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2021 Social Change Initiative Fellow

Scarlett Aylsworth
BA International Studies (International Security, Norms and Cooperation) ‘20

Social Change Initiative

“My experience with the Social Change Initiative (SCI) has been invaluable for my educational and professional goals. Upon reflection, I realize that it was the first time I engaged with law in a substantive manner. As an undergraduate, I took numerous courses that discussed the limitations and implications of human rights law in the wider international sphere, but never examined legal text itself. With SCI, my first assignment involved reading and analyzing legislation. I became quite adept at scanning documents and identifying the sections relevant to my task at hand.   

As a fellow, my primary role involved the creation of a product guide that explained the monitoring and compliance mechanisms adopted under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol, and EU-UK Trade and Co-Operation Agreement in accessible terms. This was no walk in the park, so to speak – beyond the difficulty of understanding legal jargon, the arrangements themselves (and Northern Ireland’s special status between the regulatory spheres of the European Union and United Kingdom) are quite complex. I also navigated the space between human rights law and its accessibility for relevant populations. A huge portion of the final product, in fact, is a series of flowcharts that outline the legal processes associated with the above three agreements. This intersects with my long-term professional ambition to innovate mechanisms that make international human rights law a more effective tool for those it intends to protect. In hoping to effectuate on-the-ground reform, I now believe there is much to be gained by analyzing human rights in approachable frameworks. 

A major facet of my work involved interviewing officials of Northern Ireland’s human rights bodies and organizations about problems they have encountered with the implementation of the Protocol and TCA. In particular, I spoke with Roisin Mallon of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland; Eilis Haughey of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission; Daniel Holder of the Committee on the Administration of Justice; Anthony Soares of the Centre for Cross Border Studies; and John-Patrick Clayton of UNISON. I coordinated and conferred with these individuals one-on-one, which enabled me to develop better communication and interpersonal skills in the process.

In short, my summer with SCI represented the first instance in which I was an actor in the international sphere. Instead of just learning about human rights in the classroom or engaging with international issues at an American-based NGO, I was actually involved and being consulted about what should happen next. I, too, got a taste for the international sphere’s complex nature. This knowledge will be incredibly useful as I pave my professional path forward, and I extend my utmost appreciation to the Donia Human Rights Center and the Social Change Initiative for granting this experience.”