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Stories from the field: Interview with Child Protection and Best Interest Determination Expert deployed to Guatemala

Paola Calderon is a member of the DRC Resettlement Roster. From October 2021 to November 2022, she was deployed with DRC-UNHCR to Guatemala City as a Child Protection and Best Interest Determination (BID) expert. Despite the challenging case workload and the high quotas to meet, Paola managed to contribute effectively to UNHCR’s operational goals related to child protection.

Scott Umstattd

Posted on 05 Apr 2023

Written by Silvia Sargenti

Paola Calderon's responsibilities during the deployment to Guatemala involved supervising and reviewing Best Interest Assessment (BIA) and BID casework management of partners and UNHCR staff, to ensure that Child Protection principles were applied throughout the assessment process.

Silvia: How would you describe the context in Guatemala, and how were you able to draw on previous experience for this deployment?

Paola: Guatemala and the North Triangle of Central America have a particular context in which refugees and populations forced to flee face great challenges related to general violence and persecution from gangs and other criminal actors. Children are the most vulnerable in situations of displacement and war, and there is no doubt this is the case in the context of Guatemala.

Since 2020, I have been working for UNHCR in the Protection Transfer Arrangement (PTA) and the traditional Resettlement (RST) program. Regardless of the difficulties faced during the pandemic, I was able to get to know the particular context and protection needs, especially for Guatemalan nationals. Later, in October 2021, I joined the DRC Resettlement Roster and was deployed as Best Interest Determination (BID) Expert to Guatemala City. It was a great opportunity to compliment my previous experience with other NGOs in my home country, Ecuador.

Silvia: What were some of your key tasks, and did you face any challenges in doing them?

Paola: While on deployment, I was able to contribute to the development of strategies and procedures within the UNHCR operation and the state counterparts. I also faced challenges related to my new position and the high demand for processing cases that required the national authorities’ intervention. I led the BID process in the operation with little supervision and despite the high number of cases that needed to be processed, the quality of the work was not affected.

The operation in Guatemala City has continuously worked toward mainstreaming the best interest approach and principle with the counterparts. After almost a year, state actors are more involved and interested in mainstreaming the best interest principle in their interventions that are closely related to UNHCR’s durable solution programs for children with international protection needs.

Although the quota keeps increasing and thus the obstacles and challenges are still growing, the opportunity to put in place my diverse experience allowed me to contribute to the operational objectives, results and strategies for children in need of protection.

Silvia: You finished the deployment in November 2022. What has this deployment meant for your future career within this sector, and what is next for you?

Paola: In fact, the experience with DRC gave me the opportunity to apply for another job directly with UNHCR, and restructure the Child Protection Unit in Guatemala City, considering the importance of achieving the operational goals related to child protection.

I am excited to begin my new assignment with UNHCR as Associate Child Protection Officer, and I am very grateful to DRC for trusting and appreciating my work, and always motivating me in the development of my career. Namely, through the DRC Resettlement induction training that I attended in March 2022 and through the support of the Standby Roster team and my deployment focal point.

She has been the focal point for all BID processing and has worked extremely hard to ensure that Protection Transfer Arrangement and Resettlement cases with complex custody issues are processed in a timely and effective manner. Paola is a key team member for the Child Protection and PTA-RST Units.

/  Paola´s Supervisor

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