High Commissioner of the Maldives to the UK on her time at Keele as an international student
Dr Farah Faizal came to Keele from the Maldives in 1986 to study International Relations, and shares her experience as an international student at Keele as well as her inspiring journey bringing democratic change her home country of the Maldives and her work now as a proud female diplomat on the international stage.
Following the overthrow of the government in Maldives in February 2012, I resigned and served as the Spokesperson in Europe for the MDP for a time. I also represented the former President of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group during the CMAG’s enquiry into the change of government in Maldives, as well as serving as a member of the Foreign Committee of the MDP. With the change of government in November 2018, I was appointed the Maldives Ambassador to the UK and with the country re-joining the Commonwealth on 1st February 2020, I was delighted to revert to being called a High Commissioner as ambassadors of Commonwealth countries are called, if posted to another member country.
My role includes building a close relationship with the UK, France, Spain and Ireland. It also includes promoting the Maldives as a holiday destination in the UK, France, Spain, and Ireland and also promoting the sustainability of Maldives tuna, fishing being our second biggest industry. Of course, Maldives is a frontline state when it comes to climate change, so my work also focuses a lot on issues related to climate advocacy. The Maldives re-joined the Commonwealth last year after a few years’ hiatus, so we do a lot of Commonwealth-related work. We also provide consular assistance for Maldivians living in the UK, France, Spain, and Ireland. My diplomatic mission is a small one, but 60% of the diplomats are women, something which I am extremely proud of.
My biggest achievement in my career is to be part of the democracy movement that brought democratic change to the Maldives that led to the first-ever multi-party election. It was such a heady feel to actually be able to vote for the first time in the first ever democratic elections of the Maldives.
Initially, coming to Keele was a bit of a culture shock for me coming to the UK for the first time from the Maldives. Not many people had heard of Maldives those days. However, once I started studying, I realized that Keele is a wonderful place for an international student. It had the feeling of one big family and the campus is simply gorgeous. I enjoyed my time immensely and made many friends, who I am still in touch with.
The International Relations course at Keele is a very practical course. It taught me immensely about diplomacy. I still have a copy of “Sovereign Statehood: The Basis of International Society” by Professor Alan James and a copy of “A Modern Introduction to International Law” by Dr Michael Akehurst, on my bookshelf, and I still refer to them from time to time. The course gave me an excellent grounding and understanding of diplomacy, how international law works, and about the complex, multi-layered ties sovereign states have with each other. I also did a work placement at the International Maritime Organisation, organised by the department. I am deeply obliged to all my lecturers and tutors of the International Relations Department of Keele, especially Professor Alan James and Dr Lorna Lloyd, for the excellent education I received at Keele.
My years at Keele were the some of the best years of my life. I have extremely fond memories and, in that sense, Keele is my happy place. I would say to the students to enjoy your time there and most importantly, coming from my background, I would say make friends with students from other countries. Keele is such a melting pot of different cultures and nations. I am still in touch with many friends from Keele, some of them now diplomats from their respective countries. Professionally, it has helped me immensely to have that network not to mention the wonderful friendships. So, I would say, make friends and stay networked, whichever course you do.