In the Fall of 2017, a cohort of Harvard graduate students visited New York City as part of a Carr Center for Human Rights Policy delegation to the United Nations.With more than 70 applications, competition was fierce across the University. Representing the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Law School, and the Harvard School of Public Health, students and fellows from Latin America, Europe, Asia, North America and Africa had the opportunity to observe the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee in action, witnessing debates on human rights matters, such as migrants' rights.
The delegation had the opportunity to meet with senior UN policymakers including the Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, reinforcing their understanding of key human rights policymaking instruments.
Leonardo Castilho, a Fellow at the Carr Center and the delegation’s principal organizer, described the trip as “an opportunity to get people interested in what the UN is all about – what the organization does, and its role convening governments of the world to come together to find solutions to global problems.”
In order to prepare the students for the delegation, two introductory talks were held by the Carr Center, in which participants learned about the United Nations human rights system, including by hearing directly from Maria Virginia Bras Gomes, Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, who visited Cambridge prior to the delegation's visit to NY.
Castilho, a Brazilian Human Rights Officer with the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), also underscored the networking opportunities that participating in the delegation offered, with students benefiting from one-to-one meetings with key actors. This included the Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights; the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, and civil society representatives.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for those of us pursuing a career in human rights and diplomacy,” one student participating in the trip said. “Interacting with high-level human rights officials, diplomats, and advocates was great. Equally enjoyable were the conversations we had with each other in the delegation. Each and every one of the delegates brought amazing, rich experiences with them to the table.”
The Carr Center hopes to organize a similar delegation to next year’s UNGA, and is delighted to announce the launch of the UN and Human Rights study group in the Spring 2018 semester that Leonardo Castilho will convene and moderate to continue the discussion on these important issues.