Reflection from Kristen Grennan
I am so eternally grateful to the AC4 Fellowship for giving me the opportunity to explore my interests in such a fascinating and exciting environment as the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). The ICTJ is the leading organization in the field of transitional justice, which occurs when a society is transitioning from conflict to post-conflict. Though the term transitional justice has been around since the 1980’s, the ICTJ was developed in 2001 in response to the growing need for expertise in this niche field. This summer I had the unique opportunity to intern with both the Children and Youth Unit as well as the Communications team.
AC4 took a chance and offered me one of their first scholarship grants supporting an internship. In the past, the program preferred students doing independent study and research; however, I do believe that offering the opportunity to interns is also an extremely valuable asset.
In an internship environment, rarely is someone doing just research. Instead, your supervisor may ask you to help with a presentation, paper, or project. Initially, I decided with my supervisor that I would be researching children and youth in transitional justice and exploring what are the new avenues and spaces for practitioners in this field. However, so many more opportunities have arisen. I have been able to help create a media website based off of a recent report that the ICTJ recently released on truth commissions, called “Can Truth Commissions Strengthen Peace Processes?”. International Youth Day was August 12 and as a result I have been able to assist the team with my background in online communications by creating a social media kit for them.
Earlier this summer, I was able to live tweet from a UN Security Council briefing on children in armed conflict.
I have had the opportunity to edit and provide feedback on two forthcoming ICTJ books. Finally, I was able to help my team create a presentation to be given in Nairobi on a new child-friendly booklet based off of Kenya’s Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report.
This summer I have learned a lot about children and youth in transitional justice and have looked at specific case studies including Sierra Leone, Kenya, Colombia, Yugoslavia, Canada, and Lebanon.
There have been many exciting innovations in recent years, including child-friendly truth commission reports and increased interest in past conflict being taught in history classes. Ultimately, these reports and classes for children and youth can help young people to think critically about issues their communities face and to come up with solutions on their own. This kind of civic engagement is the first step to developing active and engaged citizens who feel that they have a role in government processes and community development. In fact, the United Nations this year recognized the need for youth to be civically engaged by making that the theme for International Youth Day this year. More and more international and local organizations are beginning to recognize the important role that children and youth play in peace and justice today and tomorrow, making this an exciting time to be involved in the experiences of the Children and Youth Unit at the ICTJ.
Author: Kristen Grennan is at Columbia’s School of International & Public Affairs in the masters program in Public Administration, with a Human Rights Concentration and a specialization in International Media, Advocacy and Communications.
Images: photos and images provided by author.