See a dramatization explaining how the UNHR Virtual Legal Intern program works.
See what law students say about their experience with the UNHR Virtual Legal Internship
Watch as UNHR President Eric Richardson explains how UNHR's program can help you!
Hear from other Geneva NGOs about the value of the UNHR program to build capacity of smaller NGOs and missions
UNHR is pleased to have the opportunity to offer select SIDS and LDC delegations in Geneva or in capital the support of an inperson or virtual intern from a graduate law school or undergraduate institution in the United States or Europe who could work with your delegation for the 2020-21 academic year. We also will have a pilot program this year at the UN in New York.
UNHR Geneva’s virtual intern program offers you many advantages, all of which are free for selected delegations. The students will be trained by experienced Geneva and New York based diplomats in the working of the UN Human Rights Council and its treaty body institutions. In this way, they will hit the ground running, able to provide you with statements, interventions, and reports related to your treaty-body or UPR compliance. Because the students will be based at their schools, it is possible for them to work directly with your capital officials – via Skype, What’s App and email – allowing you in Geneva to join as you wish. You can join every call and supervise closely or have a more distant relationship and allow the capital to work with the student, through our supervision. But if you find yourself too busy, as is the case for most of us in small Geneva missions, you can merely receive the materials from the student and use them as you see valuable. Most of our interns are English speakers, but we may have some limited capacity in other languages, including French.
Eligibility and requirements: To participate in the program, delegations must commit to allowing the student to help your delegation for the September May time period. The semester September-January will largely involve training of the students at their universities away from Geneva, but a monthly phone call with the Geneva delegation or capital via Skype or other on-line system would be valuable. Beginning in January, students who will participate live in Geneva will arrive for work, whereas those who will do virtual work will require more frequent guidance and assignments. Virtual interns may be able to visit Geneva during part of the March or June HRC session. Sponsoring delegations would be required to get the visiting students appropriate permits and credentials. If the student intern produces a statement or recommendation for cosponsorship or a resolution or other item that the delegation wishes to use but cannot be physically present in Geneva to present, UNHR Geneva’s diplomats can present the material or sign for the participating delegation, provided appropriate authorization and credentialing is provided.
Expectations for Students:
The UNHR Virtual Intern Program is a practical opportunity for law students to observe and work in UN diplomacy and law, particularly with UN human rights bodies. From September 1 to December, students have a weekiy 90-minute course with lectures, homework assignments and practical exercises. They begin an unpaid internship with delegations in January-mid-May. Work can be done virtually or in-person depending on the program the student joins. Applications are accepted from May 15-July 15 each year (process below). Tuition for the annual course is $3500/student, with some universities paying the costs directly or via a visiting professor stipend, while other students pay tuition directly. One or two scholarships may be available each year for superior student lawyers.
During the fall semester, a weekly on-line training session will be offered for students to better understand the UN Human Rights Council and they will be required to watch on the HRC’s webcast (http://webtv.un.org) key sessions of the Council to familiarize themselves with the work of the Council and its functions. We expect the 90-minute online class to be offered live on Wednesdays around noon Pacific time but it will be videotaped for those whose schedules do not allow live participation every week. An average of 3-5 hours of work per week will be requested of the student-participants during the fall term, with the work increasing once the externship has started. The workload generally decreases at the time of US law school exams. Assignments include practice in drafting UN interventions, summarizing UPR reports, and a final project analyzing either the negotiation process or the legal substance of a UN resolution.
Eric Richardson, President of UNHR Geneva and a former attorney with the State Department Legal Advisor’s office and former U.S. Deputy to the Ambassador for the UN Human Rights Council, will coordinate the online training sessions and the student’s assignments in pairing with the UN Member State. Mr. Richardson will also review the student work, and he and the staff of UNHRGeneva will assist in liaison between the students and their client UN Member State to ensure that expectations for the student and their written products are clear. Examples of the type of work students will be asked to do may include drafting of resolutions or interventions for the UN Human Rights Council and drafting of comments on such resolutions. Depending on the Member State, a student may also be asked to provide legal support or advice regarding a report of the State to a UN Treaty Body or Universal Periodic Review session in Geneva. (Because of the varied schedule for review in such bodies it is not possible to determine whether timing will allow such an opportunity to exist until after the pairing of students is complete).
In general, we anticipate that a student will be the lone virtual intern for her Member State client. In exceptional cases, multiple students may be assigned to a given UN Member State. The exact volume of work and pairing will depend on the number of students who ultimately participate. Student participants primarily come from the University of Michigan and University of California-Berkeley Law Schools, but we have had participants from Oxford University and Kings College in the UK, University of Oklahoma and UCLA in the United States, and universities in Canada, Turkey and Tunisia. LLM student lawyers have participated from Spain, India, Nepal, Egypt, Ecuador and several other countries.
Career Prospects: Several UNHR virtual legal advisors have found careers in public international law as a result of the program. Work in Geneva offers opportunities to develop contacts in other agencies and network with possible future employers. Placements for our participants include: Foley, Hoag, LLP in New York, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Fiji to the UN in Geneva, the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, the International Law Commission, and the Jacob Blaustein Institute in New York.
How to Apply: Interested law students, and graduate students in international relations-related programs may apply by sending a cover letter, resume, copy of their passport cover page, and transcript to UNHRGeneva@gmail.com. Applications should be received between May 15 and July 15 and successful candidates will be notified in August. Students should specify whether they are applying for a virtual internship or an in-Geneva internship and should include dates when they would be available in Geneva. Applicants who do not have a U.S. passport and are applying for an in-Geneva internship must hold a valid Schengen visa. Some delegations prefer interns from their home country. Please include information about language skills in your cover letter, as preference may be granted to students who can work in Spanish, French, Arabic or Portuguese in addition to English.
University of Michigan Virtual Interns from UNHR assigned to Afghanistan and Eritrea participate in meeting with High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet at 40th Human Rights Council session, March 5, 2019.
UNHR's Virtual Intern Program and Representation Services help to make universal representation at the UN a reality. UNHR Geneva President Eric Richardson helps publicize this goal at HRC 39.
Even during COVID, UNHR Student Legal Advisors Join HRC meetings to deploy their skills in negotiation, intervention drafting and analysis of UN resolutions and international law.
From Afghanistan to Sierra Leone, UNHR student legal advisors represent delegations in the UN Human Rights Council.