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Starting from scratch: rebuilding Libya with an Executive MBA

Roland Friedrich is a political advisor for the UN, involved in the rebuilding of Libya whilst studying for an Executive MBA (EMBA) at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Roland Friedrich (EMBA 2016) at the UN

“In many ways, Libya as a country is starting from scratch.” Roland Friedrich (EMBA 2016) is a Senior Political Affairs officer for the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Established in 2011, the mission is mandated by the UN to support the country’s transitional authorities and institutions to rebuild the country following the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi.

Roland Friedrich (EMBA 2016)

Roland Friedrich (EMBA 2016)

“42 years of authoritarian rule left behind weak institutions, multiple factions and militias vying for influence and an abundance of weapons”, explains Roland. “Six years after the 2011 revolution, the country faces a prolonged political, security and – more recently – economic crisis. The challenges range from terrorism and organised crime and deteriorating living conditions to political polarisation and fragmenting institutions.”

A managerial hardship posting

Following service in the German armed forces, Roland developed a career as a political advisor, focusing on conflict management, security sector reform and Middle Eastern affairs. Prior to joining the UN, he spent eight years at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces as a security sector reform advisor and ran the organisation’s office in the Middle East, based out of the Palestinian Territories. Transferring this expertise from the Middle East to Libya finds Roland working within another ‘managerial hardship posting’.

“My work involves a lot of direct engagement with Libyan representatives, both inside the country and the region. Mediating ceasefire and facilitating peace negotiations generally is one of the most fascinating and challenging tasks at the UN.” Roland was involved in the ceasefire negotiations between the ‘Libya Dawn’ and ‘Dignity’ militias and in negotiating the Libyan Political Agreement, a power-sharing deal that led the country out of its civil war in 2015. One of Roland’s main tasks is to advise the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya on the mission’s policies in the region and the UNSMIL mediation strategy for Libya.

“[This work] requires a thorough understanding of the local players and their motivations, a clear vision of what you want to achieve, and lots of creativity and flexibility when facilitating a deal. There are quite some shared aspects here with strategy development and negotiations in the business world.”

Future-proofing with an EMBA

It is these ‘shared aspects’ between international relations and the business world that convinced Roland to pursue an Executive MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School. As the balance of power between – and within – nations becomes ever more complex, he believes that an understanding of the latest management approaches would enhance his own work in mediation and strategy. This would also prepare him for the ever-closer cooperation between the UN and the private sector.

“Cooperation between the UN and the private sector is picking up sharply, not only in the humanitarian and development fields but also in peace and security. The EMBA helps me get on top of the latest management concepts and practices. It also helps me develop a thorough understanding of strategic management and organisational behaviour – issues that have always fascinated me and that are of direct relevance to my work.

“In today’s fast paced world, finding solutions to the many global challenges requires creativity and entrepreneurial spirit more than ever. Sometime back I started looking for an EMBA that would combine a focus on entrepreneurship and diversity of experience in the cohort with cutting-edge thinking across the various dimensions of management. Cambridge Judge seemed like just the right fit.”

Roland is enjoying the opportunities presented by the programme, but doesn’t lose sight as to his purpose for studying at the School.

“The spirit and diversity of the cohort, the quality of the faculty and the special Cambridge bond make this programme really unique. The breadth of experience in the cohort is unbelievable. The Cambridge experience helps me to effectively bring new management insights, approaches and practices into my work at the UN.

“You must never lose sight of your mission and your mandate – ending hostilities, establishing peace and ultimately saving lives.”