René Cassin “has cemented my belief in the power and importance of human rights”

7 Aug, 2018 | Work Experience

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Joe Rowan reflects on René Cassin’s nurturing environment and his personal passion for activism. 

Admittedly, before this week, my ideas about work experience mostly consisted of the stereotypes – shadowing your superiors, filing seemingly never-ending stacks of files, and making coffee and tea. However, my fears were proven wrong as soon as I stepped in the doors of René Cassin. I was greeted with warm smiles and friendly faces, and instantly felt part of the team. The environment at René Cassin is special in that everyone genuinely cares about each other and what they’re doing, and it gives you an enormous sense of satisfaction to know that the work you’re doing is helping to change lives.

“the environment at René Cassin is special in that everyone genuinely cares about each other and what they’re doing”

With global political turmoil and a vast array of problems presented by the rise of populism, human rights awareness and activism have become ever more important in the modern world. One thing I have learned this week is that, shockingly, although the UK is a first-world country and a strong power at the forefront of international affairs, human rights abuses still occur all too often and not enough is being done to combat this. Whether it be the notorious Windrush Scandal, or the scarcely reported 13,000 people working as slaves in the UK today, it is clear that more needs to be done to fight for human rights in any way possible, and this is what made me join René Cassin in the first place.

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On my first day, unlike most on work experience, I was honoured to be able to attend the House of Commons to witness how human rights are being represented on the national stage, and to see politics in action. It gave me a wonderful taste of why the work René Cassin does is so valuable; it can have a profound impact on the politics and laws of our country. I was also grateful for being taught about how human rights were established, as well as how they are enshrined in the legal system. This showed me both the rich history of human rights, as well as how they were finally achieved as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, after the atrocities of the Holocaust in the early 1940s.

“it is clear that more needs to be done to fight for human rights in any way possible”

For the remainder of the week, I was immersed in the practicalities of everyday advocacy and campaigning for the protection of human rights in the UK. I was initially tasked with analysing the legal practices of large companies with regards to slavery; through this, I realised not only how much is already done in the attempt to prevent slavery, but perhaps more importantly, how much more needs to be done in order to eradicate it completely from both the British and foreign shores.

Another unique aspect about this work experience has been that all of my work has been tailored to my interests, and this has enabled me to gain a greater of understanding of human rights through the lens of what I already know and enjoy. For example, one task I have been carrying out this week has been analysing archival documents in French, which I have greatly enjoyed as it gave me a valuable insight into the roots of human rights from an authentic perspective – that of Monsieur René Cassin’s, the co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, own life.

“the nurturing and caring environment, along with the powerful drive for change which fuels the organisation, has made for a life-changing experience”

This week at René Cassin has been one I will never forget. The nurturing and caring environment, along with the powerful drive for change which fuels the organisation, has made for a life-changing experience and is not something I ever thought I would be privileged enough to take part in. It has likely impacted my future career and has given me a sense of what it is like to work in an NGO – but, most importantly, it has cemented my belief in the power and importance of human rights in a way I never thought possible.

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