Ms Linda Peels, 22 years old, Dutch
Studying: International and European Law, Bachelor Programme
Internship Project: Organisational support for the “First Global Forum on Statelessness” in September 2014, co-hosted by UNHCR and the Statelessness Programme.
Last year I attended a pub lecture on statelessness, given by Laura van Waas. I had never heard of this topic before, but after Laura’s lecture I immediately wanted to learn more about this phenomenon, in particular how it could possibly happen that someone did not have a nationality. I was thrilled when I saw that The Statelessness Programme was looking for an intern.
My internship focusses mainly on the organisational part of the 2014 Global Forum. When I first started, I have to admit I was a bit in doubt whether I would actually learn a lot about the academic side of statelessness, since this is not the main focus of my internship. So alongside my internship, I also enrolled for the course “Nationality, Statelessness and Human Rights”, created by the Statelessness Programme.
However, my doubt turned out to be for nothing: from my first day on, I had – and still have- to write so many people and explain to them what statelessness is and why this conference is so important, that I was forced to look into the topic and the definition to deepen my knowledge. Many questions arose, differing from very practical, such as how many NGOs are actually working on statelessness – not that many by the way- , to very academic, for instance how we should interpret the definition of statelessness given in art 1 of the 1954 UN Convention Relating to The Status of Stateless Persons, or how safeguards should be implemented in nationality laws to prevent statelessness.
For these questions, the combination of studying the topic during class and working on the topic during my internship is perfect: I get to work with both the practical obstacles and questions as well as the academic side of statelessness, which really helps me to understand this complex phenomenon and to explain what it is in a way that non-academics will understand it too. I found the answers to my questions, not only in literature during class, but also by working on the topic during my internship.
To give you an idea of what organising of such an extraordinary event implies, I will elaborate a bit more on what I am currently working on. The idea is to hold a conference for both academics and policy makers. On this point, we are trying to map NGOs who are working on the topic, we are looking for academics as key note speakers and we are mapping governments that have done a lot to prevent statelessness, for instance Indonesia, who has changed their nationality law and built in more safeguards to prevent statelessness. We hope to attract some 300 academics, governments representatives, key UN staff, NGO’s or legal practitioners working on human rights, refugees and stateless people with various international backgrounds. We have to make sure we keep a balance between policy developers and academics, since the hoped outcome of the conference implies both encouraging new research on statelessness and the development of better nationality laws or other policies, for instance giving stateless people access to Micro Finance Intuitions – see Jason’s latest blog post.
The conference aims to raise the profile of statelessness by giving academics and governments representatives the opportunity to share their research, experiences and achievements in tackling the issue. We also hope to provide a podium for the stateless and to give them a voice.
Since I first started I have met such wonderful people who are always willing to answer my questions. I have already learned a lot about the topic of statelessness, the mandate of the UNHCR and the people working on statelessness, and I still have more than a year left full of learning and experiences!
Linda Peels, intern with the Statelessness Programme