Where are our Alumni now?
On International Women’s Day, we caught up with H.E. Maira Mora, Director General of the Secretariat of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, among the first female Alumni since GCSP’s formal establishment!
Maira Mora, is a career diplomat in the rank of Ambassador, currently serving as Director General of the Secretariat of the Council of the Baltic Sea States. Prior to that she was Head of the EU Delegation in Belarus (2011-2015), as well as Latvian Ambassador to Belarus (2004-2010) and to Lithuania (2000-2004). She was posted to the OSCE in Vienna as the Deputy Head of the Latvian Delegation, and occupied various positions at the MFA of Latvia, including Head of Policy Planning. Finally, she worked briefly at the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Riga.
GCSP: You were one of the first women to have joined the GCSP’s flagship course – the International Training course in Security Policy (ITC) now called Leadership in International Security Course (LISC) after the GCSP’s formal establishment in 1995. What kind of experience did you have?
MM: I attended the International Training Course, as it was called then, during the academic season of 1994-1995. A colleague of mine who had already graduated from the Geneva course told me – ‘it will be the happiest period in your life’. I was sceptical, because I associated happiness with things of entirely different nature. But it turned out that he was right – the extremely well-planned course covering topical issues of the day and analysing the key elements of the post WWII world order; lectures by both prominent theoreticians and high-ranking practitioners – military specialists and diplomats, as well as invaluable Q&A sessions with them; the small (only 18 participants) and multinational (from 11 countries) group of students; the peaceful ambience around the GATT building and Villa Rose where all our lectures and seminars took place, so conducive to study, analysis and contemplation – the high quality of all the above mentioned and our ability to learn something new practically every day very much produced such a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction which was close to happiness indeed.
GCSP: What were your personal goals during the ITC?
For me personally the course was invaluable – in the years after the restoration of independence in Latvia, the newly established Latvian foreign service had to deal with a number of challenging issues extremely important for its security and continued independence (withdrawal of Russian troops, the fate of former Soviet military installations on Latvian territory) and I was part of these efforts which sometimes amounted to walking on a very thin ice, because we had to learn in the process of doing. Thus, when I came to Geneva, I knew what knowledge I was lacking and made the most of what the course had to offer.
GCSP: What was unique about your course experience?
At that time in the library of the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies there were few, if any, books on the collapse of the Soviet system and none at all which would have even remotely predicted that collapse. Europe and the world were still in search of a new world order, and to be able to listen to some of those who were directly involved in formulating and shaping this new order, was an unforgettable experience.
Also, in our course of 18 participants, half of them came from a military background and we were only two women. However, I found all things military very interesting and benefitted greatly from shared knowledge and experience of our colleagues who were in active service.
GCSP: What are some of your favourite memories?
After all of these years, since I graduated, I have held in the highest esteem and have been happy each time I had the opportunity to meet the “father” of the ITC and GSCP – Dr Theodor Winkler, and our course director – Dr Thomas Ries and Dr Daniel Warner. The course entailed not only lectures and practical seminars, but also quite a number of study trips. While in Geneva, the participants (even our Swiss ones) were far away from their homes and friends, and we spent also much of our leisure time together – skiing and mountain-hiking, for example. I have lost contact with some of my course-mates over these years, some have already retired, but we were like a family and time and distance cannot affect the bond that exists among us.
GCSP: You made a fantastic journey as career diplomat. What advice can you give to our women graduates?
MM: We diplomats have a saying – in diplomacy there are no genders, only ranks. This is what I have experienced in my own career – you are what you know and what you can achieve. And this is what I would like to say to the women graduates of the GCSP. The Centre can offer you so much, take it!