Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the U.S. and abroad. This dispatch from Pinky Mehta L’15 is one in a series of firsthand accounts by Law School students about how their summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers. Supported by an International Summer Human Rights Fellowship, Mehta is working in Geneva, Switzerland, at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mehta is from New Jersey, studied at Haverford College and the London School of Economics, and worked at the US Department of Justice.
Passion for Human Rights
I have been working at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the past month and am incredibly happy with my experience here. The office environment is very relaxed and friendly, and the best part of the experience is certainly the people with whom I am working. There are about 10 desk officers, each managing around four countries. They are all incredibly smart, passionate, and dedicated to the work. They are also so warm and welcoming and have tried to make my experience in Geneva truly enjoyable.
The work has exceeded my expectations. The desk officers have all been very considerate about giving me interesting and substantive work and have included me on projects about which I have expressed interest. I have helped research and draft several Special Procedures communications, which are letters to national governments alerting them to urgent human rights situations in their country and urging them to take action to remedy the situation. I am supporting desk officers in researching and drafting reports on countries’ human rights situations issued by the Secretary General and Special Rapporteur. I am also helping to research and draft briefing packets for the High Commissioner’s upcoming missions to inform her about those countries’ political, economic, and human rights issues. I just started working on technical notes, which are statements put out by the High Commissioner on the current status of international law on particular topics and our concerns about domestic laws that violate international law.
I have learned so much here already. I am excited to keep working on such interesting projects under the guidance of these amazing desk officers. After learning about international human rights law in the classroom, it has been incredibly rewarding to be in this office and actually practice this type of work. I plan to continue working on these same human rights issues with the International Human Rights Advocates pro-bono group next school year.