From July 18 – 29, Christopher Mercer and Julia Chamberlin, students at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, interned for the United Nations delegation of Iraq in New York City. Both have an avid interest in international law, and when Dean Hiram Chodosh sent an email about law students helping with a United Nations Conference in July, they jumped at the chance to work for the prestigious international organization. It was only after they talked to the UN coordinators that they discovered they would be doing more than attending the UN conference, they would also be serving two- to three-week internships. Although their internships were through the delegation of Iraq, they attended meetings on behalf of the UN Y.O.U.T.H. organization. This year marked the official International Youth Year, and the UN held a high conference on how to inspire change in politics and leadership by incorporating the opinions of the disenfranchised youth from around the world.
The two met with H.E. Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati, Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations, who had visited the College of Law and participated in a 2007 roundtable discussion on global justice reform. Mercer and Chamberlin were subsequently given security clearance to attend most UN meetings — including Security Council meetings — in one of the two main buildings in the UN compound. Since the UN hosts hundreds of meetings each week, they were allowed to attend whichever UN meetings piqued their interest. For instance, with Christopher Mercer’s background as a combat medic in the Iraqi war, he was particularly interested in the UN meeting on reimbursing countries for the use of military helicopters in peacekeeping missions. Meanwhile, Julia Chamberlin wants to focus more on human rights international law and she attended meetings on CEDAW (Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women), where she saw countries such as Dijibouti give plenary reports on steps that they have taken to empower women politically.
Mercer and Chamberlin both found the opportunity to intern at the United Nations to be a great break from traditional legal work and an excellent opportunity to see how an international governing body works firsthand. In addition to attending meetings, the two acted as consultants and wrote reports on their opinions of the UN meetings they attended. These reports will be published on the UN’s website this fall. Although the internship was more political than legal, they were introduced to many UN agencies — such as the UNHCR, CEDAW, and UNCITRAL — that would enable them to pursue their own interests and simultaneously use their legal educations.
Click here to view a video of H.E. Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati’s 2007 visit to the College of Law.