Adelaide law student Mr Michael Schubert has been awarded the prize for the third best presentation at the University’s Beacon Conference of Undergraduate Research. In his presentation, Michael spoke about the legal research he conducted while undertaking an internship at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier this year as part of the Law School’s Human Rights Internship Programme.
The following is Michael’s story:
From January to mid-May 2015 I was fortunate enough to intern at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. OHCHR is the lead UN organisation tasked with the protection and promotion of human rights. Thus an internship presented a dream opportunity to be involved in international human rights work at a diplomatic and political level.
I spent the first three months in the Human Rights Council Branch, which supports the Human Rights Council, the UN’s intergovernmental body on human rights. This included involvement with the January session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), as well as the four-week non-stop March session of the Council. My tasks were varied, ranging from assisting in determining the admissibility of complaints to the Human Rights Council’s complaint procedure, to reporting on the negotiation of resolutions, and speech writing.
At the beginning of April I began a six week stint with the Asia-Pacific Section of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of OHCHR. In the short time I was with the APS I worked on the human rights situations of at least 11 Asia-Pacific countries. This included conducting legal analysis and contributing to legal advice, researching and drafting reports on recent developments in the countries, and assisting with the organisation of OHCHR’s response to the Nepal earthquake disaster.
OHCHR was an extremely enjoyable place to intern. The staff are experts in their fields, supportive, friendly and work tirelessly, often in incredibly testing circumstances. Each day brought new challenges and new opportunities for the development of my legal and professional skills. And there was a tremendous community of interns, with whom I shared the excitement and trials of the work.
After returning to Adelaide in July I was encouraged to submit my research essay (originally written as part of my Human Rights Internship Programme assessment) to the University of Adelaide’s Beacon Conference of Undergraduate Research. The conference was held on Tuesday the 15th of September and showcased undergraduate research from every faculty of the University. It was thought-provoking and informative to hear presentations of genuinely innovative research, as well as a panel discussion by experienced staff on some of the challenges researchers face. My research focused on the legality of referring longstanding and unresolved cases from the Human Rights Council’s special procedures to the complaint procedure. I analysed the existing legal barriers faced by the procedures, and proposed two legally-permissible solutions.
Participating in the Conference proved a valuable complement to my internship. Both experiences were excellent opportunities to gain insights outside of the usual university setting, and I am particularly thankful to Dr Laura Grenfell for her support of my involvement in the two initiatives.