David Cohen explains how a week with René Cassin has challenged his cynicism with regards to work experience and the human rights sector as a whole.
Just a week prior to my writing of this blog, I had anticipated my work experience at René Cassin with hesitance and dread, fearing a week of sitting behind a desk in a stifled room and completing mundane tasks that only share the smallest attachments to human rights. As of writing this blog, in the final stages of my work experience, I am amazed at how my time at René Cassin has satisfied and far exceeded my blighted expectations. Whilst in the René Cassin office, I felt immediately welcomed into a warm and friendly environment. All members of the team greeted me with apparent joy and calmness, we spoke about myself and my ambitions, and I felt at ease in a relaxed environment. It reminded me of the most important aspect of human rights; the ‘human’ aspect.
“it reminded me of the most important aspect of human rights; the ‘human’ aspect”
Whilst I had interests in law and my own rights for a while, the topic of why and how our rights evolve and develop into legally binding tools and how they impact our and others lives had never struck me as a considerably fascinating or alluring. Over the course of my week in René Cassin I have experienced a personal epiphany with regards to this. I became aware of the tragic roots much of our human rights have sprouted from. The Holocaust was a murderous and malicious Nazi construct that caused incalculable suffering and strife, and in response to this travesty the international community created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in order to preserve and protect the liberties of all people. I had learnt that our human rights are not just for me, and not just for the people across the world, but also for the people who perished. Our human rights are their immortal legacy, demonstrating to me that the learning and knowing of human rights is not just a privilege, but a responsibility.
“with the political turmoil of the past year and few months, it is vital, more so than ever, that our rights are known and protected”
In addition to this realisation, I became intently interested in the various bodies and instruments that construct, uphold, and in some cases, dilute our human rights and how our rights are not some figment of the legal systems imagination or a tall tale told by the government, but tangible documents and articles that consistently govern the morality of society today. With the political turmoil of the past year and few months, it is vital, more so than ever, that our rights are known and protected.
Whilst at René Cassin I also became aware of the close relations created between the Jewish community and other isolated and previously persecuted ethnic groups, such as the Gypsy and Rome Traveller community. By being introduced and engulfed into this organisation where work had been done to unite communities under the message of strength and commemoration, I felt moved at the concept of two branches of people, Jews and Gypsies, who had been pushed to the brink of extinction during the Second World War, working together to promote companionship in all walks of life. I also experienced this companionship and harmony when I attended the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF), where I saw René Cassin work with groups from all different backgrounds and intents to promote fair and just rights and acceptability. This took the form of considering how the 2021 census should be changed in order to account for and include a more diverse range of groups and create a more accepting landscape for all groups and denominations. There were also contributions made about how there should be reformations to the Gender Recognition Act to create a more comfortable climate for people of all genders. This Forum showed me not just how people of all different faiths and beliefs can create a synthesis of ideas in a healthy and creative environment, but it also illustrated how René Cassin actively involves and attempts to help in all and any areas of lacking rights for all people.
“our human rights are not just for me, and not just for the people across the world, but also for the people who perished”
My time at René Cassin has been everything but what I expected. I have been shown the deep and rich history of our human rights and their legal and historical relevance today. I have learnt how René Cassin helps unite groups in unity and pride. I have seen the immense and powerful impact René Cassin has, not only on the macro scale dealing with organisations and whole groups of people in order to help and heal with Jewish ideals, but also on the micro scale, as I myself have witnessed a change in my own perception and attitudes that will stay with me for a considerable amount of time. But first and for most, from the moment I was warmly greeted in the René Cassin office, I learnt that when considering human rights, it is up to humans to do what’s right.