Last year, Professor Warren's international internship program gave me the opportunity to work at Democracy for Development, a think-tank in Pristina, Kosovo. Now, a year later, I am very excited to be blogging again for her program, this time in Washington, D.C. I look forward to experiencing international law in a domestic context – it looks to be a very different, yet equally amazing summer.
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is a federally-funded nonprofit organization devoted to finding peaceful solutions to violent conflict worldwide. Within USIP, I am on the Rule of Law team, where I find myself in a gorgeous building with incredible colleagues who work in some of the most interesting areas around the globe. Another amazing thing about my internship is that William & Mary Law School has very close ties with USIP - my supervisor as well as another member of the Rule of Law team are W&M law alumni.
Since my first day of work fell on Memorial Day, my supervisor and I met up last Monday to discuss my summer assignments at Baked & Wired, an artsy bakery and coffee shop in Georgetown. My supervisor was heading to a UNDP Rule of Law conference in New York for the rest of the week, so she briefed me on what my summer would look like. Within the Rule of Law team, I am working with the International Network to Promote the Rule of Law (INPROL), which is an online global community of rule of law practitioners and academics who share resources and knowledge. A huge problem in the rule of law field is the knowledge divide - while a vast amount of information regarding the rule of law exists, it is often fragmented between actors and platforms. INPROL provides a way for the collective knowledge to be gathered in one place. Another major issue is the gulf between the rule of law academics and those in the field. Busy practitioners often don't have the time to produce scholarly works, and academics can become disconnected from the realities on the ground. INPROL facilitates communication between practitioners and academics for optimum "pracademics," as my colleague calls it. The hope is that practitioners and academics will interact in a way that promotes the rule of law as effectively as possible both in the field and the ivory tower. You should definitely go check it out at inprol.org.
INPROL hopes to launch webinars that will be useful to its community members, so my first assignment is to map existing webinars about the rule of law and international law. Once I finish that initial survey, I will then assist with a needs-assessment to determine what webinar topics would be the most helpful.
Last Tuesday was an exciting whirlwind introduction to USIP, its beautiful (but maze-like) interior, and the many people who run it. Luckily, I got to attend a fascinating event within a few hours of arrival called "Expanding Constitutional Rights to LGBTI Communities." The event included opening remarks from Randy Berry, the first U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons as well as USIP's president, Nancy Lindborg. Jason Gluck, a constitution-making expert at USIP, moderated discussion between activists from Fiji, Grenada, Ireland, South Africa, as well as a representative from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. The talk was very timely since Ireland had held its historic referendum regarding marriage equality just days before. Moninne Griffith, the Irish activist on the panel, had spearheaded Ireland's efforts, so it was incredible to hear her perspective on how Ireland's constitutional struggle and achievement. It was also a very fitting day to start work at USIP through Professor Warren's program as Professor Warren herself was one of the constitutional experts in the audience. I was very happy to see a familiar face, and it was great to catch up with Professor Warren before diving into my first day.
Throughout the rest of the week, I was able to bond more with my coworkers, who very kindly helped me after my housing plans completely fell apart last week. The thing that has impressed me at USIP the most so far is the kindness, inclusiveness, and generosity of my coworkers (my supervisor event let me stay at her place for a few nights while she was in New York during the housing fiasco). I expected my coworkers to be professionally impressive, which they all are, but I think it is truly something noteworthy to also be so friendly and open on top of that. I have never experienced office culture quite as I have during the past week, and I am very grateful for getting to be a part of it.
I have made good headway with the webinar project, and have been learning more about the technical aspects of INPROL in the process. It's an exciting time for the team as they decide the many different directions INPROL can go. Towards the end of the week, I scribed for a colleague who interviewed Philippe Leroux-Martin about his book, "Diplomatic Counterinsurgency: Lessons from Bosnia and Herzegovina." Philippe is a rule of law practitioner who worked in the Balkans for about a decade, who is now at USIP. He highlighted the difficulties and time-constraints of sharing the knowledge one amasses as a practitioner, which underscored the importance of what INPROL is trying to do. It was a very interesting first week of work to say the least.
Beyond work, I have enjoyed being a tourist in D.C.
It's been a great week to network, deepen my understanding of rule of law issues, and experience D.C. I'm very excited for what the rest of the summer has in store.