“Together we build democracies that deliver for all.”

As a Legal Fellow at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems this summer, I received communications training on the organization’s mission statement in my first few weeks of work. This mission for the organization is matched with a vision: Democracy for a better future. 

In this early stage of my summer, “the primaries” if analogized to a typical election cycle, I’m beginning to learn what democracy for a better future may look like through my assignments. As I familiarize myself with IFES publications, training, and analytical frameworks for a long-term assignment (more on that in my next post), I’ve been (virtually) attending (virtual) conferences and taking notes on different panels related to IFES subject areas. 

First, from June 2nd through 4th, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (“UNGASS”) focused on the global fight against corruption. In addition to the opening and plenary sessions of the assembly, the meeting hosted around 40 “side events” on different subtopics of anti-corruption work. IFES’s own side event, titled “Why Peer Review Fails,” launched its publication “Piercing the Veil: Using Peer Review Reports in the Fight Against Corruption, A Guide for Transforming Analysis into Action.” This event was also sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). 

I attended three additional side events over the course of UNGASS. My first panel was titled “Civil Society engagement in UNCAC and future steps.” The adoption of the Convention against Corruption (“UNCAC”) signified a watershed moment for the UN and international anti-corruption work. The UNCAC Coalition, a global network of over 350 civil society organizations (CSOs) in over 100 countries committed UNCAC engagement, and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime organized the panel. Next, I attended the Republic of Azerbaijan’s panel on “Abuse Of Non-profit Organizations For The Purposes Of Corruption, Money Laundering And Terrorist Financing.” After working on nonprofit law and tax matters in my previous role as a paralegal, I was interested to see the role that charities can play in international corruption and the different strategies that countries have implemented against their abuse. Lastly, I attended the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance’s panel on “Tracing Money Behind Online Political Communication.” As political communication grows in both quantity and anonymity online, it was fascinating to hear about its international implications. 

Second, from June 7th to 8th, the Ukraine Anti-Corruption Action Center hosted the Zero Corruption Conference. With the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other partners, the conference addressed international threats to democracy while also addressing Ukraine’s specific anti-corruption efforts and challenges. I attended the panel on “Strong Legislative Response to Strategic Corruption as a Hybrid Threat to Democracy and Security Globally.” The panelists included leaders from Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, and the United States. While the conference was held in Kyiv, several panelists attended over web video, and the entire conference was recorded and posted online. 

Attending and taking notes on such a wide range of topics in the anti-corruption field allowed me to build a foundation of understanding of the international mechanisms at play. This work came in handy when I jumped into another assignment on tracking the anti-corruption commitments of different nations under global and local conventions and agreements. In addition to the UNCAC review mechanism for a nation’s participation in anti-corruption work, there are several regional and national efforts on anti-corruption to note when assessing a nation’s potential training or research needs from IFES. I tracked the commitments and recommendations for Morocco, where I lived for a month in 2015, for our multi-nation matrix.

Outside of work, as a remote Fellow, I’ve also been taking a class on Professional Responsibility in the mornings. As one of only 2 JDs in the class, I’ve had the opportunity to learn alongside several international LLM students and hear their perspectives on legal ethics. Additionally, I adopted a kitten, named Bruce, this month. Bruce was abandoned on the side of the road in a bag with his siblings, but luckily he was found by another law student’s grandmother. He has quickly become a feature of our IFES group video meetings. 

Next, in the “election cycle” of my summer, is the ever-important role of the campaign trail.