Students in the Hamilton College Program in Washington, D.C., met with officials from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State on April 2. Representatives from press and policy, foreign affairs, the Office of Global Programs and a program analyst comprised a panel that discussed the bureau’s efforts to promote democracy, protect human rights and international religious freedom and to advance labor rights globally.
The panelists called their office “the conscience of the State Department.” They described several ongoing efforts of the bureau in detail, such as its work on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations. This is a process by which the human rights records of all UN member states are reviewed and assessed, and their office is tasked with coordinating the U.S. government’s language on the reviews.
Another project of note is the bureau’s program on promoting Internet freedom around the world. The funding channeled through the bureau supports technology that can circumvent censorship and provide secure communications; training in digital security and the use of technology; and policy and research programs for people living under conditions of Internet repression. The panelists emphasized what a privilege it is to support grantees who are putting their lives at risk every day to support the cause of freedom.
In addition to their insights on democracy promotion and human rights, the panelists offered the students helpful career advice. They emphasized the value of internships as the best way to both determine one’s future career interests and to make the connections necessary to secure a job that aligns with one’s interests. Learning a language is also critical; they recommended living abroad for at least six months to attain mastery in a language.
Alicia Rost ’15 remarked, “What I enjoyed … was hearing how all four women got started in their careers. It was reassuring to hear them discuss the value of internships. I appreciated how they encouraged us to explore different career paths in order to find the right fit.”
Rost added, “Their work directly correlates with what we have been discussing in class and I valued the opportunity to hear directly about democracy promotion work from the individuals who are experts on the subject matter. This meeting put the challenges surrounding democracy promotion and international aid into perspective for me.”