets the crisis scale and alleviate the suffering of conflict victims.