Massey PhD student Vanessa Bramwell was privately a bit daunted when she was invited to her first offshore Track II event as one of the Foundation’s “genepool” of NextGen candidates.
But she was pleasantly surprised by what she encountered at the Asia Pacific Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur in June 2019. Delegates from around the region came together to discuss rules-based regional security to 2020 and beyond.
“It was quite informal and not stuffy and awkward,” she says. “The delegates were at various career stages and levels of prestige.
“I really saw in action the importance of making connections face to face. That’s the real benefit of Track II.”
Vanessa’s research interest is critical security – a discipline within security studies that rejects mainstream approaches – with a focus on children in conflict. The highlight at Kuala Lumpur for her was a session on the Rohingya refugee crisis along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
“You would never in any other environment attend that session,” Vanessa says. “There was a Myanmar academic speaking to a leader of a humanitarian organisation working in the Bangladesh camps. The discussion ended in a bit of a gridlock, but it was still instructional to see how they interacted.”
Vanessa’s ambition lies in academia. “I’m big on the Asia Pacific region from a humanitarian and child security perspective,” she says. “It’s important that the region has a working infrastructure that’s harmonious.
“A lot of Asia Pacific nations don’t agree on humanitarian solutions, making conflict more likely. And then there’s the impact of climate change.”
Vanessa is now planning travel to Japan and possibly Bangkok and New York to research staff perspectives on UNICEF’s intervention policies around conflict-affected children - looking at whether the norms by which UNICEF operates are appropriate on the ground?
A mother of two, Vanessa says she’s naturally gravitated towards children in her research. “Maybe I want to save the world,” she jokes.