Then: Junior Fellow, Democracy and Rule of Law Project (2007-2008)
Now: Political Counsellor, Embassy of Canada to Mali
During my junior fellowship under Thomas Carothers, Michele Dunne and Karim Sadjadpour, I researched a book on Islamist leaders, drafted policy memos on democratization and edited opinion pieces on Arab politics. Most applicably, I learned about leveraging knowledge to shape policy-making in Washington and beyond. Upon the conclusion of my fellowship, I returned to Canada to join the foreign service as a political officer. Fast forward ten years: I have just started my fifth tour in the Canadian foreign service, as political counsellor at Canada`s embassy in Mali. In this role, I help manage Canada`s political relationship with an important African partner at the forefront of regional security, development, and climate change challenges.
My experience at the Carnegie Endowment, at the intersection of scholarship and diplomacy, continues to inspire how I think about my role as a diplomat. Foreign affairs departments around the world are struggling to adapt to perennially shrinking budgets, intractable crises, and the social media-driven news cycle. Consequently, policy-makers depend on credible voices to cut through the noise. On my proudest days as a diplomat, I broker ideas, purvey ground truth, and collaborate across a broad network to solve problems – like my Carnegie Endowment mentors.
For example, on an earlier assignment to Nigeria, I travelled widely across the north to understand and map the Boko Haram crisis. Thus I was positioned to provide informed advice following the tragic kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, when an international media storm prompted some politicians and pundits to clamor for an ill-advised rescue mission. In coordinating the embassy`s response, I kept the focus on the larger political and humanitarian context, rather than the news story of the day. During the crisis, I was recognized as one of the best writers in the Canadian foreign service, for which I owe credit to my training at the Carnegie Endowment.
Lastly, my exposure to Carnegie Endowment scholars who dedicated their careers to studying and mitigating conflict abroad contributed to my decisions to pursue challenging diplomatic assignments to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Mali, as well as to return to Washington. In such environments often overshadowed by the global terrorism narrative, my role has been to navigate the local political landscape. In no small part due to skills acquired during my junior fellowship, I have thrived in these assignments, which have offered fertile ground for professional growth and intellectual stimulation.