What is it like to be an international security expert?
The Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in International Security is designed to advance participants’ knowledge and skills in order to prepare them for leadership roles in government as well as international and non-governmental organizations.
This executive education programme benefits from the exceptional academic resources of the University of Geneva’s Global Studies Institute (GSI) and the internationally recognized executive education expertise of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), through its flagship Leadership in International Security Course.
We met Angela Hoyos Iborra, Policy Advisor at the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), who successfully completed the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in International Security.
What has motivated you to get involved in the Master of Advanced Studies in International Security?
Upon completing my degrees in Law and Political Science and Public Administration, I worked as a public policy analyst in Spain, in my hometown, before joining the United Nations in what ended up being a truly rewarding period based in Lima, Peru. My almost four years of experience within the UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development (UNLIREC) served as the foundation of my pursuit of a postgraduate programme such as the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in International Security.
“My goal: contribute to shaping coherent and sustainable disarmament and peacemaking initiatives.”
After being granted a La Caixa fellowship to pursue postgraduate studies in Europe, my return to this side of the Atlantic was set, but the process of selecting a graduate school was challenging. While conflict resolution and peace programmes abound, seldom bring elements from a security perspective that can be directly implemented in the direction of my goal: contribute to shaping coherent and sustainable disarmament and inclusive peacemaking initiatives.
This ended up being the driving force that led me to the University of Geneva and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
“Responding to emerging transnational threats requires knowledge from cross-cutting fields given the changing nature of actors and global politics. This is the approach pursued by the MAS, with a programme that is not solely based within the framework of a single discipline.”
What would the concepts that would summarize the best of your training? And why, so?
Interdisciplinarity and diversity. In my view, the set-up of the MAS provides a unique experience to engage and learn from professionals with sound experience and diverse backgrounds. This interdisciplinarity also applies to the students, thanks to the various cultural backgrounds found within the programme.
“A room full of diplomats, military and government officials, and experts from more than 20 nationalities enables a unique exchange of ideas.”
The multiple areas of expertise found in any given lecture during the MAS unleash a unique exchange of ideas within a group composed by diplomats, military and government officials, and experts from more than 20 nationalities, Ultimately, these exchanges are as important as the coursework itself when it comes to understanding the national and regional considerations that influence global security dynamics.
How were the skills acquired during the training useful to address the security challenges you were facing in your professional development?
The Master of Advanced Studies in International Security gave me tools to assess current security policy responses while exploring pragmatic and innovative approaches in the quest towards peaceful and stable societies.
Plus, the expertise of all participants ends up enhancing the set of analytical skills and resources given to better grasp the underlying factors behind some of the most pressing security issues of our time. Having all of this happening in less than one year is remarkable.
What are you passionate about in your professional capacity? What is one of your major professional accomplishments?
Believing in what you do is at the core.
Having found a field that I’m passionate about and being able to contribute inspires me to pursue new challenges. On a day-to-day, this also allows me to both share my knowledge and learn from my colleagues and stakeholders.
Graduating from the MAS directly contributed to my professional development almost immediately, since I joined the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) as a Policy Advisor shortly thereafter.
Looking back to the culmination, I recognize that my thesis and the process behind it ended up bridging multiple aspects from my previous experience, the programme itself and, humbly, my current job. By focusing on how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be used as the analytical framework to measure security in a comprehensive manner, I aimed to connect both a policy and an operational perspective into the field of disarmament.
Fast-forwarding to today, as part of my tasks at the GICHD, I am the manager for two projects that measure the impact of mine action as an enabler towards sustainable development, and aim to actively support the efforts to mainstream mine action into the SDG framework in the countries where we work.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
After years working in Latin America and the Caribbean, I am enjoying the opportunity to work globally from “International Geneva”, but at some point in the coming years, I do not discard going back to live in the places where most of the beneficiaries we strive to work for are.
Although I have no certainty about my whereabouts in five years, my aim is to continue serving organizations that foster global stability, international security, sustainable development, and, above it all: peace.