By Derek Pace
With less than one week left in Colorado, I’m still astounded at how much I’ve learned in just a few (very short) months. The bittersweet goodbyes have started, and with each passing day, I’m realizing that my time here is all too limited. Here’s a recap of the projects in which I’ve dabbled at work since my last post.
After transitioning away from the research and data collection phase of the Maritime Security Index, my time at work has been consumed almost entirely by writing. If you know me personally, you know that that’s the exact opposite of a problem in my eyes. I love to write; I could do it all day and have even thought of doing it professionally. At One Earth Future, I’ve been writing various forms of content for the Maritime Security Index, including country reports and issue briefs. The former takes the form of a two-page report that contains, among other things, two mini-reports on a country’s place within the international maritime sector. One mini-report focuses on something that the country is doing well, or perhaps on a certain maritime advantage that the country has due to its resources or coastal tourism industry. The other is more constructive and centers on a challenge that the country is currently facing or a way in which the country could improve.
These mini-reports, which we call a “solution” and a “challenge” respectively, can come from any of OEF’s nine maritime security issue areas: Piracy & Armed Robbery, Coastal Tourism, Coastal Welfare, Illicit Trades, Maritime Mixed Migration, Blue Economy, Fisheries, Maritime Enforcement Capacity, and International Cooperation. Each of these issue areas impacts a country’s maritime security situation in numerous ways. Some of the impacts are discrete, but usually, they are connected very clearly to other issues. For example, a country that has a strong fishing industry and healthy fish stocks in its waters will likely have a relatively high level of coastal welfare. When fishers can catch plenty of fish, feed their families, and receive artisanal fishing protections from the government, economic insecurity on the coast is reduced. Here’s another example: countries that have a low level of maritime enforcement capacity, meaning a small, weak navy that cannot adequately perform the full range of naval functions, is at a higher risk of piracy in its waters. All of the issues are connected, and I enjoy seeing how they fit together to form a broader picture.
I’ve also written geographic introductions for many countries. These are simply short, 100-120-word blurbs about the location of a country, its borders, and its coastline. The country introductions will be placed at the beginning of the “solution” and “challenge” reports to provide background information for reference.
Finally, I have written several region summaries–reports on the Maritime Security Index data findings for a specific issue area–for the Middle East-North Africa region. The region summaries have given me a prime opportunity to delve back into a region that I’ve found fascinating for years and that I explored in my undergraduate career in both Religious Studies and Arabic classes. I looked through this year’s data for the forthcoming Maritime Security Index for the Middle East and North Africa and described, broadly, what each issue area looks like in that region. I wrote one region summary for each of the nine issue areas with the exception of Piracy & Armed Robbery, since piracy is one of the specialties of Stable Seas (my division at OEF) and our team boasts multiple piracy experts.
During my last two weeks of work, I’ve been doing research for an extensive report on terrorist organizations and the various ways in which they and their peer organizations use the maritime sector in pursuit of their goals. Such use of the maritime sector can include anything from smuggling illicit drugs by sea to running sex trafficking rings in ports to bribing port inspectors to keep quiet about illegal shipments of drugs, arms, gems, and even wildlife.
I’m incredibly proud of the work that I have done at OEF. My talent and efforts have been recognized and celebrated here, and I can clearly see the value of the work that I am doing, which, I’ve come to realize in recent years, is essential to my happiness in the workplace. I don’t want to do something for no reason; I have to be certain that my work will contribute to a broader mission in some tangible way. I’ve had that certainty all summer at OEF. Recently, our division leader sent our team a first draft of one of the two-page country reports, complete with text boxes and graphs. I was, quite simply, overwhelmed when I saw the text that I had written right there on the page. It was then that I realized that when OEF publishes the Maritime Security Index this fall, my writing will be published along with it, and will subsequently be read by government officials both in the US and abroad, as well as by other maritime security stakeholders, such as conflict studies organizations, nonprofits, and academics. What I’ve been able to do here is exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, and while I genuinely do not want to leave Colorado, I will leave with the certainty that I have contributed substantially to numerous exciting projects this summer and discovered a new interest that I may never have discovered otherwise.