This week was both my last week in Switzerland and a shorter week as well due to Monday being Swiss National Day. The lakefront of Geneva had been transformed over the last couple weeks to resemble a sort of fair grounds to prepare for this holiday which goes on for about two weeks. Bumper-cars, carnival games, mini-rollercoasters, and food stalls populated the main gathering place of Geneva. I visited the area on Monday on my way to read in one of the nearby parks and it was a spectacle to see. The area was absolutely packed with families and tourists seeking to enjoy a nice sunny afternoon. It is a shame, however, that I will not be in Geneva when the main fireworks event occurs, it is supposed to be spectacular. After enjoying my day off on Monday, I headed back to IBJ for one last week.
I had two main goals heading into this week: (1) finish the KIOS proposal and (2) finally submit the UNVFVT grant for Burundi. After a lot of hard work and with some help from the other interns I was able to complete both of these objectives. First, I tackled the KIOS proposal after doing some last minute research on Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Through this process, I learned just how much help these judicial systems required. Each country had a pre-trial detention rate of at least 50% and some countries were even as high as 70%. On top of this, prison overcrowding also provided a major obstacle where the average prison system was at 160% capacity. Finally, I learned that torture was skyrocketing in some of the countries and in others, the government refused to prosecute any cases of abuse by security forces and actively arrested human rights workers trying to meet with detainees. Although many interns skip this research step, I found throughout the course of this internship that doing basic research such as this really helps in writing proposals. If gives you a sense of urgency when writing about the proposed project and why it is necessary for the country’s development. Even if I end up not using the research in the actual proposal, it still proves invaluable during the writing process.
After looking at the reference material from past KIOS proposals, I started filling out the application and it went surprisingly fast. After writing about a dozen proposals and countless other documents, I became very comfortable writing in the style that was necessary for proposal drafting. After a couple of days of writing and editing, I had finished all of the major sections of the proposal and only had the budget sections left which we could not complete at this time. In order to finish the budget, we first needed to decide on how much money we would be requesting and this could not be completed until Sanjee comes back from vacation in about two weeks. Unfortunately, because of this issue, I will not be able to submit the final proposal and see this project through to the end. Regardless, I was pleased that I was able to finish a first draft of the document so quickly and avoid passing it on to another intern who was most likely dealing with a full plate of other projects.
The next project I finished was the UNVFVT application. After finally gaining permission from the UN to edit the application for the UNVFVT I filled out the entire application with the exception of the budget which I still had concerns with. Some people in the office felt like my original case load was too ambitious so the budget had to be completely restructured. I had proposed that IBJ would take on around 200 cases under this grant but that number was taken down to only 50 total cases. I expressed my concern that this low number would turn away the UNVFVT from funding this project, especially since it was an emergency application. The counterargument was that we wanted to set the case load low so that we could over perform it at the end of the grant period and hopefully get further funding as a result. I felt that this was an unnecessary risk because I was confident that we could get further funding by proving that we could operate efficiently and effectively on the ground in the difficult environment of Burundi. In the end, after a lot of back and forth, we decided to move the case load from 50 to around 125, which I felt was a very reasonable compromise. With the budget adjusted for this new value, I uploaded all of the data into the application. Finally, after three months of drafting and re-drafting and after a lot of back and forth with the UN, the proposal was finally ready for submission. This felt like a perfect ending to my internship at IBJ. The UNVFVT proposal was my first assignment and my last submission.
On Friday we had a team gathering like we always do when an intern is leaving. I felt both a sense of pride for what I had accomplished but also felt sad that I would not see any of these people again for quite some time. I had worked with these wonderful individuals around 43 hours a week for the past three months and now I would be leaving to return back to the States. After saying my goodbyes, it was time to leave the offices of IBJ one last time. This organization and its employees have had a tremendous impact on my life during these past three months. This opportunity has opened my eyes to the realities of working on the defense side of international law, given me a new perspective on cultures from all around the world, and introduced me to some of the most dedicated and hard-working people that I know. This summer’s experience will stick with me for the rest of my life and has further entrenched my dedication to eventually working in human rights law after graduation. I will miss Geneva and all of the great people here but I have a feeling that I will be back in the future. I know that I will always be welcome at the offices of IBJ and will never forget all that they have done for me. I look forward to following their progress and seeing them continue to build and expand into a global leader for criminal justice reform. I cannot think of another organization I would have rather spent my summer with.