Swarthmore College Department of

Peace & Conflict Studies Blog

Olivia Ensign ’12 and the Quaker United Nations Office

by Olivia Ensign ’12


Olivia Ensign '12 and the Quaker United Nations OfficeAs a senior I decided to take on the challenge of a double credit thesis to fulfill the requirements of my Peace and Conflict Studies honors minor. I chose to write my thesis on the evolution and intersection of the fields of Security Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies. This topic was the culmination of four years of seminars and individual inquiry. Completing this work, eventually titled “Separated at Birth: An Analysis of the Origins and Evolution of Peace and Conflict Studies and Security Studies,” was simultaneously the most draining and rewarding experience of my time at Swarthmore.  My continued interest in the theories and applications of Peace and Conflict Studies led me to apply for my current position as a Program Assistant with the Quaker United Nations Office. This yearlong fellowship has so far been an amazing experience.


The Quaker United Nations Office represents the interests of Quakers worldwide at the United Nations. Much of QUNO’s work consists of facilitating informal, off the record dialogue among relevant stakeholders on the role of the UN in peacebuilding and prevention efforts. In addition to helping plan and execute these meetings, my role as a Program Assistant consists of monitoring developments in the work of the Peacebuilding Commission in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I also track developments in UN action in Iran and Iraq. My duties include attending relevant meetings at the U.N. as well as monitoring academic journals and news sources in order to gather information on the issues QUNO engages around. Another area of work I am engaged on is the Palestinian bid for an upgraded status at the UN. This work includes updating the Palestine Resource, an online database intended to be a source of information for activists engaged around the issue of Palestinian statehood, and attending meetings of the Israel-Palestine NGO working group. Finally, I work on QUNO’s engagement around the Post 2015 Development Agenda, the framework that will replace the MDGs upon their expiration.


My work with QUNO has reaffirmed my interest in the role of international organizations and international law. As a result I decided to apply for law school with the aim of completing a degree in international human rights law.