27-year-old Kirti Kler has travelled a long way from India to serve for peace in the world’s largest United Nations Peacekeeping mission, UNMISS. Deployed to Lakes state of South Sudan, Kirti is a committed Civil Affairs Officer, working all hours to convene and connect local communities in this deep field location. Read her interview and be inspired.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
As a Civil Affairs Officer, I implement conflict management and mediation activities in South Sudan’s Lakes State. The objective is to promote social cohesion and reconciliation among local communities and mitigate the threats of intercommunal violence. Through the organization of peace dialogues, capacity building trainings and shuttle diplomacy, we create effective channels of communication between local leaders, civil society and government institutions, and strengthen their ability to respond to conflict.
For instance, the impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated some of the existing insecurities in an already fragile context with limited health infrastructure. The local peace committees established and trained by our team have been particularly helpful in sensitizing communities on preventive measures and in the management of hate speech and rumours to prevent the escalation of violence.
What do you like most about your assignment?
I think the most important aspect of my work is its people-centred approach. While we merely facilitate the peace process, the solutions often come from within the communities themselves. This is the part that I personally find most rewarding. Many of our interventions revolve around strengthening existing community-based peace mechanisms and traditional structures. This puts local communities at the centre of our programming and ensures sustainable impact.
What is one thing you have learned since starting your mission?
Working in deep field locations can be extremely challenging, and it can often feel frustrating to not see tangible results immediately. Over the past year since I was deployed as a UN Volunteer to UNMISS, what’s been incredibly important is to constantly remind myself to focus on small successes that add up over time to contribute to lasting peace.
Working with local communities to strengthen their capacities to respond to the threats of violence continues to motivate me. Every day, I am humbled and inspired by the strength and resilience of the people of South Sudan.