Interview with Maren Bredesen, JPO of the OSCE’s Border Management Staff College in Tajikistan

Maren Bredesen at the OSCE Border Management Staff College in Tajikistan - Photo:OSCE/BMSC
Maren Bredesen at the OSCE Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe. (Photo: OSCE/BMSC)

The OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization, and most of its staff and resources are located in its field operations. The staff comes from all over the OSCE region, and several among them are Norwegians. In this series of interviews, we ask Norwegians working within the OSCE system to share stories about their work.

Maren Bredesen works as Junior Professional Officer (JPO) at the OSCE Border Management Staff College (BMSC) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. “It isn’t very hard to be Norwegian in Tajikistan, given that 93% of the country is covered by mountains,” she says about living and working in Tajikistan, “there are endless hiking possibilities.”

At the BMSC, Maren’s work consists of capacity building for institutions that work with border security and border management. “My day-to-day work is mostly about planning and co-ordinating our regular courses, as well as assisting with project development,” she explains. “Every year we organise courses for about 100 border security and management officials from the OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation. Right now we are preparing a four-week staff course for women leaders.” She adds, “I think for most people not working within border management, it might just seem to be about territorial integrity, passport control and customs. However, border management is as much about human rights, protecting vulnerable groups and promoting cross-border co-operation and conflict-prevention."

How did Maren end up working with border management in Tajikistan? Maren received a Master’s degree in War Studies, and then worked as a Junior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), before starting to work with the OSCE. “I was relatively familiar with the BMSC prior to moving to Tajikistan, since I first worked for 6 months on the Central Asia desk at OSCE Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna as part of my JPO assignment,” she says, but adds, “yet it’s something very different to actually work in the field. Here you get a better sense of the OSCE’s programmatic work and its beneficiaries.” 

How is it to work as an international employee in a place like the BMSC? “I was very well received and my colleagues are – like most Tajiks – incredibly welcoming. At the Programme Office, we are about 170 employees, the majority of which are national staff. The working environment is very good.”

Maren ends the interview talking about the travel opportunities in Tajikistan. “Tajik hospitality is the perfect basis for ecotourism. You can pay for room and board in a family’s home, and hike with the help of local guides who are committed to environmental sustainability and the empowerment of local communities. Just remember that, at best, most of the mountain roads are just cart tracks, so be sure to go by a 4WD. Or for the ultimate experience: a Lada. I have been to some rather high mountaintops, and you would not believe the kind of places you are actually able to reach in a tiny Lada.