Human Rights and Peacekeeping Operations: Student Maria Young

Born and raised in Milan, Italy, Maria Young is an International Affairs major with minors in Legal Studies and Economics. She’s currently doing a virtual internship at the Carabinieri’s Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) in Vicenza, in the north of Italy. One of Italy’s main law enforcement agencies, the Carabinieri are an independent branch of the Italian armed forces.

Student Maria Young

Student Maria Young

Tell us more about your work at CoESPU.
JCU Professor Silvia Scarpa first introduced me to this opportunity last semester while I was taking some of her courses. Professor Scarpa has been collaborating with the Carabinieri for a long time. I started working with CoESPU in January, and I have been tasked with drafting a report on the rise of human trafficking in areas of conflict during peacekeeping operations. The report tries to outline the trends of human trafficking in these areas, and how peacekeepers indirectly contribute to the rise of the phenomenon by often requesting sexual services from locals while on duty. My intent is to criticize the approach that the international community has taken in addressing this issue. I try to offer solutions that focus on tackling the root causes rather than instilling a zero-tolerance policy and criminalizing actions that will keep persisting. One of the topics that CoESPU peacekeepers often have to deal with during training is sexual exploitation and abuse in field operations.

What’s the most important thing that you learned from this internship?
I’ve only been working with CoESPU for two months and I still have a lot of work to do, but I think that the most important assets I am developing are time management and professionalism. I believe this is an immense learning experience for my personal growth and also because I am learning so much on a topic that I didn’t know I was curious about. In fact, the internship was only supposed to last three months, but I have been enjoying researching and writing so much that I have asked for an extension!

Tell us about your background.
I have always attended international schools, as my father is from the United States and wanted me to follow an American educational system. JCU has provided me with the kind of program I was looking for, as well as an international and diverse environment I was accustomed to while allowing me to stay close to home.

You’re an International Affairs major with minors in Legal Studies and Economics. How did the concepts you learned in your classes help you with the internship and vice versa?
I have discussed many of the issues I am addressing in my report in courses such as International Organizations, Comparative Politics, Public International Law, and so on. As an International Affairs major, I am used to writing long papers, and this has definitely prepared me to approach this long report.

Carabinieri's Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) in Vicenza

Carabinieri’s Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) in Vicenza

Tell us about a challenge that you encountered in your virtual internship. How did you overcome it?
So far, the first thing that comes to mind is balancing work with my university studies. Since I am working remotely, I can manage my own schedule. This can be difficult when setting up priorities, however, in the past two months, I have been able to balance everything properly. A couple of weeks ago I was able to visit CoESPU and meet the Lieutenant Colonel in Vicenza. It was amazing! He showed me around the Centre where I got to see the classrooms where most of the training takes place and the room where field simulations are carried out.

What are your plans for the future?
I would like to pursue a Master’s in Public International Law. However, I still have two semesters at JCU, and I may change my mind. Career-wise, I am open to any kind of job, as I feel I still need to understand what I really like by putting what I have learned into practice. My aspiration has always been to work with international organizations such as the U.N. and the E.U. Recently, I’ve realized that working in places such as CoESPU, in the interest of the international community, could be another option. One thing I’ve realized working with the Lieutenant Colonel is that you don’t have to work in a large Non-Governmental or Inter-Governmental Organization to make a difference in the field of international relations. The work that is done “behind the scenes” is often the most important!

January 24, 2022 update 
Maria Young co-authored the article THB for Sexual Exploitation and Peace Operations: A Troublesome Mix with her internship tutor Roberto Gonella (p. 54-59).