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Conflict resolution goes beyond peace agreement

Elections in the fall of 2014 captured the interest of recent Northeastern graduate Sarah Lombardo. But it wasn’t the midterm elections here in the U.S. It was the general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Lombardo’s attentiveness to the political landscape in the Balkan country, which is home to about 3.8 million people, stems from her co-op there in 2013.

Lombardo, SSH’15, worked for the Office of the High Representative, which has been the face of the country’s international peace efforts since the Bosnian War in the 1990s. There, the International Affairs major helped design a forward planning process for the OHR, which outlined how it would handle certain issues in the coming election year, such as corruption, parliamentary stalemates, and electoral campaigns characterized by nationalist rhetoric.

“It was a time when a lot of different points of controversy that had been building up for a long time were coming to a head simultaneously,” Lombardo said. “But I saw the influence diplomats have in a post-conflict setting.”

Her work in foreign services did not end with that co-op. Earlier this month Lombardo was named one of 20 recipients of the 2015 Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, making her the first Northeastern student to receive the honor.

Administered for the U.S. Department of State by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Pickering Fellowship identifies and cultivates outstanding college students and recent graduates whose academic backgrounds match the skill set needed by the State Department and who are dedicated to representing U.S. interests abroad.

Lombardo will enroll this fall at the Tufts University Fletcher School, where she will study for her master’s degree in law and diplomacy. As part of the fellowship, she will also complete two internships: one at the State Department and another at an embassy abroad. After graduation, Lombardo must complete at least five years of service as a Foreign Service Officer.

“It’s certainly a very intimidating commitment,” Lombardo said. “But after working in Bosnia, I didn’t want to leave and I enjoyed the work. It confirmed for me that I could see myself doing this as a career.”

During her studies and Foreign Service Officer commitment, Lombardo plans to focus on conflict resolution, with a particular emphasis on the post-conflict period. She acknowledged that those involved in negotiations often think they can move on once a peace agreement is reached. But she dismissed that notion, saying that’s when the work really gets started.

“I gained a passion for that in Bosnia, because it has been 20 years since the peace agreement and there are still so many problems and a real tangible lack of reconciliation,” Lombardo said.

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