Lending a legal hand – across the globe

Currently, there are thousands of people around the globe who are “stateless.” All of these people were born in a country. However, due to war, border shifts, political changes and perhaps even intentional efforts to marginalize certain groups, these individuals find themselves without claim to a nation. Not only does this mean that they may not be able to travel, marry or even vote, it also means the loss of certain basic rights that many around the globe take for granted, such as access to medical care, employment and education.

Helping the “stateless” with their plight is just one of the areas in which University of Georgia School of Law students have been able to apply their legal skills during the summer months. Others opportunities include helping to reform the judicial case management system in the country of Liberia, along with researching and monitoring police and political reform in East Africa, just to name a few.

All of this is made possible through the university’s largest international internship initiative – the Global Internship Program – which started out as a two person, one country, one institution program a decade ago, and now includes 47 students in 19 countries (on five continents) with 33 organizations.

“The growth of this program has been extremely rewarding,” said María Eugenia Giménez, GIP director. “Many of the placements are student driven, meaning the students either find a cause or express a desire to travel and learn in a particular location.”

Organized by the School of Law’s Dean Rusk Center, GIP internships range in length from four to 12 weeks with entities such as the Human Rights League in Slovakia, the Han Kun Law firm in China, the Center for Economic Law in Belgium, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in Canada, the Clorox Company in Argentina, the Dubai Judicial Institute in the United Arab Emirates, Natural Justice in South Africa and PSA Legal Counsellors in India.

“It is very gratifying to know that our students have performed so well in these positions, that future students are requested by the same entities to continue work on the same projects or on new ones,” Giménez said. “Additionally, the experiences these students gain in terms of applying their legal knowledge and skills to really meaningful issues and real life matters, not to mention the cultural enlightenment, is unmatched,” Giménez said.

To learn more about the experiences of the 2011 participants of the summer Global Internship Program, follow their blog at http://ugagip2011.blogspot.com/.