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Karita Laisi

Karita Johanna Laisi
Born April 5, 1969, Kauniainen

Bachelor of Arts 1996 (Spanish and Latin American Studies), University of Southampton
Master of Arts (Spanish Philology), University of Helsinki

Special Adviser on development policy 2014–, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Special Adviser, peace and reconciliation 2012–14, Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission
Development cooperation coordinator, regional manager 2010–12 (Jerusalem), Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission
Project manager 2007–08, Finnish Youth Association
Teaching assistant, research assistant 2002–06, University of Helsinki

Photo: Malachy Harty
Written by Karita Laisi (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

At work in Palestine

At present I am working in the service of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in Ramallah in the occupied Palestinian territories as an expert adviser on development policy. The work is rewarding and inspiring but sometimes also frustrating. The position of Palestinians is more difficult than ever and there is a danger of them losing hope. The delay of a political settlement is only increasing the problems. It is sad to notice how violence perpetrated against Palestinians is growing. The lives of Palestinians is characterised by a lack of basic security. The conflict affects every Palestinian every day. As is always the case in conflicts, the weakest suffer the most. Various obstructions and the violence of the settlers are critically affecting the mobility of children, the elderly and the disabled; for instance, they may be prevented from going to school or accessing basic services.

I am an optimist by nature and I would love to see ‘encouraging signs’ towards peace. Nevertheless, day by day the two-state solution seems more difficult. The Palestinians are losing the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It is easy to be cynical, but as the previous UNRWA director of operations in Gaza stated after the Israel-Gaza conflict in autumn 2014: “we (foreigners) cannot afford a luxury like cynicism. Hope must be maintained for the sake of the Palestinians.” This is true. The international community cannot afford to become bored or cynical; it must work to promote the two-state solution.

The best thing about my work is the people with and among whom I can work; Palestinians, Finns and international colleagues.

My beloved long-term hobbies have been the theatre, singing, running and youth circus. During my maternity leave, I edited a book on the history of our town and I was the director of the town’s development project. I founded a circus school in our town with a few other adults and I worked for years, on a voluntary basis, as its leader. They were wonderful years; I had friends of different ages, from pre-schoolers to pensioners, amateurs and amazing professionals. Everyone had the joint goal of a successful performance, both at the circus and theatre. Back then I worked on the principle that I would give it my all, but only for so long that it would still be easy for my successor to take over. Circus Sirius has over 200 amateur participants and a great team developing the community circus. Our circus is fundamentally a social and educational community. My professional home has long been the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission. I began my dream job first in a development team, where I was responsible for such things as the Mission’s Latin American development projects, and then in a lobbying unit.

Through the Mission I was able to see development cooperation work in three continents, each with its own unique characteristics. History, culture, wars or the lack thereof affect development and development policy. Development cooperation work is used particularly to build Palestinian institutions. Politics also dictates the development of the provision of aid, and the border between humanitarian and development work is sometimes blurred.

Karita Laisi currently lives in East Jerusalem. Photo: Malachy Harty.


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