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Conflict resolution goes beyond peace agreement

Sarah Lombardo

Sarah Lombardo, SSH’15, is Northeastern’s first-ever recipient of the prestigious Pickering Fellowship. She'll continue the work she started on co-op in Bosnia as a graduate student in the law and diplomacy program at the Tufts University Fletcher School this fall

Elec­tions in the fall of 2014 cap­tured the interest of recent North­eastern grad­uate Sarah Lom­bardo. But it wasn’t the midterm elec­tions here in the U.S. It was the gen­eral elec­tions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Lombardo’s atten­tive­ness to the polit­ical land­scape in the Balkan country, which is home to about 3.8 mil­lion people, stems from her co-​​op there in 2013.

Lom­bardo, SSH’15, worked for the Office of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, which has been the face of the country’s inter­na­tional peace efforts since the Bosnian War in the 1990s. There, the Inter­na­tional Affairs major helped design a for­ward plan­ning process for the OHR, which out­lined how it would handle cer­tain issues in the coming elec­tion year, such as cor­rup­tion, par­lia­men­tary stale­mates, and elec­toral cam­paigns char­ac­ter­ized by nation­alist rhetoric.

It was a time when a lot of dif­ferent points of con­tro­versy that had been building up for a long time were coming to a head simul­ta­ne­ously,” Lom­bardo said. “But I saw the influ­ence diplo­mats have in a post-​​conflict setting.”

Her work in for­eign ser­vices did not end with that co-​​op. Ear­lier this month Lom­bardo was named one of 20 recip­i­ents of the 2015 Thomas R. Pick­ering Grad­uate For­eign Affairs Fel­low­ship, making her the first North­eastern stu­dent to receive the honor.

Admin­is­tered for the U.S. Depart­ment of State by the Woodrow Wilson Foun­da­tion, the Pick­ering Fel­low­ship iden­ti­fies and cul­ti­vates out­standing col­lege stu­dents and recent grad­u­ates whose aca­d­emic back­grounds match the skill set needed by the State Depart­ment and who are ded­i­cated to rep­re­senting U.S. inter­ests abroad.

Lom­bardo will enroll this fall at the Tufts Uni­ver­sity Fletcher School, where she will study for her master’s degree in law and diplo­macy. As part of the fel­low­ship, she will also com­plete two intern­ships: one at the State Depart­ment and another at an embassy abroad. After grad­u­a­tion, Lom­bardo must com­plete at least five years of ser­vice as a For­eign Ser­vice Officer.

It’s cer­tainly a very intim­i­dating com­mit­ment,” Lom­bardo said. “But after working in Bosnia, I didn’t want to leave and I enjoyed the work. It con­firmed for me that I could see myself doing this as a career.”

During her studies and For­eign Ser­vice Officer com­mit­ment, Lom­bardo plans to focus on con­flict res­o­lu­tion, with a par­tic­ular emphasis on the post-​​conflict period. She acknowl­edged that those involved in nego­ti­a­tions often think they can move on once a peace agree­ment is reached. But she dis­missed that notion, saying that’s when the work really gets started.

I gained a pas­sion for that in Bosnia, because it has been 20 years since the peace agree­ment and there are still so many prob­lems and a real tan­gible lack of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” Lom­bardo said.

– By Joe O’Connell

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