When in Rome…Learn How to Solve World Hunger!

Written by current MPA/MAIR scholar Camila Urbina Escobar 

Maxwell New MPA Student Headshots 2015-16

This past week Maxwell offered 24 of my classmates and me the unique opportunity to attend a class on Food Security in Rome. Our classroom was the heart of the UN operations to eradicate hunger: the World Food Program (WFP), the (FAO) and (IFAD) and leading our class was the woman that transformed humanitarian work on food security as we know it, Professor Catherine Bertini.

In what was truly a learning marathon, for three days we visited the headquarters of the WFP, arguably the most effective humanitarian organization in the UN system. We learned the ins-outs of their operations, hearing from experienced passionate practitioners that frankly conveyed the challenges and opportunities of a career in humanitarian aid and international management, intertwined with stories from their years of experience in the field in difficult places like Sudan, North Korea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It was a master class on the management of international organizations, we learned about logistics, communication, monitoring, and budgeting as well as the innovations in the WFP nutrition program and their biggest challenge yet, to eradicate hunger around the world by 2030. In the words of the current WFP director who kindly received us in her office in our last afternoon “Our goal is that in a generation we can close our eyes at night and sleep soundly knowing that no child in the world is going to bed hungry. ”

We also visited the headquarters of the FAO where we learned about the more theoretical and political side of the food security equation, in stark contrast with the WFP hands on approach. It was fascinating to hear how statistics and the creation of Indexes are helping the UN target the most food insecurity population and the places in the world most at risk of famines and droughts. We learned about the international food safety codex that creates coherent food standards around the world and the organizations take on the controversial GMOs. We were received at IFAD as well, a little-know international financial organization in the UN system, that provides micro financing and support to government to aid the development of smallholder farmers and vulnerable communities around the world so they can grow their own food and participate in markets to break the cycle of poverty. We learned first hand the global efforts to eradicate world hunger and attain a sustainable global food production that with allow us to feed the currently one billion people that go hungry everyday.

Rome provide a dreamy backdrop for our class, centuries of history surrounded us in the eternal city. Even though our free time was limited, we went sightseeing, visiting the coliseum, the pantheon, making wishes at the Trevi fountain and receiving a blessing from Pope Francis. We drank many espressos, ate creamy gelato, and heaps of fresh delicious pasta and celebrated dancing away our last night in Rome!

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity not only to prepare those of us wishing to initiate careers in international relations but to give us a chance to understand that solving the worlds most daunting problems is in the hands of passionate, innovative professionals and Maxwell will give the opportunities to cultivate our talents to prepare for this challenges.