In July 2019 Dr Thomas Bundschuh and Matthew Sands led the HKC's first UN Geneva Human Rights Tour of SHU students to explore professional human rights work. 14 undergraduate and postgraduate students had been given the opportunity to experience first-hand what human rights work entails in practice, both at the UN level and from an NGO perspective. At the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), students witnessed negotiations of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) discussing a new so-called General Comment fleshing out governments' human rights treaty obligations regarding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Students attended the dialogue between the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and governments about their human rights performance. Students also gained insight into the advocacy work of UN accredited NGOs such as the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), Franciscans International and the International Service for Human Rights. These organisations are bridge builders as they work both at the UN level and with people on the ground in a range of different countries. Most importantly, students were able to meet human rights practitioners. Dr Bundschuh and Matthew Sands, both familiar with the human rights landscape at the UN headquarters in Geneva, had mobilised their contacts. Thus, students were able to meet with a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, the treaty body monitoring states' human rights performance, various NGO based human rights advocates and a former human rights student of Dr Bundschuh who in fact had ended up working within the UN human rights mechanisms, a clear demonstration of a professional trajectory open to our students.
Here is how one student summarised her experience, reflecting the enthusiasm of all participating students: "This experience has given me the confidence to ask questions in a professional and often daunting setting, in order to grow both academically and personally. I have learnt that the work undertaken by some of the most intelligent, passionate and courageous people I have ever had the privilege of meeting, is undeniably important, that saves countless lives and raises awareness for issues that may not be visible otherwise. Seeing their zeal for humanity and their compassion for human rights will forever motivate me in becoming an advocate for marginalised and disadvantaged communities across the globe. I am now certain that this is the field of work I want to be a part of. This experience is like no other trip I have ever taken. Having the access we had to the UN was spectacular. The two lecturers who took us were incredible and ensured we got as much out of this trip as we possibly could."