Case study

Senior political affairs officer — Nuur Mohamud Sheekh

Nuur studied MSc Violence, Conflict and Development at SOAS University of London. He is currently working on the mediation process for South Sudan

How did your degree prepare you for your career?

SOAS provided me with both a theoretical and a practical grounding in my area of work. The institution is both inspiring and motivating and makes you aspire to lead by providing you with the right tools. SOAS students are encouraged to do independent research and ask critical questions. Activities on and off campus are geared towards the search for social justice. All these elements provided me with the leadership skills to fulfil my current role.

Can you describe a typical working day?

I brief the Special Envoy, update member states and Addis-based diplomats and partners on peace implementation in South Sudan, and areas where they may engage in support of the implementation. I write briefs for the Envoy. A lot of my time involves responding to email queries from parties to the conflict, stakeholders and other partners. I use social media, especially Twitter, to update followers on our mandate and activities.

I also help organise high-level meetings of the IGAD Council (foreign ministers) and the Summit (Assembly of Heads of State and Government) especially when they deliberate on South Sudan.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

The best moments are when we get the parties to reach a common position. The signing of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) on 12 September 2018 was, I would say without hesitation, a significant milestone and one where I celebrated wildly with colleagues and friends.

What aspect do you find the most challenging?

Mostly helping parties to the conflict and stakeholders to harmonise their positions and also sometimes agree on representations. I work with highly experienced diplomats who are well versed in conflict mediation and help parties to reach compromises.

What advice would you give to anyone considering studying development studies?

Development studies graduates are sought after by international organisations and governments to undertake independent research and analyse policy. They need to appreciate the international, political and development situation, and especially Sustainable Development Goals (SGD), economic policies to overcome poverty, causes of migration and the politics around it, and theories and practice of political economy. The list is endless and, in the world we live in, these challenges always require qualified people to help craft responses to them.

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