Home>Maha, Associate Expert at the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs


Maha, Associate Expert at the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs

Maha Skah, a French-Moroccan raised across the Netherlands, Libya, and Germany, has graduated in International Development with a regional concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. She currently serves as an Associate Expert at the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.

>What is your role and main responsibilities? 

My role centers around providing technical and political advice regarding the analysis of climate-related security risks and the integration of climate considerations into the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs’ conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and peacemaking work. In particular, I serve as the focal point of our team covering the MENA and West Africa, and the Sahel regions. This consists of providing up-to-date analysis and contributing to briefs, studies, and assessments to support field-based UN Special Political Missions and UN Resident Coordinator's Offices in their efforts to address climate-related security risks. As part of the core team of the inter-agency Climate Security Mechanism, I also collaborate with HQ-based colleagues from UNDP, UNEP, and the Department of Peace Operations on a number of joint initiatives, including activities aimed at strengthening the capacity of policymakers and practitioners to better understand and address the linkages between climate change, peace, and security, both within and beyond the UN system.

How did you secure this role?

Before joining the UN through the Associate Experts Programme, I accrued six years of professional experience in the fields of climate policies, disaster risk management, and international affairs. I first interned at the World Bank Climate Change Group in the lead-up to COP21, where I gained insights into the technical and political dimensions of global climate governance. From there, I spent three years at the OECD working on development cooperation, green growth, and disaster risk management policies. I then worked for another three years as a researcher in international relations at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan-based think tank. These varied experiences equipped me with a diverse range of skills in policy analysis and research, which have proven to be valuable assets for my current role.

What is the most fascinating and/or surprising aspect of your role? 

The climate, peace, and security policy field at the UN is fascinating because it is still relatively new and rapidly evolving, presenting continuous opportunities for learning and growth. Additionally, working closely with other teams across the UN system as part of the Climate Security Mechanism (CSM) is a particularly enriching experience. 

How did your PSIA experience help you with the role?

PSIA's rigorous curriculum has been instrumental in enabling me to develop a broad range of competencies; from research and writing skills to planning and organization to meet difficult deadlines, and the ability to work effectively in teams. But beyond just academic learning, PSIA also provided me with the chance to connect with renowned professors and leading practitioners. This not only helped me to build a professional network but also gave me a deeper understanding of how theory and practice intersect. Additionally, the emphasis on professional development during the third semester was incredibly beneficial; through internships, I was able to apply my academic knowledge in practical settings and develop a broader perspective on my chosen field.

What advice would you give to others?

Take advantage of the diverse student body and faculty by actively participating in class discussions and seeking clarification for any questions you may have. Additionally, try to specialize in a field that you are interested in from the outset, even if it may be difficult to choose just one area of study when everything seems so interesting. Remember that you can always expand or switch your area of focus later, so don't be afraid to gain exposure to different subjects and fields.

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