Two years after graduating from the University of Antwerp with a master’s degree, Pedro Inchauste represented his country in the Security Council. The Bolivian tells his story.
In 2014-2015, I did a Master’s degree in Development Evaluation and Management at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB) of the University of Antwerp. Before, I had already been studying and working for several years.
In 2006, I started a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the Universidad Católica Boliviana (UCB). A few years later, in 2011, I was awarded a scholarship for a two-year Master’s degree in Political Science at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. I also gained some work experience as a research assistant at the UCB and a project assistant at a Bolivian NGO.
Friendships for life
I had a unique experience in Antwerp. The group was very multicultural, with a lot of students from the South. An eye opener. I learned a lot from my fellow students, many of whom had interesting professional experience, and made friends for life. After all, we work in the same field and are always willing to help each other.
The subject of my degree in Antwerp also proved very useful. By learning more about development, I had a more specialised profile than people who only studied political science. That certainly helped me in the labour market.
After I graduated, things went pretty quickly. I began an internship at the Interamerican Development Bank in Bolivia. I then found a job at the city council of La Paz. After that, I started to work for the Bolivian vice-president, which eventually opened doors to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We simply cannot tackle the enormous challenges the world faces on our own. We need global solutions to global problems.
At that time, Bolivia had just taken up a seat on the United Nations Security Council (2017-2018), where I represented my country as political coordinator. A very stressful and busy job, but one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences in my life.
We definitely had an impact on the functioning of the Security Council and on world peace in general. We put the problem of landmines on the table, which resulted in the unanimously adopted Resolution 2365 in June 2017, the very first on the subject. We also initiated a discussion on the role of 'transboundary waters' in peace and security and on natural resources as the cause of conflicts.
Although the decisions in the Security Council were taken by the ambassador, in consultation with the minister and some senior officials in La Paz, I definitely had my say. As political coordinator, it was my job to advise the ambassador and officials on the various themes. I also helped to formulate Resolution 2365 and acted as 'facilitator' during the negotiations on that resolution.
Investing in international education allows a country to build bridges with other cultures. It is a win-win situation.
Building bridges with other cultures
Studying abroad is something I can only recommend. It opens your mind, you get to know other people and build bridges with other cultures. Above all, you realise that we have much more to gain by working together than by isolating ourselves. We simply cannot tackle the enormous challenges the world faces on our own. We need global solutions to global problems.
I would therefore advise the Belgian government to continue investing in international education, as this allows a country to build bridges with other cultures. It is a win-win situation. If you live in Belgium for one or more years as a foreign student and the country opens its doors to you, you will forever remain grateful to it. And if some of these foreign students later go on to occupy important positions in their home country, they automatically feel sympathy for Belgium.
Not for poor families
Unfortunately, poorer parents in Bolivia are not able to let their children study abroad. Their only option is to send them to the public universities in Bolivia, which are free and offer decent-quality education.
Personally, I come from an upper-middle class family. My father is a civil engineer, my mother a lawyer. In Switzerland, I studied with a scholarship, for my Master’s degree in Belgium I took out a loan from the bank, which I could only get because my parents are sufficiently wealthy. But most families in Bolivia would never get such a loan.
The situation can be improved by more scholarships, which should be granted not only by foreign governments and institutions, but also by Bolivia itself. In addition, student loans should be cheaper and more accessible.