Finding internships in international peacekeeping can be more challenging than finding other internships as the channels are not as clearly mapped out and the advertising such positions can be almost non-existent.
We share here some research and techniques that some of our students have used to find internships and the like in the area of international conflict resolution/peacekeeping.
Harvard Law School Resources
Sarah Zucker (International Legal Studies, WCC 5005)
Alexa Shabacoff (Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising, WCC 4039)
Some Things to Consider in this Work
- Is there a particular conflict you want to immerse yourself in? If so, let that be the focus of your research.
- The people who do the most interesting work at organizations whose mission/mandate is international peacekeeping and mediation in conflict zones are way under the radar. Follow up on every lead you get and whenever you have the chance to do an informational interview with someone, at the end, ask them who you should speak to next.
- Groups working in the area of the most interesting conflicts tend to be very under the radar because the work is best done out of the spotlight. They probably are not going to have internships listed on their website so you just have to begin contacting people and asking them what’s available. Focus on what you can do for them. Be persistent and try to work your way in. These organizations often act as diplomats in a conflict, though not for specific government. Rather diplomats reach out to them to facilitate high level talks.
- Consider focusing on organizations that do specific, regional conflict resolution. These organizations are less about being part of whatever is the most recent, hot conflict in the news and more about long-term disputes and long-term process design. For example, we had a student who reached out to a contact at Accord, which specializes in conflict resolution in Africa, and they took her right away. So look consider focusing your research on regional NGOs.
- That same student advised us, “Go somewhere you think the tools are needed and then be persistent about getting your foot in the door. Find a conflict that interests you and research who’s working there.”
- If you are trying to get job with an organization that’s not an obvious path for a law student, emphasize that you have your own funding and are free, enthusiastic labor. Read everything on their websites. Use their language, present yourself as knowledgeable on their issues and focus. If they are not interested in bringing newbies into conflict zones, show them your entrepreneurial spirit. They don’t want to have to worry about whether you will have something to do or spend time giving you tasks. Work is on the fly and ad hoc. In your conversations, frame it that you have your own research interests that you can work on so they don’t have monitor you or provide you with work. Be productive and low maintenance. Always try to figure out how much of the burden you can shift from the organization onto yourself (visa, housing, etc.) to make yourself a yes-able proposition.
- One student found that summer is so short, organizations don’t get a huge return to train you for eight weeks. So she let them know she’d be interested and willing to begin before the summer and engaged in some remote work for them beginning in April and then continued to contribute after the summer. This is one way to cultivate a longer professional relationship.
Ideas for Specific Organizations to Research
Public International Law Policy Group is a non-profit organization that operates as a global pro bono law firm to provide free legal assistance to states and governments involved in peace negotiations, advise states on drafting post-conflict constitutions, and assist in prosecuting war criminals. To facilitate the utilization of this legal assistance, PILPG also provides policy formulation advice and training on matters related to conflict resolution.
The United Nations sends Special Envoy missions around the world to do actual negotiations. Interns at the U.N. engage in limited travel or hands on conflict experience. A better way to get involved is to figure out who the Special Envoy to your region of interest is and make contact with him/her. One of our students spent time in Yemen with the Mediation Support Unit by going around the system in this way and being hired as contractor instead of being intern. She just kept calling and inquiring and getting names and making more calls and sending emails and making contacts.
United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a principal training arm of the United Nations, working in every region of the world. We empower individuals, governments and organizations through knowledge and learning to effectively overcome contemporary global challenges.
United States Institute of Peace currently only accepts interns from D.C. universities but is a place to investigate for potential future jobs. The USIP works to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict around the world by engaging directly in conflict zones and by providing analysis, education, and resources to those working for peace.
Independent Diplomat is an innovative venture in the world of international relations. Independent Diplomat’s staff comprises experienced former diplomats, international lawyers and other experts in international relations. ID’s advice is impartial and its staff members have no allegiance or affiliation to other governments or institutions.
Conflict Dynamics International is an independent, not-for-profit organization founded to prevent and resolve violent conflict between and within states, and to alleviate human suffering resulting from conflicts and other crises around the world.
The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue is a private diplomacy organisation founded on the principles of humanity, impartiality and independence. Their mission is to help prevent, mitigate, and resolve armed conflict through dialogue and mediation
Also, research current international fellows at both the Fletcher School of International Affairs at Tufts University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government to see what organizations they work for, or what projects they are working on. Generally they are very open to having coffee and speaking about their work.
A Word about Funding and Security
Most of these opportunities are public interest positions and hence, unpaid. The timeline to get funding through Harvard (through SPIF, Program on Negotiation, Chayes Fellowship, etc.) can be in tension with the timeline for getting the positions. You often have to pitch the position to get money from Harvard, and even have letters from the employer, before the organizations will let you know what they/you are doing. If money is important you may need to think more about the organization you want to work with, rather than the conflict, in order to manage the process for getting funding.
If you want to be abroad in a conflict zone, you will need to do a certain amount of negotiating with Harvard Global Security Services (if you have Harvard funding). You should be prepared to convince them that your work is not a liability for Harvard. Make the case for why you’re not a “newbie” who can’t get out of situations that might arise by relating past experiences that show you can handle complicated situations. Also, be under some kind of security umbrella from the organization with which you are working.