When I accepted a summer fellowship for USAID at the American embassy in Sarajevo, I had no idea what a nightmare process the security clearance/background investigation would be. After submitting the same forms several times over and completing three separate sets of fingerprints at the police station in Denver, I thought I would be good to go by the time I arrived in Bosnia. Unfortunately, this was not the case as the individual in charge of collecting/submitting all of my information did not seem to handle the task well and had no answers for my many questions about this enigmatic process. However, this was a bit of a blessing in disguise as my supervisor was able to place me in a different USAID office right up the street from the US embassy for a good experience. Here I was able to work with “Measure”, a monitoring and evaluation team for the agency that collects surveys and completes statistical analyses to gauge the political attitudes of the country as well as the impact that USAID’s projects have had. The data I reviewed revealed a lot of interesting beliefs in Bosnia, such as very conservative attitudes towards women and same sex couples. Additionally, during the two weeks I spent here, I learned about new methods of analyses that are useful for my degree in Global Finance, Trade and Economic Integration. The team that I worked with was supportive and open to my presence in their work.
After the very frustrating process of going through a security clearance/background investigation which took months longer than it should have, I was finally able to start work in the United States Embassy in Sarajevo. The Program and Project office where I am placed is currently in stage of transition, as my original supervisor left for a position in Bangkok after my first day in his office. A temporary officer came in to take his place, but only until the end of July. This has caused some confusion in terms of where I need to be and which projects I should be working on. The inevitable red tape and bureaucracy of the governmental agency has also followed me into the embassy, as approval for my access to USAID’s computer network has been complicated to say the least. Nevertheless, here I have had the opportunity to participate in meetings involving the process of brainstorming new development objectives and creating an agreement with the Swedish International Development Agency to donate over $100,000 to a local LGBTI organization. I’ve been in charge of corresponding with this organization, named the Sarajevo Open Centre, and planning the following meeting with representatives from both embassies to finalize the donation agreement. I am scheduled to brief a visitor from Washington DC about the Open center and its goals next week, which I look forward to planning.
While writing this blog entry, I have just received word that my computer access card is ready. Starting next week, I should become even more involved in the process of forming development goals and projects designed to help with USAID’s goal of Bosnia becoming a more stable country, closer to Euro-Atlantic integration. What I like most about the agency is that it focuses on improving both functioning institutions as well as strengthening the economy via promotion of foreign direct investment and private sector development. What is underlying both of these development objectives, however, is resolving the issues related to ethnic tensions across the country. It is clear that USAID is attempting to address this in order to move forward with the rest of its strategy.