This is the first in an ongoing series featuring students and alumni of the Syracuse University Public Diplomacy Program.
Coming at you from Kampala, Uganda; capital of the Pearl of Africa (so named by Winston Churchill on his tour of Africa back in the day).
Cameo Cheung by the Mandela National Stadium in Kampala, Uganda
As an intern with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in democracy/governance/conflict and public affairs, I have spent much of the last month catching up on the incredible work that USAID is doing in Uganda. I am coming to understand that much of USAID’s work in supporting, implementing, and overseeing programs carefully and consciously aligns with broader U.S. government priorities. Each person’s role in the grand scheme may seem small, but every one of my colleagues is also integral to ensuring the long-term success of the agency’s development work.
The Democracy, Governance, and Conflict team is working to support capacity building activities of civil society groups and Ugandan government agencies. I like to think of this work as the latter component of three dimensions of development work—people, resources, and processes—and I cannot think of a better place to be involved in supporting democracy and good governance than Uganda, a country with such great potential. The general election in February 2011 saw incredibly high turnover in Uganda’s political landscape, albeit not in the highest office. As many officials in Uganda are serving their first term of office, the team has focused its recent attention on ensuring that new officials have the tools they need to serve their constituencies. But, this is not a stand-alone initiative. USAID’s Foreign Service Officers work tirelessly to develop new strategies in partnership with a wide variety of actors (e.g. government, non-government organizations, civil society organizations, etc.) to make government and government services more effective and accessible. Having taken courses at the Maxwell School on development in Africa and foreign policy, words cannot express how much I relish the opportunity to participate in the implementation of things I have thus far only studied. The theoretical foundation established by the Maxwell School has prepared me well for this internship. While I have much to learn, I know I am well prepared to embrace this experience.
In addition to my role on the Democracy, Governance, and Conflict team, I draft materials about USAID’s different programs with the Development Outreach and Communications (DOC) Officer—an undertaking that bolsters my appreciation for the skills I have gained from my studies at the Newhouse School. I am working with the DOC Officer to write press releases, to prepare reports, and to develop a multi-media informational/promotional package to help USAID tell the story of the U.S. government’s involvement in the development of a country half way around the world. In addition, I have the opportunity to be involved in the U.S. Mission in Uganda’s innovative, integrated communications strategy. I am still working to develop a comprehensive understanding of the interagency coordination required for this integrated strategy to succeed. I am a lucky girl to have the chance to learn from the people here in Uganda.
The more I get into this work, the more each experience reinforces my conviction that the decision to pursue public diplomacy was the right one for me.
Views expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the United States government or any of its agencies.