I attended the Genocide Prevention Seminar over the past two days. The United Nations Office of the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy invited several NGOs around Geneva to discuss effective and practical means for all key stakeholders to contribute to preventing genocide and mass atrocities. Two other co-workers and I represented International Bridges to Justice at the seminar.
It was an incredible experience because it was my first exposure to the academia realm of Genocide. I love seminars like this because it gives me a solid foundation for understanding the issues of a particular field. It is as though I’m given a snapshot of where the issue is currently, where it has been, and where it needs to go. Getting into a new field requires understanding not just what the field is about, but how people in the field approach the issue, particularly getting used to the rhetoric.
Networking lesson learned: Even as students, we always have something to offer. Most of the time, it’s our curiosity. Speakers and attendees are always more than willing to answer questions you have. When strapped for a conversation topic, ask:
- Why they are at the event
- What they hope to get from the event
- What projects they are working on currently
These questions are taken straight from seminar evaluation questionnaires, but they break the ice really well. Mostly because people are very comfortable talking about themselves. Even though it is tempting to stick to talking only to other interns, it is worth your time to seek out the speakers, panelists, or those who have been employed in the field for a number of years.
The speakers, aka name dropping:
Dr Adam Jones is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia and the Executive Director of Gendercide Watch. He has researched and written extensively on preventing genocide and mass atrocity crimes.
Dr David J. Simon is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Yale University, Acting Director of the Genocide Studies Program and a member of the Council on African Studies. His research focuses on the Rwandan genocide, addressing the prospects of reconciliation, the avenues of post-genocide justice and the roles of international actors in Rwanda.
Dr Rama Mani obtained her Ph.D in Political Science from the University of Cambridge. Dr Mani is the Project Director of “Ending Mass Atrocities – Echoes in Southern Cultures” at Centre for International Studies University of Oxford with Ralphe Bunche Institute, City University of New York. She has researched extensively on the responsibility to protect concept specifically from the global south perspective.
Dr Khalid Koser is Academic Dean and Head of the New Issues in Security Programme. He is also Non-Resident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., Research Associate at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Non-resident Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia, and Associate Fellow of the Global Health Security Programme at Chatham House.
I was nominated to summarize my group’s discussion because, apparently, it wasn’t enough that I volunteered to take notes.
I’m laughing because the other attendees were giving me grief for how long the self-timer on my camera took to take a picture.
- During the coffee break, I likened getting all the efforts coordinated for genocide prevention to raising a barn. Two of the speakers, Dr. Adam Jones and Dr. David Simon, joked that they’re going to use “Raising the Barn” as the title to their next book. They agreed to give me a shout-out in their book for contributing to the book’s title.
- Getting to sit down with Dr. Rama Mani, one of the speakers, after the seminar to discuss the relationship between culture and legal advocacy and its implications for future lawyers.