The journey of a Chevening Alumna to translate international sustainability commitments into local action

Introducing effective policies to protect Colombia's environment requires an intricate understanding of the socio-political and economic challenges that underpin the country's environmental challenges. This is where Chevening Alumna Verónica Robledo Vallejo comes in.

My name is Verónica Robledo Vallejo and I was born in Bogota, Colombia. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse and beautiful countries in the world, but it has unfortunately also faced one of the longest standing civil conflicts (+60 years). Both conflict and the environment have therefore always been an integral part of my life since I was born, and have had a direct impact on the way I have shaped my professional journey so far.


Verónica Robledo Vallejo, Class of 2016

My inspiration to apply for a Chevening Scholarship was its objective to shape global leaders to drive transformational change and tackle critical international issues. When I applied, I was working for the Colombian office of one of the world’s biggest environmental organisations: World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

WWF helped me to understand the value of policy advocacy to support a wide set of environmental objectives. It also opened my eyes to the incredible socio-political and economic challenges that come with working in the environmental field in Colombia, where most of the key strategic ecosystems overlap with conflict-affected areas and deeply complex conditions. This includes limited access to basic services, high rates of poverty and violence, a weak state presence, and disputed territories.

It was also at WWF that I first witnessed the challenges involved in ensuring that these local conditions are reflected on international sustainability agendas. It showed me just how important it would be to influence international processes so that global policies align with the realities faced by local territories. This is especially true for the indigenous peoples and local communities whose livelihoods are directly impacted by the successful delivery or the failure of those national and international sustainability frameworks.

This was my main motivation for pursuing my Master’s in Environmental Policy and Regulation at the London School of Economics with a Chevening Scholarship: to better translate international policy commitments into effective local action.

The scholarship was hugely beneficial in this regard. It helped me understand how to influence policy and regulation in the international space to ensure that global sustainability frameworks are applicable to complex, challenging, and nuanced environments, such as in the Colombian context.

There are so many things I am proud of since my Chevening journey.

Being exposed to UK culture while studying in London gave me a key insight into UK values and priorities. This was the springboard I needed to land my first job post-Chevening as Head of the Forests and Land Use programmes at the UK Embassy in Colombia.


Veronica pictured with the UK Ambassador to Colombia while working at the British Embassy in Bogota

In that role, amongst other things, I had the privilege of leading the design of a UK-funded programme to halt deforestation and support sustainable livelihoods in some of the most conflict-affected areas in Colombia. I travelled to unique and remote areas of the country where I learned from indigenous peoples, local communities, local authorities, ex-combatants, and businesses about their approach to protect and sustainably harness forests. I was also able to participate in international negotiation processes to ensure the priorities of the Colombian and UK governments, other countries in the Amazon, and most importantly, the priorities of the people who depend on these standing forests, were aligned. I had the privilege of witnessing how some of those priorities created real positive impact on the ground despite the ongoing challenges that remain present in those areas. Ultimately, this work confirmed how important it is to address the intricate relationship between conflict and the environment.

After five years of working for the UK government in Colombia, I have recently moved back to London and to WWF. This time, I am leading the Deforestation and Conversion Free Supply Chains agenda in the UK office to support a shift in global agricultural commodity supply chains (mainly of soy, palm oil, and beef) so that these impactful chains can halt the deforestation of tropical forests while securing a sustainable food system.

I feel so proud that I have been able to dive deep into my passion – translating international frameworks into real impactful solutions on the ground; and that I continue to pursue this objective as my career evolves and expands into new global and local landscapes.

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