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United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Human Rights Liaison Unit

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action for the worldwide protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems.

UNHCR is an impartial organization, offering protection and assistance to refugees and others on the basis of their needs and irrespective of their race, religion, political opinion, or gender. In its efforts to protect refugees and to promote solutions to their problems, UNHCR works in partnership with governments, regional organizations, international, and nongovernmental organizations.

The Human Rights Liaison Unit is part of the Policy and Law Pillar ("Pillar I") of the Division of International Protection (DIP). The Unit aims at promoting the effective use of international human rights law and UN human rights mechanisms to strengthen the protection of persons of concern to UNHCR.

Nature of the Extern's Work and Supervision

The externs assist in the finalization of UNHCR's confidential comments to the seven human rights treaty bodies, attend the treaty body sessions, and prepare feedback to UNHCR colleagues covering the countries under examination. Externs also follow proceedings at the Human Rights Council, and provide feedback to UNHCR colleagues on discussions of relevance to the work of UNHCR. In addition, externs are required to undertake legal research and analyses on various topics of relevance to UNHCR's work.

While the precise tasks of interns vary, taking into account the schedule of treaty bodies, the regular and special sessions of the Human Rights Council, and the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Reviews, as well as the specific skills, competencies, and areas of interest of the respective intern, the main tasks in which interns at our sections are involved are the following:

  • Contributing to the compilation of information and preparation of UNHCR submissions to the different treaty bodies.
  • Monitoring of sessions of treaty bodies as observers on behalf of UNHCR.
  • Preparation of feedback to the concerned field offices on the deliberation and outcome of the debate on country reports by treaty bodies.
  • Participation as observers in the sessions of the Human Rights Council, as well as in informal meetings organized in parallel to the Council sessions, or any special Council meetings throughout the year and preparation of reports.
  • To contribute to the compilation of information and preparation of UNHCR submissions on countries to be examined under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism.
  • To contribute to the preparation of summaries of UPR submissions to be used for "lobbying" purposes ahead of the UPR sessions.
  • Participation as observers in the sessions of the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Reviews.
  • Legal research tasks on human rights issues relating to refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR.
  • Search for and analysis of documents produced by the UN human rights machinery.
  • Editing position papers and other legal documents.

In addition, where occasions arise, interns may participate in bi- and multilateral meetings of UNHCR with government and other agency partners, as well as in training seminars or briefings offered by UNHCR colleagues.

Interns may occasionally be asked to offer support to other units within the Division of International Protection.

Important Information for Students

Externs working with the Human Rights Liaison Unit must have studied transnational law and human rights law. Knowledge and/or experience in the field of refugee law will be highly valued. Fluency in English is a prerequisite, and knowledge of another UN language would be an asset. While not being a formal requirement, any relevant work experience will of course also be taken into account in the selection of interns.

To learn more about the UNHCR, please visit their website.

 
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