The United Nations Association of Edinburgh (UNAE) is a grassroots voluntary organisation, supporting and promoting the United Nations and helping to build a safer, fairer and more sustainable world.
Jessica Ma, a post-graduate student of social sciences and law at the University of Bristol, worked as a voluntary rapporteur at UNAE’s first International Peace Conference.
The conference brought together academics and practitioners to explore pathways to peace within the complex international security environment of the twenty-first century.
Jessica was responsible for one of the conferencing areas themed on rights, reconciliation and restoration; and wrote the report ‘Environmental Sustainability and Population Growth’, which was later published. She also actively organised and assisted the ‘Winnable War on Human Trafficking’ for distressed, vulnerable and victimized women and children.
The position offered her the opportunity to engage with academics, practitioners, civil servants and the general public. Since the conference, she has been continuously working to share the learning and inform future action.
“Margaret Atwood famously stated that ‘war is what happens when language fails’. Sustainable peace is more wide-ranging and inclusive than we would normally think, including issues from the role of women in peace-building to environmental sustainability and developing world debt.
“We need to constantly interrogate the way in which we view the world, especially issues concerning sustainability. This enhanced sensitivity would help us better grasp the nature and implications of everyday life and hopefully generate positive prescriptions and practices.” – Ying Ma (Jessica)
The internship programme provides both students and recent graduates with an opportunity to gain experience contributing to ground-breaking reports, international collaborations and high-profile events, all the while deploying and strengthening a whole range of skills critical to the international development field.
“The key themes under discussion at the conference were rights, reconciliation and restoration. An international team of rapporteurs – including Jessica Ma – were responsible for capturing the knowledge exchange and key learning points generated over the course of this innovative two-day event. They then had to work together using this captured information to produce a post-conference report that would provide strategic guidance for the future.
“Jessica was a key team member providing support during the planning and strategy phases of the conference, attending team meetings and generating ideas. She was also key in liaising with conference guests, making them feel welcome and facilitating their professional connections. Her main role was to cover a ‘Peace Lab’ talk about environmental sustainability and population growth in her capacity as an UN House rapporteur, providing an accurate report of the presentation given by the speaker Emeritus Professor Colin Gallagher from the organisation Population Matters. The impact of the combined conference report on the grassroots UN movement in Scotland has been significant and has fed into further projects, such as the development of the Scottish Centre for International Strategic Affairs (SCISA).” –Heather Emond