Delegations wishing to have a student legal advisor in person must register with INHR (contact@INHR.org) early in the fall and we strongly recommend that new HRC members and candidates agree to take on a student legal advisor to help prepare your Council membership.
In-person student legal advisors work 40 hours per week in Geneva from January to late April. Other delegations may wish to consider a virtual student legal advisor, who provides remote support from the location of their university, of approximately 8-10 hours per week. In both cases, the student legal advisors start their remote work with the November UPR session and are available to support non-human rights topics as well, based on negotiation with the program and the demands of the interested delegations. In all cases, the students work directly for the Mission and have no reporting or loyalties to any other institution, keeping your information and strategies private and confidential. At the same time, they are part of a cohort of some 20 students working at different SIDS/LDC missions in Geneva, meaning they also have a diplomatic network which can help you advance your country's goals. Either way, they will hit the ground running, able to provide you with statements, interventions, and reports related to your priorities in much the same was as a junior diplomat can. For delegations not physically located in Geneva, the student legal advisors can even liaise with supervisors in New York or capital, so long as free, online communication systems are used to provide them with guidance and a sense of the delegation's priorities.
Eligibility and requirements:
To participate in the program, delegations must commit to allowing the student to help your delegation for the September to May time period. The semester September-December will largely involve training of the students at their universities away from Geneva, but a monthly phone call with the Geneva delegation or capital is 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 online meetings for guidance and assignments. Virtual interns may be able to visit Geneva during part of the March or June HRC sessions or the May UPR working group. 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, INHR’s diplomats can present the material or sign for the participating delegation, provided appropriate authorization and credentialing is provided.
Expectations for Students:
The INHR Student Legal Advisor 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 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 INHR 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 INHR 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 Ifrane in Morocco, and universities in Canada, Turkey and Tunisia. LLM student lawyers have participated from Spain, India, Nepal, Egypt, Ecuador and several other countries.
Several INHR 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 contact@INHR.org. 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.
Watch as INHR President Eric Richardson explains how INHR's program can help you!
See a dramatization explaining how the UNHR Virtual Legal Intern program works.
See what law students say about their experience with the INHR Virtual Legal Internship
Hear from other Geneva NGOs about the value of the INHR program to build capacity of smaller NGOs and missions
HRC 53 Side Event on Ressources Challenges Faced by Small Delegations
At the 53rd Human Rights Council session, INHR hosted a Side Event on resource challenges faced by small delegations, particularly SIDS. A panel of Ambassadors and Student Legal Advisors discussed their experience with our program.