Angela Walker – June 2017
In June 2017, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Geneva to attend the 35th session of the Human Rights Council on behalf of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), a Canadian NGO that promotes human rights and the rule of law by providing support internationally to human rights defenders in danger. LRWC promotes the implementation and enforcement of international standards designed to protect the independence and security of human rights defenders around the world. In its work, LRWC:
- Campaigns for lawyers whose rights, freedoms or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights advocacy;
- Produces legal analyses of national and international laws and standards relevant to human rights abuses against lawyers and other human rights defenders; and
- Works in cooperation with other human rights organizations.
While I hope that LRWC derived tangible benefits from my work, I reflect also on the lessons I have learned from this opportunity, which I hope to translate more directly to my practice as a lawyer in Halifax, NS:
- As lawyers, we are extremely privileged to work freely and without fear of reprisal in our chosen practice areas. I am awe struck by the courage and bravery human rights defenders throughout the world must harness to move forward with their work. I hope to become braver in my own practice.
- Giving an oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of LRWC shook my nerves to the core. But I did it, it went smoothly, and the feedback was great. I think it is important to feel uncomfortable in your skin. It helps us grow.
- I learned more in one week than I have in a long time. From UN lingo, to the workings of the Human Rights Council, to better understanding the skills required for diplomacy. My brain was stretched to the max. It is incredibly satisfying to learn and experience new things professionally.
- It is important to determine and foster what drives you individually. For me, international human rights work is a passion and I want to do more, through volunteer work, to satisfy this hunger. My day-to-day work as a family lawyer is extraordinarily rewarding, but there is also room in my life to nurture this passion.
- Building relationships is a key to thriving. In my week at the UN, much time was spent building and fostering relationships with key players. These meetings were successful, in large part, because my colleague and I allowed ourselves to be vulnerable in sharing information about who we are.
- Diversity of viewpoints is critical. It was unbelievably fulfilling to be surrounded by people from all over the world, who have had different experiences, struggles, and outlooks. Just as in divorce, there are always two perspectives. I was struck at how often state views did not mesh with those of the NGOs.
- I was so nervous of leaving my little man, who will be four in August, for eight days. As a working mom, I often feel conflicted about focusing on professional pursuits that take time away from him. While I know he missed me, he “survived” and I had the experience of a lifetime.