Silke Pfeiffer

Germany

Conflict and peace advisor

DAAD Scholarship 1995

Silke Pfeiffer DAAD


Silke Pfeiffer, who was born in 1970, has special ties with Latin America. After leaving school with Abitur, the German university entrance qualification, she immediately spent ten months travelling around Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. In the Argentinian metropolis of Buenos Aires she developed a taste for finding out about other aspects of the country. She received an opportunity to do just that while reading regional Latin American studies at the University of Cologne: the DAAD gave her a scholarship at the Universidad del Norte Santo Tomás de Aquino in Tucumán, Argentina, from March to October 1995. "Those were really exciting days," she recalls. In Tucumán, it was the period when General Antonio Domingo Bussi, who had made an infamous name for himself during the military dictatorship, was elected governor. "The extremely controversial election really gave us a wake-up call," she says. That was when she first noticed that corruption was a major problem. It was a topic that was to occupy her for a long time. Her commitment to peace, which she eventually made into her career, originates from that time. Today she is an advisor on conflict issues at the Heinrich Böll Foundation and produces regular reports as a writer for the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF).

I was really pleased that I hadn’t ended up in the capital. A provincial town like this is a small and straightforward world that you can get to understand quite well in half a year.
Silke Pfeiffer

Tucumán offered her a good insight into Argentinian reality. "I was really pleased that I hadn’t ended up in the capital," she says. "A provincial town like this is a small and straightforward world that you can get to understand quite well in half a year." She sang in a choir – and that is the best thing she could have done, she says: "All at once, I got to know a lot of nice people." And she still maintains contacts with some of the members.

Directly after finishing her DAAD scholarship, Silke Pfeiffer did an internship at a human rights organisation in Buenos Aires. In so doing, she did the ground work for her Diplom thesis on an appraisal of the military dictatorship under the democratic President Raúl Alfonsín. It was at this time that her wish matured to later work in development cooperation. She took another step in that direction with a training course at the German Development Institute (DIE). It provided nine months of training for young graduates before they began their development cooperation assignments. While she was at DIE she got to know Transparency International, an organisation that fights corruption. Among other things, she developed instruments that made public tendering systems and party funding more transparent. "This work has so many different political, economic and social dimensions. I found that really interesting." Her fascination remained: Silke Pfeiffer joined Transparency International as director for Latin America. From 2010 to 2013 she was project leader for Colombia and the Andes region with the International Crisis Group and reported in detail from Bogotá on the Colombian conflict.