Hannah Matthews, Peace Brigades International, Colombia

I have been in Colombia for three years, working for PBI for just over two.  I have spent most of this time in a city in the North East of the country called Barrancabermeja, petrol capital of Colombia and centre of the social, economic and armed conflicts still raging in the country.  Now I am in a more coordinating role in Bogotá, the capital city of the country where I am involved in national advocacy with various entities of the Colombian government and armed forces, and constant dialogue with the diplomatic corps.  PBI is an international NGO that protects human rights defenders through non-violent physical and political accompaniment.  We accompany a huge range of human rights defenders throughout the country; lawyers, grass root organisations, journalists and communities resisting the armed conflict.  Despite their differences they are all at high risk because of the work they do defending human rights in the country and speaking out against state corruption and human rights abuse.  The physical accompaniment involves literally going with human rights defenders to their various activities throughout the country to show the international support they have, and the political accompaniment involves meetings at a regional, national and international level with authorities to explain the  fundamental work human rights defenders are carrying out in the country and the importance of assuring their protection.  Colombia is experiencing an historic moment as the peace agreements between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and government have just recently been passed through the Congress and are beginning to be implemented, representing the end of a war which has lasted for over 50 years.  This transition from war to peace is hugely important but very fragile, meaning the presence of international organisations observing and commentating on the situation is of vital importance.

Throughout the Masters course I interned at the PBI London offices which was a great insight into the work in the field and provided me with the contacts I needed to be able to apply to the Colombia project.  I also wrote a paper on the interaction between human rights law and International Humanitarian Law in the Colombian context which was published by the International Journal on Human Rights during the program. The range of skills I acquired during the course have been hugely useful in my work here, especially the analytical and critical capacities strengthened in the law modules, the practical skills from the securing sections and the broader insights from the case studies we analysed in the understanding lectures and seminars. The Masters course was fundamental in developing my interest and skills and providing me with useful contacts to start my career in human rights.

Georgia Booth, Independent Consultant

I am currently working as an Independent Consultant in advocacy, policy, campaigns, research and strategic partnerships, with a focus on girls’ and women’s empowerment, girls’ leadership and gender equality. Recent consultancy projects include youth advocacy work with Plan International, supporting the editing of Plan UK’s seminal State of Girls’ Rights in the UK report and project management for Mercy Corps Europe. 

Tanja Venisnik, ClientEarth

After completing the MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights and finishing my internship with Minority Rights Group International in London, I relocated to SE Asia to gain more human rights experience in the field. I started by conducting human rights trainings for Burmese students in Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma border and later moved to the Philippines to work as a Human Rights and Accountability Advisor for a small NGO responding to the devastating effects of Typhoon Haiyan. Afterwards, I obtained a position with EarthRights International in Chiang Mai, Thailand, as a Mekong Legal Coordinator, supporting local lawyers and civil society organisations in the Mekong region to advocate against large-scale development projects having detrimental impacts to the environment and human rights of local communities.

I am currently based in London with an international NGO ClientEarth, working as a Law and Policy Advisor in the Climate & Forests team. In this role, I focus on the issues relating to forest governance and community rights, particularly in the Republic of Congo. I support local civil society organisations to advocate for better forest governance, effective participation in decision-making processes and respect for community rights.

Having a background in law, I had some grasp of human rights issues before joining the course, however, the programme armed me with substantial additional theoretical and practical understanding of international human rights law, human rights theory, advocacy and research. It enabled me to seize very interesting job opportunities and to engage with human rights issues with confidence. The course ultimately played an important role in enabling me to shift my career and become a practicing human rights professional.

Chyngyz Batyrbekov, OSCE ODIHR

After graduating I have returned to Kyrgyzstan and started working with the public foundation for development of education in rural areas of the country.  The goal of the foundation is to provide children living in remote areas of Kyrgyzstan with high quality education with easy access to IT and foreign languages.  I am responsible for international affairs and public information.  I search for possibilities of international cooperation and joint projects with foreign educational entities.

Having MA degree in Human Rights I also have started teaching International Human Rights Law course at American University of Central Asia, located in Kyrgyzstan, where I studies before MA in London.  I am also an assistant lecturer at International Humanitarian Law course required for senior Law students at the university.  The MA has helped me in deeper understanding of human rights and my role in this field.  I have chosen to continue my career in securing rights for education in my country and my studies at the School of Advanced Study have definitely inspired and prepared me for that.