Adviser to the UN in Nigeria
Ethnic and religious tensions, conflicts over land and natural resources, regional disputes. And a high terror threat level. Nigeria is a complex country to live in but Adam Bergman, on secondment from the FBA to the UN in Nigeria, enjoys the challenge.
Adam works as Peace and Development Specialist at the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Nigeria, which coordinates the work of the UN agencies in the country. The office is in the Nigerian capital city Abuja.
Adam’s role enhances the UN’s capacities in conflict prevention and peacebuilding to create an enabling environment for peace and development in Nigeria. Under the leadership of the Peace and Development Adviser, he closely collaborates with the UNDP and other UN agencies in this endeavor, with focus on long-term development.
Adam, how would you describe a regular week in Nigeria?
– I do strategic-level work such as report writing, analysis and supporting coordination meetings. Recently, I have contributed to the ongoing enhancements of the UN strategy for the Sahel, the region to which northern Nigeria belongs. I also support programmatic work, such as trainings for security actors like the Nigerian police and armed forces. In my spare time I hang out with friends, and apart from that my life mostly takes place at the office and at home. There are not that many leisure activities in Abuja and travelling outside of the city is not always safe.
Could you give us more examples of practical work that you do?
– I have supported a UNDP project in northeastern Nigeria that offers vocational training for unemployed youth, and then we help them start their own businesses. Around 60 percent of the Nigerian population is under 40 years of age, and youth who cannot support themselves are at risk of recruitment from armed groups. The project has turned out to be very effective and I am proud of the work that we do.
How would you describe the current situation in Nigeria?
– There are many ongoing conflicts and tensions. There are tensions between ethnic groups and between Christians and Muslims. There is also a conflict between farmers and herders. The farmers accuse the herders of destroying cultivated land when they pass through with their animals. In addition, there are geopolitical tensions between southern and northern Nigeria. The south is home to large oil reserves, and there are armed groups fighting for a bigger share of the revenue to stay in the south instead of being transferred to the federal public treasury. In northern Nigeria there is a sense of marginalization by the state, and in the absence of authorities a number of armed groups have been established, such as Boko Haram. Moreover, some 50 years after the Nigerian civil war when the eastern state of Biafra tried to break away, the movement for independence in Biafra is on the rise again.
Why did you apply for this job?
– I hold degrees in criminology and peace and conflict studies, and I have been working on peace and security issues in Zimbabwe and Jordan. When this opportunity came along it felt just right for me. Nigeria is complex, and working for peace in this country is very interesting, and challenging.
Photo: FBA, Rainer Wozny, Andrew Moore