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Imad Alhajj is a Syrian-Kurdish-born scholar and humanitarian professional with extensive experience conducting research and implementing emergency response, assistance and development programming. He aspires to work in public service, developing and implementing ethical and evidence-based policies and programs to support post-conflict stabilization and the protection of human rights, with a regional focus on Levant and Iraq.

He joined the Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program at Duke Sanford to hone his skills and gain the knowledge and practice-oriented tools needed to pursue a career as a scholar and practitioner in international development policy.

“The Duke MIDP has given me the diverse opportunity to study a more in-depth variety of subjects, conduct applied research, bridge research and practice, and gain tools in many fields,” says Imad who focused in peace and conflict resolution studies. “My experience broadened my academic perspective through connecting and learning from globally renowned scholars and practitioners. Duke MIDP's culture and shared values of respect, trust, inclusion, discover and excellence have helped me build a community and thrive personally.”

man smiling with US flag behind him in distance
For his master’s project, Imad studied how to advance peacebuilding practice through promoting human rights and inclusive governance.

During his time as an MIDP fellow, Imad served as a research assistant to Mara Revkin, working on transitional justice, governance and peacebuilding in Levant and Iraq; teaching assistant to Maureen Moriarty for the “Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies” course; teaching assistant to David Katz for the “Environmental Security and Peacebuilding” course; and program assistant and student ambassador for Duke Student Affairs’ Graduate and Professional Student Services. He also co-led the organization of the “Peacebuilding in the Middle East: Listening to Local Perspectives” campus event and interned with Duke Sanford as a research assistant, conducting research on the impact of financial sanctions on human rights and humanitarian responses with a focus on Syria and Afghanistan.

For his master’s project, Imad chose to examine how to advance peacebuilding practice through promoting human rights and inclusive governance, using the Autonomous Administration in the North and East Syria (NES) region as a case study. His findings were informed by survey data from Syrian civil society and non-governmental organizations, journalists in Syria, and human rights and humanitarian professionals.

Imad wanted to bridge the knowledge gap between theory and practice in advancing ‘the localization’ agenda in the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding system – the ‘triple nexus.’

“We need to advance the role of locally led peacebuilding and development and local ownership of solutions to the local challenges that are also considered real threats to peace, security, and democracy worldwide,” Imad says.

“As a Syrian-Kurdish-born person, my life and career as a humanitarian practitioner have been shaped by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria,” the MIDP fellow shares. He aims to “develop a strategy that would bring all actors together to establish a clear path toward achieving an overarching strategic vision of preventing the relapse of conflict and building sustainable peace and democratic governance.”

After graduation, Imad plans to translate his master’s project into Kurdish and Arabic and share the knowledge with the local civil society and NGOs as a part of the democratization of knowledge production process. “I hope to provide evidence-based policy guidance to donors and major international NGOs on how to engage with and empower the work of local Syrian NGOs and civil society,” he says.

Imad Alhajj's Photo Highlights

Q&A with Imad Alhajj

What does being a “changemaker" mean to you? 

A creative and innovative person who seizes every opportunity to advance human well-being and flourishing.

What’s your favorite part of being an MIDP fellow?

Everything. Studying at Duke MIDP is a dream come true. The opportunity to learn from and engage with amazing faculty, staff and colleagues from all around the world was very helpful to grow personally and professionally.

What is your advice for incoming MIDP fellows?

Here you will find a very supportive and caring community and an excellent opportunity to grow and learn. Enjoy it and appreciate every moment.

The Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program is a self-designed, interdisciplinary degree that equips mid-career professionals from around the world with the analytical tools and technical expertise necessary to become global leaders in sustainable development efforts. It is administered by the Duke Center for International Development (DCID), which is based in the Sanford School of Public Policy. DCID promotes sustainable development through its research, education and engagement with students, policymakers, practitioners, development partners, civilsociety,and the private sector. 


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