Diana Chavez-Varela is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Political Economy with a concentration in International Development and a minor in Human Rights. During her time at the UC Berkeley, Diana has executed extensive casework, project management, and research in the non-profit sector including the International Rescue Committee, Amnesty International, the World Economic Forum, UNICEF, and the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley's School of Law. During her time at UC Berkeley, Diana’s interest in the Middle East was exacerbated through my direct involvement with refugee families at the International Rescue Committee and through my research at Boalt’s School of Law Human Rights Center.
At the Human Rights Center, Diana verified/analyzed more than 150+ records of human rights violations, managed a team of 30+ research apprentices, led 6+ research projects – most of which were focused on the Middle East – and supported operations across international research teams based at the University of Cambridge, Hong Kong University, the University of Pretoria, and the University of Toronto. During her time at the Human Rights Center, Diana has actively looked for opportunity to focus on projects to the Middle East and was involved in Amnesty International’s collaborative investigation into war crimes by the US-led coalition against Raqqa, Syria. The investigation was performed by various universities and most recently, Diana and her co-worker had the honor of presenting UC Berkeley’s contribution to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
Working at the intersection of human rights, technology, and management, Diana has also learned the ropes of advocacy in the digital era. Her involvement at the Human Rights Center led to the opportunity to collaborate with law school students by performing research with UNICEF Innovation, the World Economic Forum, and leading technology companies on the positive and negative effects of Artificial Intelligence on children’s human rights. UNICEF Innovation most recently published our “Memorandum on Artificial Intelligence and Child Rights” as well as the full research project (UNICEF Innovation, 2019).
In addition to her involvement at the Human Rights Center, Diana worked from January 2018 to January 2019 at the International Rescue Committee as an Intensive Case Management and Community Engagement Intern where she assisted 35+ refugee families from the Middle East with high barriers to self-sufficiency such as adults with serious medical conditions. She advocated on behalf of 50+ clients by connecting them to needed treatment, resources, and psychosocial support in the larger Bay Area and provided IRC representation at 45+ appointments including Alameda County Social Services and USCIS in Oakland, California.
Diana’s work experience as well as her courses focused on International Affairs, Global Studies, and Political Economy addressed not only the discourse on inequality between the United States regions such as Latin America but also the bilateral and complex relationship that has existed between the United States and the Middle East. The cultural exchanges she experienced while working at the International Rescue Committee and the Human Rights Center as well as through works of literature she has engaged with inspired her to expand her knowledge of the Middle East. Diana is particularly drawn to participate in the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Middle East Program not only due to its outstanding curriculum but also to gain on-the-ground experience with dialogue efforts in the Middle East, receive cross-cultural exposure to ongoing debates, and a nuanced understanding of the greater complexities of this vital region.
A strong block in the world economy and a leader in new methods, initiatives, and entrepreneurship on behalf of development organizations focused on security, digital health, migration, environment, and policy, the Middle East is a key geopolitical player in the international arena. By taking a look at regional practices to reduce the institutional framework behind inequality and the socio-political mobilizations that seek to transform these structures, Diana aspires to become a more informed policy-maker and human rights advocate since policy should be reflective of what the reality is on the ground.