A Note From the Co-Founders of EIJI

Linn and Mathias are both fourth year students studying International Relations and International Law at the University of Edinburgh. Here they co-author a post about their experience and the inspiration to found EIJI.

The idea of founding the Edinburgh International Justice Initiative was born last summer, sometime between the typical rainy days in Edinburgh and the slightly sunnier ones in Scandinavia. Just like almost every other university student between third and fourth year, the both of us were frantically looking for internships, work experience, or really anything remotely related to our degrees (we were both rejected from everything we applied to…). Mathias had some old contacts that he reached out to, and by coincidence, they needed some legal researchers for a project on international criminal law. Both of us were very eager to gain more knowledge and experience within this sector, and so we dove straight into our first research-to-report journey.

Actually, painting the image as if it is a ‘journey’ might be a bit too straight-forward – it really was not a linear travel from point A to B. Think of it more as someone who has never been on a hike, and is suddenly thrown into the task of climbing a mountain without a clear trail, while the rain is pouring down, and they’re running on about four hours of sleep. (Yes, Linn’s introduction to hiking was rough.) A lot of steps had to be retraced, and a lot of breaks had to be taken too. Along the way we learned a lot about the International Criminal Court and its procedures, as well as other international criminal tribunals and treaty bodies. We learned about how to structure legal research and how to compile a professional report. And a lot of it is thanks to the amazing people that we reached out to for help along the way!

A few reoccurring themes stood out to us during this process. One of these was how underfunded the international human rights and international criminal law sectors are. Literally anything was helpful for a smaller NGO working with these issues, even a report written by two inexperienced non-law students. Personally, we found the research really interesting and rewarding, and while talking to our friends, we realized we were not the only ones. The final tipping point was when we talked to professors and professionals, who not only thought it was a good idea to start a clinic like the EIJI, but also wanted to be involved.

It was a simple idea to get more students involved and make an actual difference. The world of international law seems so distant in the classroom, but somehow, we were handed an opportunity to open a way in. We were both surprised that it was possible, which is probably why nobody really tried this before. We, like many others, underestimate how much students can do, and also overestimate what is needed to make a difference for the actors of international law.

From there, things happened quite quickly. We were lucky to have friends around us that are really good at what they do, and that we were able to put people in the right places. We had some friends, Ipek and Kate, who we knew were passionate about international criminal law and human rights law, and that were hard-working and skilled legal researchers. Suddenly we had our first research team. Then we realized it might be possible to expand, so we started talking to a friend who had experience in business development and management, which is how Meghan became the first member of our organizational development team. Together, we figured out what else we needed to realize our goals. This is where it was very convenient to have a friend who is really good at marketing and branding, which is the story of how Kayla joined.  From there, Kayla recruited Zora, and Linn recruited Dorcas, who have been exceptional additions to the team, and we could not have expanded this quickly without them. Lastly, we met Henriette in the hallway on the way out of a lecture, and we happened to have just opened a spot in the organizational team one hour before that. All of these people made amazing contributions behind the scenes, and their passionate and dedicated work is the reason we were able to expand to a second research team in January 2020, and officially launch the Initiative.

So, while the idea of EIJI was born because we were lucky enough to stumble upon an opportunity, and ambitious enough to make the most out of it, the reason EIJI was founded is because we are blessed with an amazingly talented circle of people that have been putting in the work to make sure that EIJI became a reality. What we are trying to say is that anyone could have done what we did, as long as they are able to see the opportunities in front of them, and ask for help along the way.

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