Posted: April 5, 2010
By Magdalena Georgieva '10
When Abigail Chernick '11 arrived for her first day as an intern at UN Watch in Geneva, she found herself in the whirlwind of the eleventh special session of the United Nations' Human Rights Council (HRC). The session was called to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, a result of the war conflicts between Sri Lankan authorities and the Tamil Tigers insurgency. Yet, as Chernick found, the session became mostly an endorsement of the Sri Lankan government's actions without addressing the treatment of the Tamil population.
"That was my first real experience with the HRC and it certainly demonstrated the importance of the work I was doing," said Chernick, who is an international relations major with a focus on security and the Middle East. "That an organization supposedly committed to the protection and promotion of human rights could condone such abuses was unthinkable to me, and I felt proud to be part of exposing that injustice."
During her academic career, Chernick had been critical of the UN mechanisms regarding human rights. When she learned about UN Watch and its efforts to bring constructive reform at the HRC, she applied for an internship with the Geneva-based nongovernmental organization.
Chernick spent two months at UN Watch, serving as a reporter while the HRC was in session and taking notes on the proceedings to be used for blog posts and press releases. When the council wasn't in session, she conducted research for speeches, articles, and op-eds being written by her employer. Chernick’s experience at UN Watch sharpened her focus on politics, human rights, and security issues.
"It was quite formative to have a job where I could see the connection between my studies and the work I was doing," she said. "It really drove home the value of the education I'm receiving at Mount Holyoke, and gave me some ideas of how to tailor the rest of my time here to suit my future goals."