Working closely together with the principal adviser on international humanitarian law within OCHA., my role entailed assisting with giving legal guidance to field colleagues. This required me to research intricate and underexplored questions of international humanitarian law and general public international law. Additionally, working on these cases also provided me with an understanding of the challenges and threats humanitarians involved in life-saving operations encounter.

Concurrently, I had the opportunity to get involved, in a small way, in the processes of setting up and refining humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. Ahead of the adoption of the Security Council resolution renewing the mandate for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), I drafted recommendations for improving the Mission’s current mandate. These proposals, based on insights from our field office, were developed in close consultation with various partners in other UN Offices and Departments before being discussed with Security Council experts. Witnessing this process was in itself highly instructive. It was also very rewarding to see that the Council eventually endorsed most of our recommendations in the new resolution. Nevertheless, studying the situation in the Central African Republic in depth also clearly demonstrated to me the limits of what can be expected from such a Mission, however elaborate its mandate, when functioning public structures are largely absent in the host State.

The placement with OCHA confronted me with challenging and fascinating questions of international law and provided me with inestimable insights into the institutional dimensions of multi-lateral humanitarian efforts, as well as into the UN Secretariat structures more generally. I am very grateful to the Global Justice Internship Programme for this invaluable experience.