The 2017 KLH Scholarship has been awarded to Julie Moreno. Below is her submission essay published with permission:
Having been born in Colombia and then immigrating to Canada when I was young, has exposed me to the numerous challenges faced by refugees and displaced persons when they arrive in host countries. My early experiences as an immigrant fleeing from a war-affected country have also taught me the distinct role that human rights, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding can play even in the smallest of aspects, shaping the direction of my academic and professional endeavors. As a result, I became passionate at an early age about international development issues, particularly human rights, conflict, and transnational migratory flows. For these reasons, I have made it my academic, professional and personal goal to create social change that impacts the lives of displaced people or refugees both locally and abroad.
My undergraduate degree in International Development allowed me to combine my personal intercultural experiences with the interdisciplinary nature of a social sciences degree. Advance courses in the fields of international relations, political science, and development have equipped me with an understanding of specific topics, including how ot overcome power imbalances to violation of personal freedoms, as well as the linkages that exist between weak governance, underdevelopment, and conflict. Having this cross-cultural competency allowed me to critically examine conflict situations on various levels, which inspired me to dive deeper into the causes and consequences of systemic violence, displaced persons, peacebuilding, and the political culture of Latin America for my undergrad honours thesis.
In 2015, I attended a summer instituted in Quito, Ecuador. Here I participated in several skills workshops on conflict analysis, mediation, and negotiation. This course equipped me with the practical tools, knowledge, and hands-on experience to understand the complexities of conflict within and across border regions, as well as the types of interventions that can be used to transform them.
I also learned how to effectively apply concepts of cross-cultural and nonviolent communication as a peacebuilding resource in my role as a program coordinator and research assistant at the Centre for Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflict in 2015-16. Working in Ecuador, the largest recipient of refugees in Latin America, enabled me to combine practical skills with a theoretical understanding of conflict management. During this time, I also led training sessions on conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and human rights for refugee and migrant communities in Quito, while raising cultural awareness to ease their transition in the host community.
While conducting research in Ecuador, I learned that although violence causes thousands of people to seek refuge, social conflict and discrimination often continue to create problems in receiving communities. Even if the amount and severity of violence is reduced, my research showed that conflict is still present in the lives of refugee and migrant populations.
In Sept 2016, I began my Master’s degree in International Affairs, where I am specializing in project management for development and humanitarian assistance. I have completed and excelled in graduate-level courses that focus on human security, development project analysis and implementation, and complex humanitarian emergencies. I have actively continued to research in international development and human rights, particularly on issues relating to environmental refugees, the economic challenges of Syrian refugees in Europe, and the lack of access to reproductive health care for Syrian refugees in the Middle East.
More recently, I began working as a co-op student at Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. I am currently enrolled in a field course on human rights that will take place in Israel/Palestine in December 217. The opportunity to combine human rights theory with practical and contextual implementation will complement my current research regarding the tumultuous context for refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East. I am interested in analysing the human rights implications that arise from defining a state as the national home of one faith-based community, the human rights challenges faced by Palestinian in the occupied territories, as well as how these challenges are manifested over the short and long term.
Once I graduate, I hope to work with refugee populations that arrive in Canada from all over the world. I also want to work on translating my research for use in public policy, non-profit organizations, and non-governmental organizations. I believe my Master’s program will continue to prepare me with the relevant academic experience I will need to better understand and create policy regarding inter-group conflicts and reconciliation. Knowing how to implement conflict management and peacebuilding in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of humanitarian projects is key, if refugees are to be successfully integrated in Canadian communities. By building stronger communities and engaging in peacebuilding efforts, we as Canadians can help prevent future abuses of human rights both locally and abroad.