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Dr Annie Herro: Towards a standing UN peacekeeping service



7 February 2013

Dr Annie Herro
"Peacekeeping at the moment is very ad hoc when dealing with international conflict," explains Dr Annie Herro from the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS)

For Dr Annie Herro, the completion of her PhD with the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) was a culmination of her long interest in social issues and policy-making.

"I've always been passionate about social and political sciences," says Herro, who began working with non-government organisations such as UNICEF after completing her undergraduate degree. Dr Herro decided to further her passion by enrolling in a Master of Human Rights at Columbia University in New York.

"New York was amazing. I took full advantage of the internship opportunities and I was regularly exposed to distinguished speakers such as Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. But I knew I wanted to pursue my study in a smaller and more nurturing community- a place where I wasn't just a number."

Dr Herro found this welcoming community when she decided to undertake her PhD with CPACS. "There is nothing else like CPACS in Australia," she says. "They encourage a study of topics that are academically rigorous, but practical in regards to policy."

Dr Herro's thesis, A UN Emergency Peace Service: An Ambitious Idea Whose Time Has Come? fits this category. In order to look at the attitudes towards the establishment of a permanent emergency peace service, Herro interviewed many political, military and non-state figures.

In addition to the interviews, which took place in Canberra, Jakarta and New York, she also attained documents from UN conferences. Contrary to the idea that a PhD is a solitary pursuit, Herro found that her approach has been hands on. She says that CPACS encourages its students to be "politically bold".

"Peacekeeping at the moment is very ad hoc when dealing with international conflict," Dr Herro explains, "and the idea for a standing UN Peacekeeping Service has garnered a lot of attention in recent years."

Dr Herro's PhD doctoral research is the first to explore the topic in-depth and to gather a range of opinions on the issue. She uncovered that there are differing responses to the proposal of the Peace service. "The reasons my interviewees gave could never just be put down to their nationality or occupation," says Dr Herro, who abandoned such a simplistic notion for a more nuanced approach.

"Those who supported the establishment of the UN Emergency Peace Service [UNEPS] proposal tended to believe that the international community has the responsibility to intervene with force if a state fails to protect their population against atrocities such as genocide," Dr Herro explains. "Those who didn't support the proposal were opposed to the UN for various reasons and believed that UNEPS would not be used to the purpose for which it was intended- to save lives."

After teaching and studying at universities both here and abroad, Herro believes the University of Sydney is aesthetically on par with those in the Ivy League. However, it is the support, and not the sandstone, that she finds most inspiring.

"CPACS is housed in one little building and everyone is always there. It's a relaxed environment and there's such camaraderie, but it's so motivating at the same time."

Dr Herro completed her thesis earlier in the year, and has been lecturing at the University of Sydney in the time since. She remains positive about her own future and is still passionate about CPACS.

"It is a super-tight, super hard-working group of people. They are realistic, but they're full of hope for change. And they're so committed to their research."

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