Heidi Pfeiffer, Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Global Studies
Thomas More Academic Merit Law Scholarship Recipient
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 Heidi said about her experience:
"Geneva is more than a place. It is an idea. I cannot think of a single area of human life that is not impacted by the organisations based in Geneva." This statement was made by Kofi Annan in a speech he gave a week prior to me landing in Geneva. Despite only being with Edmund Rice International for two short weeks, I have begun to realise just how true this statement is.
Whilst being here I have attended a wide variety of sessions at the Human Rights Council and multiple side sessions. It was incredibly eye opening to see how the UN operates and to witness first-hand, discussions on important human rights issues ranging from terrorist attacks and conflicts to climate change and women’s rights and to the presentation of Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR).
I have also been incredibly privileged to take part in the advocacy work of ERI and to learn more about NGO involvement in the UPR process. I greatly enjoyed working on the beginning stages of the UPR for Papua New Guinea and being involved in discussions with ERI partners on this submission.
I have also been given the opportunity to use my legal skills to research legislation and prepare information files on Child Rights and children in detention centres, as well as adolescent suicide in over 30 countries.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of experiences which have helped me grow in both understanding and passion. I have had the opportunity of a lifetime and am very grateful for the kindness and support of the ERI staff. Now more than ever, I am more driven to work towards change within my own community. I am fortunate enough to have new skills and knowledge to help me achieve this change. After all, everything must start small and I must start somewhere.