Chayes Fellow Mira Chernick on working with Dejusticia in Colombia

Mira Chernick at the Dejusticia offices and Iguaque National Park in Villa de Leyva.

Mira Chernick at the Dejusticia offices and Iguaque National Park in Villa de Leyva. Photos courtesy of Mira Chernick.

“I’m really enjoying the internship! All my assignments have been substantive. I started by translating a paper written by my supervisor about land restitution from Spanish into English, which helped me develop my Spanish skills and also expanded my background knowledge of the issue I’m working on. I then moved on to researching the different institutions and actors involved in developing and implementing policies for land restitution and other services for people displaced by the armed conflict. I’m spending the rest of my time here using that research to create a policy paper describing the current situation on land restitution, the problems with current policies for victims, and proposals for improving those policies and their implementation.

Because Dejusticia has many researchers working on a wide range of human rights issues both domestically and internationally, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about much more than land restitution. I’ve had conversations (in Spanish!) with my colleagues about the challenges of designing affirmative action policies in countries like Colombia where systems of racial classification and self-identification are more complex than in the United States, alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug crimes, and global climate change as a human rights issue. I also had the good luck to be here during both the presidential run-off elections, which determined the future of the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the FARC, and the World Cup, in which Colombia played (beautifully!) for the first time in 16 years. Through these experiences, I have learned a great deal about Colombian public policy, politics, and culture, while doing work that is substantive and meaningful.”

Mira is one of 22 HLS students working this summer in 14 countries under the auspices of the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship. Please visit our Chayes Fellowship page to learn more!