MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: What Alumni Say

Carina Svenfelt graduated from our Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in 2020.

In this interview, she tells about her career, her work for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the programme and how she uses what she learned in class in her job.

About Me

I’m Carina, a Swedish-Finn who has lived over half of my life abroad including in the Middle East where my early university studies in cultural anthropology and Arabic brought me almost 10 years ago.

Soon after my (first) graduation, I joined the ICRC in 2008 and have been working ever since in the field of protection in over eight countries. I’m currently working in Tbilisi, Georgia, as a programme coordinator dealing with missing persons and their families, an issue I am very much attached to since my first encounter with this issue years ago. This is also partly what led me to opt for the MTJ in 2019–2020 since I wanted to strengthen my understanding of how disappearances are addressed within a transitional justice framework –, one of the key issues transitional justice sought to tackle in its earlier days, notably in Latin America.

When I’m not working, I enjoy being out in nature hiking, skiing, horse riding. While not always possible in some of the countries I have worked in, I enjoy it even more when I can, such as here in Georgia.

What are the Strengths of the Programme?

The lecturers! I enjoyed every minute of learning from such great practitioners, teachers and researchers. It was really a privilege. I also very much liked the multidisciplinary curricula which gave a broad perspective to transitional justice.

How was Teaching?

With such diverse curricula and professors, you get to experience all kinds of teaching styles and I really appreciated the generosity of our professors and lecturers who shared their knowledge, and also personal insights and advice. There was enough interactive and group work (as well as acting!) to balance more standard lecture styles. Having been away from academia for over 10 years, it was also slightly overwhelming to realize how much reading there is, but I enjoyed all of it.

Your Best Memories of the Programme?

March 2020, when the pandemic became a reality, is hard to forget. Once in-class teaching stopped, there were a few days of confusion over what online platform to use but one of my teachers introduced my class to Zoom (this was a first for me!), saying not to worry and that he was used to distance teaching. This was very reassuring somehow.

We didn’t know at the time that Zoom and similar platforms would become such an integral part of our daily interactions.

What Did it Bring to your Career?

It brought me a great break. After many years of working in the humanitarian field, I was very much in need of taking a few steps back and reflecting on how to address issues common to transitional justice, humanitarian and other fields. I always wanted to study international law (without doing a full law degree) and the MTJ gave me a taste of this. After the MTJ, I continued my career with the ICRC with renewed energy and perspectives.

Do you use what you learned in class in your work?

Of course. Even if I don’t work in a transitional justice context per se, the MTJ helped complete the picture on how to accompany to address the consequences of conflicts, such as the issue of missing persons. I also made sure to focus a lot of my course work and MTJ paper on aspects that I wanted to understand better in my career, such as where a humanitarian and transitional justice approach can intersect and what they can respectively bring to victims.

Would you Recommend It?

Yes, although for people already into their career like me, not everyone might get a chance to take a year off and a part-time track could also be attractive.

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