After completing Oxford’s Magister Juris programme, and having followed a course on ‘International Law and Armed Conflict,’ I was keen to gain some insight into how international humanitarian law functions in practice. With the generous support of the Global Justice Scholarship, I was able to do just this during an internship at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in New York.
I was fortunate to be at the United Nations during a particularly exciting time: I experienced both the 71st session of the General Assembly and the appointment of the new Secretary-General, António Guterres. My sole disappointment was not being able to meet UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio during his visit.
During my internship I conducted research on issues of humanitarian law and assisted with my Office’s work on the General Assembly’s ‘High-Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants.’ The most valuable element of my time at the UN, however, was the insight into how the convergence of law, policy and politics shapes modern-day humanitarianism. I was able to see how the language of General Assembly resolutions is picked apart by UN agencies in order to shape and support their mandate; how agencies try (and sometimes fail) to collaborate; and how states gather together both formally and informally to pursue their goals.
From sitting in on Security Council meetings to chatting to British diplomats in the UN’s Delegates’ Lounge, my internship at the United Nations was a fascinating insight into a world which may otherwise seem impenetrable. I would encourage anyone who hopes to work in international relations to apply for internships with the various UN agencies or their respective states’ permanent missions to the UN.