Student Perspective: Externship with the United Nations

10-30-17

By Matthew Jacinto (3L)

This fall I am externing in Geneva, Switzerland, in the Justice, Protection and Social Rights Unit of the Special Procedures Branch in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

This United Nations agency is composed of independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. I work specifically with a handful of mandates, including: the right to health, right to truth, cultural rights, right to education, independence of judges and lawyers, human rights defenders, unilateral coercive measures, and freedom of opinion and expression (with Prof. David Kaye!)

During my few months in Geneva, I’ve worked on a number of highly-sensitive projects, including: analyzed draft laws in various countries to assess their compliance with international standards; drafted communications that bring alleged violations or abuses to states’ attention; drafted statements for special rapporteurs for the 36th Human Rights Council Session; and attended the aforementioned Council Session to track the interactive dialogue between states and mandate-holders within the purview of their mandate. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with nongovernmental organizations to discuss various human rights situations.

I am thoroughly enjoying working at the OHCHR. The intern unit is comprised of interns from around the world, so I have not only had the opportunity to perform interesting work, but also to meet like-minded individuals from across the globe. The staff here have also been extremely kind, and go out of their way to engage with me on different projects. This has made for an enjoyable and collaborative working environment.

My coursework at UCI Law, particularly the skills I learned during my Lawyering Skills class, has afforded me the opportunity to excel in this externship. Working with Prof. Kaye in the International Justice Clinic during my second year was also a great introduction to the type of work performed by the OHCHR and the mechanisms that can make the U.N. an effective organism for communities in need. The skills I’ve learned in my classes have been invaluable to my work, and made my transition into the role pretty seamless.