The advantage of interning for the global headquarters of International Bridges to Justice is that I am able to travel the world in an eight-hour workday. I begin my morning in Sudan, before hopping over to Myanmar. After lunch, I move to Syria and then finish my day in Switzerland. It has been immensely stimulating to work on so many diverse projects already. Through each of these projects, I am able to delve into very specific legal aspects of each country, and to think critically about how I can contribute. The only real downside is the difficulty of finding a time that is convenient for people in Yangon, Brussels, and Williamsburg to all have a Zoom meeting.
In Syria, I am inputting training manuals on property rights into JusticeHub, IBJ’s online community. The modules focus specifically on protecting the property rights of those who fled their homes in Syria but are now looking to return. As my supervisor candidly said, how can Syria ever rebuild if no one can come home. While the work feels significant, it is also interesting. The Cadastral System, or the system of registering property in Syria, guarantees accurate identification and therefore stability of real estate. Though it is a product of the French mandate in Syria, it remains one of the oldest laws there, and may provide security for property owners returning to Syria. I am hopeful that the multiple choice questions I created for the modules help Syrian lawyers protect peoples’ rights.
In Sudan, I had a fast but substantive lesson in finding applicable grants. The assignment was precise: find current grants, still open for submissions, applicable to Sudan, that relate to Rule of Law, governance, or human rights. Of the thousands of grants that exist from governments, NGOs, major bilateral and multilateral donors, very few meet all these criteria. It turned into a game, to find how to search grants through all avenues and find ones that checked off each of the requirements.
Perhaps the most interesting project that I’ve worked on so far is the launch of the African Access to Justice Women's Network. IBJ is currently creating a network of women lawyers in across 10 countries in Africa who have agreed to take on 700 cases of women detainees. Women lawyers face a thick glass ceiling, and through this project are able to gain recognition for their work. Women detainees face escalated rates of rape and gender-based violence, and limited access to lawyers and means of obtaining justice. It is a brilliant solution to a serious problem. Because I am really passionate about this project, I have been attempting to wedge myself into launch preparation wherever I can. Preparing training material, sending invitations, and checking organizational logistics are small ways that I have helped so far, but I am optimistic that I will be able to contribute to the initiative more as the summer continues.
While these projects are highly specific, I have also worked on a birds-eye-view project that allowed me to really contemplate political theory in a way that I have not since undergrad. My very first project with IBJ was to write a white paper on the deeper connection between democracy and the Rule of Law. My task was to argue that only caring about Rule of Law during election cycles is not enough, and to support democracy, the Rule of Law must be constantly supported as well. I read many deeply academic theories and real-world examples, and I am hopeful that the work I did can be used in Rule of Law or democracy related grants for IBJ in the future.
My work with IBJ thus far has been so exciting—every day is unique and thought-provoking in different ways. It has reinvigorated my interest in international law, and I am really looking forward to the rest of the summer.