From MAIS to UNODC in Palestine

DA alumna Anastasia Perevalova on her career since graduating from MAIS 24 in 2021


DA: Following your studies at the DA, you became a Communications and Reporting Officer at UNODC, based in Palestine. What exactly are your responsibilities on the job and how did your career path look like so far?
Anastasia Perevalova: First and foremost, I express my sincere gratitude to the DA for the opportunity to share my journey, and, hopefully, it will be helpful for those seeking careers in similar fields. Almost two years after my graduation from the DA MAIS-24 programme (Master of Advanced International Studies), I am happy to find myself in the role of Communications and Reporting Officer for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Country Office in Palestine. While defending my master’s thesis on the Abraham Agreements and the Arab-Israeli conflict, I could not imagine that soon I will be in the midst of the conflict myself, and most importantly, having an opportunity to support Palestinian people through my work.
UNODC assists Palestine in the prevention of drug use, violence and crime among youth, elimination of violence against women, addressing trafficking in persons (TIP), corruption and prison rehabilitation. In general, my mission here revolves around ensuring that the work of UNODC is visible and our interventions are effective. In general, my responsibilities entail gathering data through field visits, engaging with our beneficiaries and partners, analyzing programme’s implementation through various reports and communicating the outputs in both Arabic and English via social media, webstories, videos and other formats.
Coming to Palestine with a previous background in trafficking in persons (TIP) and smuggling of migrants (SOM), I was surprised to find out that TIP in Palestine remains an unsolved issue with vital gaps in response. This was something I was very passionate to change. I was able to leverage my previous experience to develop a project proposal, deliver two trainings on the topic for Palestinian law enforcement and organize a roundtable with national counterparts and donors to raise awareness about the problem. I continue to advocate for this project which can protect more lives and uphold the dignity of victims of this heinous crime.
My responsibilities also extend beyond the scope of Palestine as I coordinate communications, monitoring & evaluation and reporting for the regional youth programme (#Youth4Impact in social media), which is active in Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine and Sudan. I am enjoying working for and with youth from so many different and challenging contexts and I do believe that supporting youth is key to reducing the levels of violence in the region. As a young professional myself, I feel committed to promoting the role of youth as agents of change and their involvement in decision-making processes, so I am currently working on the concept for the MENA youth network, fostering meaningful youth participation in addressing drugs, violence and crime.
Regarding my career path, I began developing in International Relations during the first year of the MAIS programme. I applied for a two-week UN study programme in NYC provided by an international youth- and education-focused NGO. My participation in the programme not only granted me valuable international experience but also allowed be to expand my professional network. Subsequently, I started representing the organization’s interests at meetings in Vienna. From my network, I knew of and registered for peacebuilding training in the International Security and Conflict Analysis Network (iSCAN), where I later became a Partnerships Coordinator and then Partnerships Lead. Simultaneously, I was applying for internships within the UN and eventually secured a position with UNODC human trafficking and migrants smuggling project operating in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In parallel, I enrolled in the Regional Academy on United Nations as Research Fellow where I developed a research and policy recommendations related to transnational organized crime for the OSCE Transnational Threats Department. Upon completing my internship, I accepted a role as an M&E Assistant in an intergovernmental organization working with religious leaders to foster peacebuilding. After 4 months, I moved to Palestine.

Have you always been interested in this specific career, or has this interest developed over time?
I have always known that I wanted to contribute to making the world a safer place and to support populations affected by conflicts. In addition, I hold a genuine interest in the MENA region, which is one of the most conflict-ridden areas globally, with countless lives devastated. I pursued my specialization in the region and International Security and dedicated myself to achieving fluency in Arabic. My comprehensive and in-depth expertise has always been my strongest career card. I am one of those “boring” people whose education and actual career are really aligned and, I firmly believe that strategic planning, coupled with education and training, can empower anyone to attain their desired job.

How has the DA helped you develop your career?
The DA nurtures all the necessary qualities to transform you into an international professional. I learned there a comprehensive package of international standards in law, economics, history and political science in addition to advanced international studies and important and relevant cross-cutting issues such as for example gender equality, climate change, cybersecurity, and etc. I also loved that most of the disciplines was  taught by practitioners having built a successful international careers themselves. The DA career services such as consultations with the careers department and career talks, where DA alumni shared their career paths were very helpful to get an understanding of what you would like to do and what not and how to get there.
What particularly stands out for me, is the diverse international student body with individuals from numerous countries, each with their own rich background. This exposure helps students to adapt to an international environment seamlessly and embrace diversity. Furthermore, your fellow colleagues serve as an invaluable networking asset, as they eventually establish their careers in international affairs worldwide and you can exchange the experience and rely on their support.
Another significant advantage is the strategic geographic location of the DA - Vienna is an important international hub, home to many international organizations. The brilliant reputation of the DA, particularly in Vienna, bolsters its students’ chances to start successful careers in these organizations and I benefitted from it every time I got a position in Vienna.

Is there a specific skill set taught at the DA that is particularly useful for your current job?
In fact, I have utilized nearly everything I learned at the DA at various points in my career, often revisiting the concepts and disciplines. However, in particular, I would want to mention the course of Avrum Burg about Israel and the Middle East, which equipped me with a unique perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict and a solution-oriented approach for its analysis. I was highly impressed with Barnaby Crowcroft’s advanced course on the International History of the Middle East. This course provided me with a wealth of well-curated literature and facilitated engaging discussions, which allowed me to deepen my expertise in the region. Under Mr. Crowcroft’s supervision and in consultation with Mr. Burg, I wrote my master’s thesis about the Abraham Agreements and the Arab-Israeli conflict, which I believe played a part in securing my position in Palestine.
Another advanced course by Walter Kemp on transnational organized crime introduced me to the mandate of the organization I am working for and I used my seminar paper devoted to human trafficking routes through Libya as a writing sample to get my internship in UNODC.
Lastly, I would like to emphasize the valuable language skills provided by the DA, which not only enhanced my academic English and Arabic proficiency but also exposed me to the German language.

Where do you think the future will take you?
I envision advancing my career within the United Nations system, focusing on the MENA region. At present, I am learning French to enhance my ability to work effectively in North Africa. Simultaneously, I am developing both my theoretical and practical skills in project development, management, and coordination, as this is the field I aspire to excel in for my future endeavors.

[April 2023]