For seven weeks, I lived in Canberra (the capital territory of Australia) and worked closely with an Australian delegate to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). My focus was to study the third objective of the Convention - Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) of genetic resources - while also gaining an appreciation for the ways in which medium-sized countries are able to pursue their interests in the international system. The internship consisted primarily of independent research with weekly lectures from Geoff Burton, the delegate.
These lectures focused on a variety of topics including:
Vienna Convention: The origins of international negotiations
Convention Overview: Type of treaty, objectives, and relevant articles
Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS)
Effectiveness for Medium-Sized Countries
Once establishing an understanding of the Convention itself, I completed a series of minor research tasks, including the roles of taxonomy and DNA barcoding in the CBD, and the rival consortia for the barcode of life (International Barcode of Life vs. Consortia for the Barcode of Life). Ultimately, the research revealed a discouraging disconnect between science and technology and environmental policy-making.
In addition to my work on ABS, the internship provided opportunities to interview a variety of people who have worked both the international system and in scientific research. These individuals include Cameron Slatyer, the director of the Australian Biological Resources Study, and the former Australian ambassador to Romania. Along with these interviews, I attended Professor Ross Garnaut's presentation on Climate Change Mitigation at the Australian National University. His report is currently the source of an intense and progressive political discussion concerning Australia's approach to global climate change.
The internship was very good, both in terms of what I learned and the experiences that I had. Australia itself is a great country to visit - everything from the people to the wildlife is fantastic. I stayed with Geoff Burton and his family in Canberra, and they were most accommodating. They were awesome enough to take me to Brisbane and Sydney, too - so that I could see the Opera House and climb the Harbour Bridge! The $1900 was enough to cover most of my airfare and money for food. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give this internship an 11, and I highly recommend it to Politics and International Relations majors who are interested in working for the United Nations.