Internship Blog Series: Sergio Vieira de Mello Fellowship, Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF)
My name is Marisela Rivera, and I am a Master of Arts candidate at Seton Hall`s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Over the summer I had the pleasure of serving as the Sergio Vieira de Mello Fellow for the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) in Geneva, Switzerland, the international capital of the world. The fellowship honors a former United Nations Diplomat, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad, Iraq in 2003. Mr. Vieira de Mello is remembered for his long and distinguished career with the UN as well as his efforts to promote peace, human rights and humanitarian aid.
Like Mr. Vieira de Mello, I am passionate about fulfilling peace and security for all. I specialized in two eminent concentrations to promote peace and security: International Law & Human Rights and International Security. My two specializations and my keen interest in Latin America have well prepared me for the fellowship. My host organization, DCAF, is an international foundation that is well-known for its support of security, development, and the rule of law.
Within the DCAF, I worked for the International Security Advisory Team (ISSAT). ISSAT was created to increase the capacity of the international community to support Security Sector Reform (SSR) processes, enhance the effectiveness and quality of SSR programming, and facilitate the coordination and coherence of international assistance for nationally-driven SSR processes. It focuses on four key services: advisory field support, training and capacity development, knowledge services, and advocacy and outreach.
Prior to my arrival, DCAF created a Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) department dedicated to Security Sector Reform. I worked with the director to set the foundation and sustainability flow for this particular department. Together, we created a strategy for LAC, as well as an overview of donors to the region. I utilized my social media and advertising skills to create a memorable LAC webpage, and I wrote country background notes, particularly in Latin American countries. In addition, I was tasked to develop a knowledge product for the Gender and Security section that applied a gender lens to explore the application of local ownership in SSR. The case study analyzed two countries and explore the lessons learned to increase the discussions on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS).
One of the most challenging and gratifying experiences was familiarizing myself with international security and human rights dialect in Spanish. Being of Colombian descent, Spanish is my first language. However, growing up in America and being part of the public education system, Spanish was not a priority. Through DCAF, I learned the importance of bilingualism and the various opportunities that it brings.
Overall, my time with DCAF was insightful and rewarding. I fulfilled many assignments in my area of study, and I was trusted with the duties of a Project Assistant as well as the work of an SSR Officer. My position at ISSAT offered first-hand experience in SSR, specifically in the international security aspect of my career. Given that this is the second year the Sergio Vieira de Mellow Fellowship was offered to a Seton Hall Graduate student, I would highly recommend my fellow peers to apply for this position in the future, and I know I will cherish the knowledge and experience gained with DCAF forever.