Layla Hashemi: From Public Policy PhD Student to NATO Trafficking Panelist

It was a global conference with a very heady list of panelists and presenters, including several ministers of defense, thought-leaders in counterterrorism, human trafficking, international security, and several NATO deputy assistant secretaries general. NATO was the host organization of the three-day conference called “Building Integrity: Building Capable and Resilient Institutions to Strengthen Our Partnerships,” held in early March in Washington, D.C.

Added to the mix was Layla Hashemi, a public policy PhD student at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, who participated in a panel discussion on corruption and trafficking, two of the main themes of the conference.

Hashemi has been studying antiquities trafficking and its links to terrorism at the Schar School’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center with the center’s director, Louise Shelley.

Sitting on the stage before members of the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, military officials, and others involved in this important field “felt incredibly powerful,” Hashemi said. “Even though I was very nervous.”

Her nerves did not show, said Shelley. The audience, Shelley said, “had a large number of very intelligent questions” for Hashemi. “She was a big hit.”

All in a day’s work for the Schar School doctoral student.

“Interacting with a unique network comprised of military, governmental, and private entities is exactly what being a policy researcher is all about,” Hashemi said. “My work at TraCCC has brought me closer to practitioners and policy makers, allowing me to experience policy in action.”

The conference, she said, “was a wonderful opportunity to discuss building integrity with a diverse group of individuals from a variety of sectors. My panel addressed the connections between corruption and trafficking of small arms and light weapons, drugs, and cultural property.

“I discussed the research findings from our ‘Countering Looting of Antiquities in Iraq and Syria’ State Department grant that ended in January of this year. Our team of subject matter experts conducted a one-year monitoring of the online trade of illicit antiquities and sought to make connections between the transnational trade of these artifacts and terrorist financing.”

Shortly after her panel speech at the NATO Building Integrity conference, Hashemi traveled to Vienna, Austria, to attend a UN Office on Drugs and Crime expert group on a related interest, cybercrime.

Working at TraCCC, she said, has allowed her to network with high-level officials and policy makers, expanding the options available to her upon graduation.