Our next five-year update, and probably the last word from the Class of 2008, comes from Margherita Zuin, who was co-chair of the student Migration Group and conducted interviews for the Admissions Office during her time at Fletcher. (I can still picture her coming in and out of the office.) Here’s her update which, like the résumé of anyone working for the United Nations, is loaded with acronyms.
During my years in high school, migration from Africa started to become a common phenomenon in Italy. It generated a myriad of political and legal debates and cultural challenges, not only in my country, but also in my head. This is what initially triggered my interest in international law and pushed me, as a student, to volunteer for an NGO assisting migrants from North Africa.
After law school, my passion to see and understand more about the world led me to Ecuador to provide assistance to Colombian refugees and to fight violence against women in Quito for Amnesty International. I then interned with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with a focus on Italy’s role within the United Nations and development cooperation in Asia and Latin America. As a paid trainee at the European Commission in Brussels, I focused on food security in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries before traveling to Jordan for my first assignment with the United Nations. I joined UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women) in Amman, where I implemented programs to support the elections and constitution-making process in Iraq.
These experiences made me realize that I wanted to keep working in international affairs, but also that I wanted to further my understanding of the complex approaches and strategies needed to address them. I had heard of Fletcher from alumni and, after having an informal interview with Laurie Hurley, the School’s director of admissions, I realized that Fletcher was the perfect place for me. The combination of academic- and professional-oriented courses was exactly what I was looking for.
My classes and professors at Fletcher taught me skills that I have put into practice since graduation. My Fields of Study were Human Security, Humanitarian Studies, and Law and Development. I still refer back to the impressive professional experiences shared in class by Professors Sarkin and Aucoin. From Professor Church, I learned the importance of always asking the “So what?” question, and I continue to use the gender lens analysis taught in Professor Mazurana’s course. My summer internship conducting research on formal and informal justice systems in Central Somalia, as well as the fascinating discussions in Professor Johnstone’s “Peace Operations” class on the political, legal, technical, and logistical challenges to deploy and work in conflict and post-conflict situations, were fundamental to my career choice.
Since graduating in 2008, I have been working for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the United Nations. For 2.5 years, I served in UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur) as Associate Gender Officer working on the political process, gender justice, and capacity-building of national institutions. In 2011, I joined the Standing Police Capacity of the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI), a rapidly deployable team of experts based in Brindisi (Italy), tasked to start up new operations or assist existing ones. In my capacity as Legal Officer, I deployed to UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) to help with the establishment of the Mission’s Rule of Law and Security Institutions Support Office. My work focused on addressing prolonged, arbitrary detention, and ensuring coordination of the various United Nations and national actors of the justice chain.
Since May 2012, I have been based at United Nations Headquarters in New York, first as a Judicial Affairs Officer in the Criminal Law and Judicial Advisory Service (CLJAS) of OROLSI, and then as a Political Affairs Officer in the Front Office of the Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions. The work at Headquarters has allowed me to gain a deep understanding of the political dynamics and decision-making processes in the rule of law area in particular, but also of the United Nations system as a whole. In the near future, I hope to serve again in the field.
I use the academic knowledge and professional skills acquired at Fletcher every single day. I can also see the strength of the Fletcher community, not only because so many Fletcher alumni work in the United Nations, but also because creating partnerships, being committed to make a contribution, and building a sense of community have been essential aspects of my life in peacekeeping, especially in my field assignments.