My experience as an intern at the United Nations African Institute of Economic Development and Planning (IDEP)
by Charlotte Wheatcroft
We continue our post series offering young women international lawyers a platform to discuss and share their experiences with a post by Charlotte Wheatcroft. Charlotte is an aspiring lawyer currently working as a Company Secretarial Advisor at a prestigious law firm in Manchester and she writes about her intern experience at the UN whilst studying for a LLM in International Law at the University of Manchester.
I and a fellow international law student were invited to intern at the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP). IDEP is a pan-African institution and functions as a subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Its members comprises of all the fifty-four African member States, and the Institute’s mandate is to support African countries with the aim of sustainable economic independence. This is achieved through a portfolio of capacity development and training programmes as well as a set of policy research and dialogue initiatives.
My role was to produce a number of legal policy briefs on cross-jurisdictional issues which were distributed around the Institute. This included conducting activities such as research, editing, publication and project management. I would collaborate with my fellow intern to contribute to research and training programmes; by carrying out research, analytical studies, drafting stories, evaluating reports, conducting interviews and briefs. For example, together we would attend international law conferences in order to interview attendees on their personal views on the particular issue/initiative, and compile a report of the findings. This report would then be used to update training documents related to regional integration and infrastructure.
The key skill I learnt throughout this position was the importance of collaboration and team work. Relocating to a different continent with a different national language was a hugely daunting task, and I would not have managed without the integral support of my fellow intern Jessica, and my immediate supervisors Mehdi and Mbathio. Not only did my colleagues help me to improve my research skills and knowledge of international law, but more importantly they challenged my perceptions.
One of the most surprising aspects of my internship was the equality of women, and diversity of employees. The Director of the Institute, Ms. Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane was a truly inspiring individual, who offered astute ideas and was respected throughout the Institute. Our immediate supervisor and senior research assistant Mbathio invited us into her home, encouraged our development, and helped us with domestic life in Senegal. My initial prejudices of relocating to Senegal were overcome as soon as I encountered these awe-inspiring women, and proved to me that gender was not a construct that played a place within the United Nations.
My experience working within the Institute has been really positive, and I would recommend any budding international lawyers to undertake similar opportunities. Whilst fulfilling this role, I developed a number of transferable skills including research, communication, analysis and attention to detail. I relished playing a key role in international projects, and the challenging legal research that I undertook.