IES Abroad: What can students expect if they take your IES Abroad courses?
Christine Alfsen (CA): Students can expect hands-on-learning as they experience the interconnected social, environmental, and economic challenges facing Northern and Southern Mediterranean countries through course-related trips.
IES Abroad: What is the most important takeaway you hope students leave with after taking your course?
CA: I hope students walk away with a sense of the complexity of challenges in the environment and society of the Mediterranean region, and an awareness of possible solutions at all scales from local communities to the EU level of governance.
IES Abroad: Your work focuses on development economics, political ecology, and urban sustainability. How did you develop interests in these fields?
CA: My work at the United Nations focused on natural resources management in a context of fast economic growth and social transformations. This experience led me to focus on the connections between people and nature in cities with an emphasis on the developing world.
IES Abroad: You were a civil servant with the United Nations for nearly 40 years. Describe your proudest career achievement in that time.
CA: I participated in the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations in Cambodia (UNTAC) from 1992-93. UNTAC was one of the largest ever peace keeping operations undertaken by the UN. It was unique in that it included a rehabilitation component in addition to its mandate to organize free and fair elections. The idea was not only to establish the groundwork for good governance, but also to help the elected government establish legal systems and institutions that would provide an architecture for good stewardship of resources.
In that context, I was in charge of natural resources essentially forestry and mineral resources to make sure that revenues from their exploitations would get to public coffers while maintaining the health of ecosystems. We helped pass a Security Council resolution prohibiting the export of logs from Cambodia and established forestry codes.