By Philippa Greer, LL.M. ’14
I was both extremely eager and fortunate to enroll in the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at the Harvard Law School during fall semester, an opportunity that enabled me to begin my legal studies with a practical outlook throughout my time at HLS.
My interest in IHRC stemmed primarily from the variety of ongoing projects within the clinical hub of the law school, and the opportunity to combine my theoretical studies of the law with practical engagement that could make a real impact. In addition, the opportunity to undertake a component clinical seminar on Human Rights Advocacy, alongside my enrollment, afforded me with an invaluable avenue through which to explore the ethical implications of international rights advocacy.
Learning under the guidance of a clinical fellow, I worked in a small team with two other students, focusing on human rights advocacy related to the ongoing Syrian conflict and the plight of Palestinian Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war.
The unique autonomy of IHRC facilitates an immersive approach to advocacy that transcends beyond traditional legal casework. From the outset, my team was afforded a platform to explore the boundaries of our project and to discuss and define the parameters of our advocacy.
Arriving at the decision to document the ongoing plight of Palestinian Syrian refugees through non-traditional fora, we were able to utilize interview material from a clinical expedition to the region, to project narratives portraying common practical and legal obstacles facing Palestinian Syrian refugees attempting to seek refuge in neighboring countries in the Middle East.
As part of this work, I had the privilege of interviewing directly a Palestinian Syrian refugee. The experience was immensely informative and moving. By undertaking work on this project, I learned how to actively reflect upon advocacy goals, and strategies and nuanced ethical considerations related to different methods of advocacy.
Now, working within the field of international law and human rights, beyond the walls of Harvard, I am grateful for the exposure I received, the skills I developed, the personal goals I accomplished, and the outlook I obtained through participation in the clinic.