Transitional Justice Students in COVID-19 Times: Rich Online Social Life and Extracurricular Activities

22 May 2020

Albeit the challenging COVID-19 times and a programme that is entirely online since March, students of our MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law (MTJ) continued their rich social life and extracurricular activities online.

‘We are not just an ordinary group of students: we are a unique community and have remained together during these unprecedented times. With the classes going online, so did our social life and extracurricular activities’ says Nancy Chepkwony, currently enrolled in the MTJ.

Regular Online Meetings with the Co-Directors

Every two Fridays, students meet online with the two Co-Directors of the programme Frank Haldemann and Thomas Unger to discuss challenges related to the current situation, preparation of exams, as well as specific questions students might have in relation to courses, the programme or life in Geneva during confinement.

‘The situation we go through is exceptional and although we responded quickly by moving all our programmes online, our students had to adapt and reorganize their life in a very short time. This was particularly challenging for them as their families and friends are often very far away. These meetings are therefore very useful to exchange concerns, check how students are coping with both studies and confinement, and keep the community together’ explains Thomas Unger.

‘It was important for us to have such a collective place to check-in and the Co-Directors were very receptive of this’ mentions Camila Ruiz Segovia, currently enrolled in the MTJ.

Exchanges with Alumni

In order to prepare for their professional life, students organized, under the leadership of the MTJ student Ramzi Kaiss and the two Co-Directors of the programme, an online conversation with MTJ alumni.

In an online event, they had the opportunity to hear about the backgrounds, career path, responsibilities and advice of a range of alumni who are working on various transitional justice processes: Lina Rodriguez Revilla who works for the International Organization For Migration (IOM) in Colombia; Tania Bonilla Matiz who works for Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace; Solène Berthelier, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for UNDP in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Mary Diaz Marques, Programme Associate at Justice Rapid Response; Abdallah AbdelWahab, Programme Officer at Swisspeace; and Anne-Sofie Stockman, Associate in the Restoring Family Links and Missing Persons Unit at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

‘Despite the lockdown, the Geneva Academy – through our two Co-Directors, our teaching assistants, staff in the Student Office and our Student Council – managed to keep the conversations going notably by providing a unique space to explore the work of alumni operating in a diverse range of contexts and in varying capacities’ underlines Ramzi Kaiss.

Conversations with Professionals

Students are also organizing a series of events to exchange with professionals who work in Geneva or in the field on human rights and transitional justice issues for organizations like the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on transitional justice processes and the rule of law –with experts from the International Centre for Transitional Justice, Nicolas Mansfield, as well as practitioners working on transitional justice processes in Colombia and Kosovo – is also in the pipeline.

‘Exchanges with practitioners provide our students with a good appraisal of professional life, of career opportunities and of the challenges one might encounter in the field. Besides allowing them to put in context what they’ve learned in class, it is also a great opportunity for them to expand their network’ stresses Frank Haldemann.

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