Law and Business

Abdul Malek Kazimi, Bachelor of Laws

ACU Law students participate in UN placements in Switzerland

Edmund Rice International (ERI), is an international Catholic NGO based in Geneva, Switzerland, that has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.

ERI offered two ACU Law students the opportunity to participate in its activities at the UN in Geneva as part of the law course pro bono program. The placements were scheduled over a period of ten days from 16 June to 3 July 2015 and involved the students observing a Human Rights Council (HRC) meeting and scheduled side sessions. The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.

The two students were:

Heidi Pfeiffer - A year two Sydney student who currently holds an elected student position of Director of the Social Justice Committee of the Mackillop Law Student Society (LSS), in addition to being a recipient of the Thomas More Academic Merit Law Scholarship.

Abdul Malek Kazimi - Abdul is from Afghanistan in year two of the law program at the St Patrick's campus having found refuge in Australia in 2006. Recently with like-minded peers, he established a group that offers assistance to Afghan refugees on a volunteer basis under the banner of Project YANA – an acronym for 'You Are Not Alone'.

Here is what Abdul said about his experience:

For an Australian student, going to Geneva to do his work placement is in itself incredible and very exciting. However, my placement with ERI has been much more than just a pro bono work placement. Apart from meeting some of the most wonderful people, I have gained a world of invaluable knowledge and experience which will last me throughout my life. I came to Geneva to fulfil a requirement of my law course, but my work and stay with ERI gave me much more than what I expected; it has opened my eyes to most of the world which I could not see before.

In the process of doing the placement with ERI, I learned a lot about some of the areas of human rights that are the focus of ERI activities. But, more important than that, it has helped me understand some aspects of the legal and organisational structure of an NGO as well as some of the approaches an NGO such as ERI take in carrying out their work, be it community service or advocacy. Furthermore, the opportunity of being able to observe the Human Rights Council (HRC) in session, as part of this placement, has helped me understand how the HRC of the United Nations works in practice.

Aside from the fact that the knowledge and experience that I have gained from this placement will certainly be of a great importance in assisting me achieve my goals in the future, it is now helping me make the right choices for my future career and be certain about them. I have always been very interested in human rights law, but now that I have gained some insight into what does human right involve in practice, I am certain about my decision of continuing human rights law alongside my other study goals.

Finally, a huge thank you to the staff of ERI in Geneva; even though I am sure that you already know, your work is of immense importance for the wellbeing of this world, especially to those, otherwise voiceless, human beings around the globe whose voices reach the UN through your works.