Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict: What Participants Say

4 April 2024

María Gonzalez García follows our online Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict while working as a Project Manager and Technical Advisor at the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP). In this position, she oversees and manages digital solutions aimed at providing essential connectivity services and life-saving information to affected populations in conflict affected areas and emergencies.

Can you describe your current job and primary responsibilities?

I currently work at UN World Food Programme, specifically within the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, one of the Inter Agency Standing Committee clusters lead by WFP.

In my role, I serve as project manager and technical advisor and focuses on digital solutions and initiatives aimed at supporting affected populations. My responsibilities primarily revolve around overseeing and managing digital solutions that contribute to providing essential connectivity services and life-saving information to affected populations in both sudden onset emergencies and protracted crisis.

What motivated you to enrol in this programme?

My main motivation to enrol in this programme comes from the unique challenges presented by the environments in which the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster operates as the majority of the countries where we operate, like Sudan, Yemen, Ukraine or the Sahel region suffer from armed conflicts and protracted crisis. While my background primarily lies in technology, I recognized the importance of expanding my knowledge in human rights and other protection aspects. This knowledge would enable me to better comprehend the context in which we operate and adapt my work to deliver more effective services.

While searching for different possibilities, I found the Executive Master programme at the Geneva Academy to be a perfect match for my needs. The programme not only offers a comprehensive curriculum but also provides a platform to explore the more practical application of these principles in complex and challenging situations, and it is flexible enough to work, undertake missions and study, all at the same time.

In what ways do you anticipate applying the specialized knowledge gained from this programme to your professional work?

The knowledge gained from this programme will have a significant impact on my professional work, particularly in my day-to-day tasks with projects situated in areas affected by armed conflict. A broader understanding of the legal context will allow me to adopt a better approach.

This expanded perspective is crucial in minimizing potential risks associated with the projects we implement, aligning with the humanitarian principle of ‘do not harm’. By incorporating all the concepts taken from the programme, I aim to tackle the complexities of the contexts we operate, ensuring that our initiatives not only address immediate needs but also contribute positively to the broader humanitarian aims and create a nexus with development activities, in a manner that respects and protects the rights of the affected populations, and build further resilience among the communities.

Which specific courses or topics within the programme do you find most relevant to your professional development?

In my role within the humanitarian sector, understanding and integrating human rights principles into project definition and development is critical, specially to follow a human-centred approach. Given that the majority of our projects are implemented in conflict areas, I am also particularly eager to delve into the interplay between human rights and international humanitarian law and explore more about international refugee law.

However, it is challenging to select a single subject as most relevant, as all the courses within the programme are intricately interconnected and play a crucial role in providing a comprehensive understanding of the overarching subject. The study of different branches of international law ensures that I gain a holistic perspective, to face the challenges of my professional role more effectively.

How has the diverse background of professionals in the programme enriched your learning experience?

The diversity of backgrounds among both my peers and the professors in the programme have significantly enriched my learning experience. Each participant brings a unique perspective, shaped by their distinct professional experiences.

This academic community fosters a fluid exchange of ideas among students, creating a collaborative and supportive environment for sharing insights on complex subjects. The promotion of this diverse and inclusive learning atmosphere has elevated the quality of our discussions in the classes, and outside of them.

How do you manage to balance your professional responsibilities with the demands of online classes?

Balancing professional responsibilities with the demands of the programme can be challenging, specially when travelling or deployed to the field. However, both professors and the Student Office offer enough flexibility, useful for those situations.

Moreover, dedicating time to something I am passionate about, makes the required effort feel more manageable. The commitment to personal and professional growth serves as a key motivating factor.

How do you foresee the Executive Master contributing to your career advancement, especially in acquiring additional responsibilities or moving your career forward?

While the future is uncertain, I have always been a curious person, continually seeking to explore new avenues and roles. The Executive Master programme, in general, is expected to play a role in contributing to my career advance and will help to open new areas of expertise, beyond technology.

By acquiring all the knowledge offered by the programme, I foresee gaining the confidence required to explore and undertake new roles and responsibilities within the humanitarian sector. Specifically, it could empower me to venture into areas like conflict prevention or peacebuilding components for humanitarian and development programme design.

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