A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

When I first heard of Edmund Rice, as an excited young recruit into Eddie Rice camps in Perth, I had no idea that my involvement with the Network would incite the passion for social justice and advocacy that has become such a fundamental part of my adult life.

The more involved I became with various ERN projects, both at home in Australia and through immersions to PNG and East Africa, the more I came to question the fundamentally unjust structures that make up our world – why do some people enjoy a life of privilege and comfort, while others are trapped in cycles of poverty and marginalization, simply because of an accident of birth?
When I heard about the opportunity to intern with Edmund Rice International in Geneva, Switzerland I was immediately interested. I had always dreamt of working with the United Nations – the seat of human rights around the world. I knew this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to understand more about this institution and the role I can play, as one individual, to address the issues that keep our world growing ever more unjust and unequal.

The past three months have been incredibly valuable. I’ve seen the way advocacy work is done at the international level and had th

e opportunity to be involved in this work – learning from the experiences and expertise of a dynamic workplace – especially from Brian, Peter and Moy, but also ERI’s partner organisations.

I now have a far more pragmatic view of the way in which human rights are protected and promoted on the international stage. Understanding the limitations, as well as the influence, of the UN has been a valuable lesson.

I’ve come to realize the essential role Civil Society Organisations, like ERI, have in keeping the “human” element in “human rights”. At the international level CSOs ensure the voices of the poor and the marginalized are brought to the table during the discussions and decisions that affect their lives.

Beyond this, it is the small organizations working at the grassroots that are connecting with people directly, working with them to address their needs, listening to their stories and taking the small steps that make an immense difference to people’s lives.
These processes are far more complex than I ever realized and they require committed people working at every level to ensure t

hat human rights work is holistic, locally relevant, and continually addressing the root causes that keep people in situations of poverty and marginalization.

I’ve been very privileged to be a part of an organization that is working to create a synergy between advocacy work at every level, bringing the voices of the poor and the marginalized to the international stage, while ensuring that the decisions and pledges that occur in this forum are implemented at the local level.

This opportunity has fundamentally shaped the way I think about human rights and social justice, both professionally and in my personal life. I look forward to applying the valuable knowledge and experience I have gained through my work with ERI to my future endeavors.

Tarni Raich ERI Intern Sep-Nov 2012

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