Sierra Leonean wins the 2021 imperial college distinguished alumni award

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 January 2021:

A Sierra Leonean, Ambassador Yvette Stevens (M.Sc., DIC., FSLIE, MIET) has won the 2021 Imperial College Distinguished Alumni Award

The prestigious Imperial College London is a one-of-a-kind institution in the UK, focusing solely on science, engineering, medicine and business. It has been consistently rated in the top-five UK universities and in the top-ten universities worldwide.

The Imperial College Alumni Awards started in 2020, and honours alumni in three categories, namely the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Emerging Alumni Leader Award and the Alumni Entrepreneur Award.

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognises and celebrates outstanding alumni who have demonstrated sustained excellence in their personal and professional achievements, are leaders in their field or have made a substantial impact on society.  Ambassador Stevens was the sole winner of the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2021.

Ambassador Yvette Stevens received a Master of Science (Electrical Power Systems and Machines) from Imperial College in 1974, when she became the first Sierra Leonean woman engineer.

Before attending Imperial College, she studied at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, where she was awarded, in 1972, a Master of Science degree in Electrical Machines and Apparatus, with distinction.

After leaving Imperial College, she worked as lecturer in electrical engineering at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone from 1974 to 1980, before joining the United Nations in 1980, as a Village Technology Expert in ILO. In 1986 she joined the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

At UNHCR, she served as Evaluation Officer as well as Chief of the Technical Support Section of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, both of which involved thorough analyses of refugee situations in about 30 countries, in different parts of the world.

She also served UNHCR in Africa, first as Deputy Liaison Representative in Ethiopia (1995 to 1997) and as the UNHCR Representative to Kenya and Somalia (1997 to 1999).

In the latter capacity, she acted as the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia on a number of occasions. During her work with UNHCR, she promoted the use of solar energy in refugee camps and settlements.

(Photo: Yvette Stevens at European Parliament).

In 1999, she attained the UN highest professional level as Director in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and served at that level in the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and as the United Nations Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator and Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva from which post she retired in 2006.

After retirement from the UN, between 2006 and 2009, Ambassador Stevens worked as a freelance consultant on humanitarian issues as well as on disaster risk reduction in Africa.

In 2009, she returned to Sierra Leone where she worked as Energy Policy Adviser and Director for Energy in the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources from 2009 to 2012.  In this capacity, she chaired a group of experts to draw up the first Energy Policy and Strategy for electricity provision in Sierra Leone.  The policy covered a mix of energy sources to provide comprehensive coverage for Sierra Leone, focussing on renewable energy, particularly solar energy.  She presented this policy to the Cabinet in 2009.

Ambassador Stevens addressed the unbundling of electricity generation, transmission and distribution systems in Sierra Leone and worked with the Law Department of the Ministry of Justice to draw up two Bills, namely the Sierra Leone Energy and Water Regulatory Commission Bill and the Electricity Bill, which were adopted into Acts by Parliament in 2011.

In addition, she was in charge, within the Ministry of the solar streetlights project for all district capitals and initiated work with the World Bank to provide decentralised solar electricity system for selected chiefdom capitals, until she left the position at the end of 2011.  Furthermore, she was involved in discussions for various projects aimed to improve power supply in Sierra Leone.

In recognition of her work, she was made a Fellow of the Sierra Leone Institution of Engineers in 2010 and awarded the 2011 Women of Excellence Award “in recognition of high standards of excellence in Engineering Science and Technology”  on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Sierra Leone’s Independence.

At the end of 2011, Sierra Leone opened its first Permanent Mission in Geneva and, in the search of someone who had extensive knowledge of the work of the United Nations operation, to head the Mission, she was “highly recommended” having worked with six different UN entities of the United Nations over a period of 28 years.

She was appointed by the President as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations in Geneva. (Photo: Yvette Stevens – Meeting Swiss President).

As Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone, Ambassador Stevens worked with the various United Nations entities in Geneva.

Her background and expertise served in good stead in her work with the technical organisations, such as World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Telecommunications Unit and the World Trade Organization.

She also worked on human rights issues, (including Child Early and Forced Marriage, Persons Living with Albinism and Women’s Rights as well as showcasing Sierra Leone’s example of religious tolerance); trade (Women and Trade, Trade Assistance to Least Developing Countries); and disarmament (Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems). She served as the Chair for the Inter-Governmental Committee on the Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on Racism from 2016 to 2018.

During her period as Permanent Representative in Geneva, she succeeded in gaining fellowships for 3 Sierra Leoneans at the World Trade Organization.  As a gender champion she spearheaded a project which brought young promising African women, including one Sierra Leonean to be mentored within the UN organizations in Geneva.

Ambassador Stevens is currently Executive in Residence at the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Geneva. She has four children and ten grandchildren.

1 Comment

  1. Congratulations to Ambassador Yvette Stevens. This is an other stark reminder, that ordinary citizens of Sierra Leone have kept the flame of what our country used to be known for, the ATHENS OF WEST AFRICA. Not for the first time, Sierra Leoneans that left the contry to pursue their dreams in foreign lands, because their country’s political leadership has failed them , have always shone with distinction. Why when it comes to developing our talents, or supporting individuals, Sierra Leoneans to dream, and pursue their dreams to the fullest, has always been an insurmountable challenge?

    What are social, political, and structural changes needed to reverse the brain drain in our country? In my view the answers lie with those people in leadership positions, that are able to effect change, to answer those questions. Time, and time again, and I dare say not for the first, we have proven as a people, that when we Sierra Leoneans are given the right opportunity, peace and security, education, and respect of our inaniable rights as is written in our constitution, and our relationship between the citizens and the States, we can give every nation on planet earth a run for their money.

    We need a collection of distinguished politicians, who know the history of our country inside out. The geography, the ethnic groups that make up the country, our traditions, to chart a way forward. And most importantly of all educate our political classes about the meaning of loving one’s country. Becsuse those that are engaged in corruption and tribal differences have completely missed the point about what is meant to be a Sierra Leonean.

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