Meredith Byrne

Programme Technical Officer, International Labour Organization

Tell us about your career since leaving ODID

While finishing up my MPhil thesis, I had the opportunity to start an internship with the UNHCR in Geneva. I worked for their Livelihoods Unit for a six-month period, and while I wouldn't recommend finishing your thesis and starting up a full-time internship, by the end of my time with UNHCR, I was able to transition into work with the International Labour Organization. After three years working with the ILO in Geneva on labour markets in displacement settings, I moved to a field position in Jordan, where I am currently based. My work in Jordan has taken on a regional focus in the last year, looking at ILO programming in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

And your current position?

I currently serve as a Technical Officer for the International Labour Organization in the Arab States Region. The ILO is a normative UN agency that serves its constituents (unions, industry associations and government counterparts) to promote social justice in the world of work. I focus on programming that addresses the labour market impacts of forced displacement in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. The current programme I work on is a multi-agency, multi-country initiative joining the forces of ILO, UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Bank and IFC. On a day-to-day basis I work closely with my colleagues on the ground to steer the strategic direction of our activities in line with the overall objective of the partnership. I also spend time coordinating with the other agencies’ focal points, and our donor, to strengthen synergies between different activities. This can mean convening or attending meetings, providing technical input to joint-concept notes and conducting visits to project sites. A large portion of my time is spent monitoring and reporting on project results to our Head Quarters and the donor.

Why did you choose ODID/your course?

I knew coming out of undergrad that I wanted to pursue international development with a focus on contexts of forced displacement. However, my undergrad degree and limited work experience didn’t provide a strong foundation where I could pursue my interests from. The MPhil provided a combination of foundational lectures, electives and dedicated fieldwork, cumulating in the master's thesis at the end of the second year. ODID also housed the Refugee Studies Centre, which had the expertise in the development area I wanted to pursue, along with the top scholars in the field.

What did you particularly value about your course?

I valued the focus placed on independent fieldwork in the break between the first and second year. This allowed students to craft their own research topics and learn first hand the difficulties, time pressure but also the rewards of carrying out field research on innovative topics. I valued the relationships I built with my peers in the course, who knit a tight social circle over the course of the two years.

And what did you particularly value about ODID? 

ODID felt like a particularly down-to-earth enclave in an environment that could sometimes feel a bit removed from the wider world. Students came from diverse backgrounds and those in my course were genuinely interested to hear about others' experiences and opinions. Professors were encouraging and welcomed out-of-class discussions on different areas of interest - all were clearly passionate. After graduating the MPhil, the professors I had also supported me to branch into a career in international development.

ODID felt like a particularly down-to-earth enclave in an environment that could sometimes feel a bit removed from the wider world.