The effect of philanthropy is often tangible years after a gift was made. For this series, Arts & Science spoke with some of our internationally-based alumni, one of whom was invited to deliver a lecture at a centre made possible by philanthropy, and the others who, as students, had benefited from donor-funded scholarships.
Interview by Diana Kuprel
Charmaine Stanley (BA International Relations & Political Science, MA Political Science) is a PhD candidate in political science, whose work has been supported by scholarships. She is also Deputy Director of the General Relations section of the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei.
DK: Tell us about your doctoral dissertation.
CS: I’m exploring the shifting playing field between civil society and the state in cyberspace, and what this means for their relative influence in peacebuilding contexts. While traditionally the state has been conceived as providing security for its citizens, it is often itself a key source of insecurity. Civil society thus has a vital role to play as a watchdog and advocate for local communities, and in promoting sustainable peace underpinned by human rights and socio-economic justice.
DK: How did you become interested in the Middle East?
CS: During my MA, I did an internship at the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (now the Canadian International Council), which is a national, nonpartisan, non-governmental organization dedicated to the discussion and analysis of international affairs. Canada was a human security pioneer, and I was interested in work that could in some small way assist war-affected people. So after graduation, I spent a year in the Durable Solutions Unit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Office in Cairo. That’s how I became acquainted with the Middle East.
DK: Tell us about your current work with the Canadian Trade Office.
CS: I was in the middle of my PhD and thought I didn’t have time for a full-time job. But a friend of mine had left the PhD program for the foreign service, and she kept encouraging me to apply. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt just to write the exams and see what happened.
When I first joined the foreign service, they put me on the Iraq Desk in the Middle East division in Ottawa. But after the Arab Spring broke out, there was so much going on in our division that I had the opportunity to take on responsibilities related to number of other countries, like Tunisia and Egypt. After that, you apply formally for assignments of interest. I opted to stick with the Middle East, but applied for the Syria Desk. I had spent a month living in Damascus earlier in my PhD, and the pro-democracy protests that began the Syrian uprising had recently started. As the war intensified, I spent a lot of time traveling in the region and dealing with the Syrian opposition.
Next came my first overseas assignment, here in Taipei. I wanted to work on at least one other region besides the Middle East. And it was an opportunity to become fluent in Mandarin.
DK: What are your thoughts about the role Canada should play in the current refugee crisis?
CS: The need is vast and acute. But Canada also has a lot to give. And we’re a country with a history of accepting dispossessed people, people who have gone on to make tremendous contributions to Canada. It’s first and foremost about helping human beings in need, but it’s also about standing by our longstanding allies in Europe and our partners in the Middle East who are on the front lines of this crisis. No one country has the ability to handle this alone.
Photo: Diana Kuprel