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Internships - Aneesha Kumar

Internships - Aneesha Kumar

After completing her degree at the Conflict Resolution Institute in November 2010, Aneesha Kumar's interest in international conflict resolution drew her to Washington, D.C., and an internship with the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD). For quite some time, Aneesha's goal was to work for the organization, whose mission it is to "promote a systems-based approach to peacebuilding and to facilitate the transformation of deep-rooted social conflict." Happily, since January 2011, Aneesha has been working as the India-Pakistan Program Manager in a year-long internship with IMTD, a position which provides her with significant responsibility but also allows her substantial flexibility.

As the India-Pakistan Program Manager, Aneesha oversees and directs IMTD's conflict resolution efforts and projects in the region. From "the creation of an idea to the development, coordination, and implementation of a project," Aneesha is the sole person charged with project development for the region. Aneesha works directly with retired Ambassador John W. McDonald, chairman and chief executive officer of IMTD, in the coordination of her projects. She notes that "there is no one in the middle between the former am bassador and myself, so that the work for the region is almost entirely on my shoulders." Although only months into her internship, Aneesha relishes the responsibility, affirming that "IMTD is a great organization to find your own voice and explore your interests; for instance, if you'd like to set up or experiment with new projects, this would be a great place because there's a lot of flexibility. It may be a one-person show but there's a lot of scope and freedom."

Aneesha is working on two projects. The first, a continuing project, involves the establishment of a "peace corridor" between India and Pakistan to benefit border Sikh communities. In contention are two important shrines for adherents of Sikhism that are located on opposite sides of the border. This has created "an unpredictable situation, with visas hard to get, even though for Sikhs the shrines are important because one of the shrines is the tomb of their founder," making a pilgrimage to these holy sites an intrinsic component of their faith. Aneesha affirms, "The whole point is that it's a great peacebuilding measure between both countries," with a peace corridor conceivably leading to the creation of a peace zone for the harmonious interaction of Sikh communities in both countries. With the second project, Aneesha is organizing cattle donations for the victims of the 2010 Pakistan floods. According to Aneesha, the communities within the agricultural sector of Pakistan "lost more than 33% of their livestock, and thus their livelihood, in the wake of the floods." Although still in the process of development, Aneesha anticipates the project will serve to bolster stability and peace in the aftermath of the devastation.

For Aneesha, the skills she learned at the Conflict Resolution Institute have
been immensely helpful in the conduct of her work. A significant aspect of her work at IMTD is interacting with people, and as Aneesha states, "As Program Manager, you need to know the right people and manage a lot of contacts. At DU, the mediation course I took taught me skills that have been very useful how to talk to people, active listening skills, how to rephrase things, how to give another person an understanding of how they want to be perceived. "Collaboration and coordination have also been crucial in Aneesha's work. Through CRI, Aneesha states, "I realized how difficult it can be to bring people together, to get them on the same page. The most important thing was that I realized I had a sense of confidence that helped me interact with different people. Honestly, the program made me believe in both what I was doing and in how I could incorporate theory into practice. The Reflective Practice and Evaluation course was really useful in teaching me the importance of clarity." Finally, Aneesha found that her academic work on the development of proposals and on grant writing beneficial, given her extensive work on the formulation of goals and objectives for the programs she manages.

In addition to being able to utilize the conflict resolution skills she learned from DU, Aneesha has also become acquainted with the organization's unique approach to conflict resolution, multi-track diplomacy. For IMTD, "multi-track diplomacy is an expansion of the 'Track One, Track Two' paradigm that has defined the conflict resolution field during the last decade." As an elaboration of the traditional paradigm, "multi-track diplomacy is a conceptual way to view the process of international peacemaking as a living system. It looks at the web of interconnected activities, individuals, institutions, and communities that operate together for a common goal: a world at peace."

For Aneesha, IMTD's multi-sectoral approach has enabled a far more nuanced understanding of the non-profit sector's role in conflict resolution, as she relates that it is more complex and unpredictable than she anticipated. "Some days go by slowly; other days are fast-paced and more challenging. It is very different from what I thought it would be as a sector. In practice, so much overlaps in conflict resolution – it isn't just the government, or a matter of funding or communication, it's all interrelated. I have had to learn how to maneuver in this complexity." For those who are interested in exploring opportunities at IMTD, Aneesha notes that there are two options for prospective interns: the first is to undertake a two-to-three month internship, during which interns complete research and become involved with certain projects; the second option is to commit to an extended year-long internship as
a Program Manager, which entails directing entire projects on one's own. Aneesha also recommends that students who know what their interests are in international conflict resolution further develop their country or region specialization during their Master's degree studies.

Overall, Aneesha considers that her internship experience thus far has been exceedingly rewarding and she looks forward to continuing work on her projects. She concludes, "It feels right. After doing my degree, it feels like a little step in the right direction, towards a long and promising career."

-- Ambar Velazquez