My draft for this blogpost focused mostly on the merits of interning at a national (as opposed to international) human rights institution, as it involves working in an environment where the work, as well as daily conversations, revolve around well-known local issues and their interaction with the human rights regime and a universal ethics of human rights. I considered this opportunity for discussion and learning of pressing human rights issues in Morocco, contextualized within a local, regional, and global perspective, to be a real privilege.
On September 9, however, I woke up to the devastating news that Morocco had been hit with a 6.8 magnitude earthquake, killing over 2,000 people according to the latest reports and injuring hundreds more. Marrakech was severely hit, as well as numerous villages in the region. The impact was felt in Rabat as well. I spent the morning messaging and calling friends and colleagues in Morocco, hoping they and their families were alright, and expressing support in such a difficult time. I would like to dedicate a part of this post to acknowledging the depth of the bond you can build with a place by living and working in it for 12 weeks. Seeing the suffering of the Moroccan people from afar after this earthquake was truly devastating, and I did not want to publish this blog post without acknowledging this.
Interning in a National Human Rights Institution also enhanced this connection with the country, given the nature of the work, focused on issues of important local significance, and the general atmosphere at work, where people seemed truly motivated to discuss solutions and ideas to promote and protect human rights in their country.
“Independent national human rights institutions (NHRIs) play a vital role to promote and protect the fundamental rights of all people in their countries.” (Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions) They are established by the State, with a broad constitutional or legal mandate. Importantly, they operate independently from the State and from the government, despite being funded and established by the government. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco protects the independence of the CNDH.
It was fascinating to work for an organization which, by definition, is a government body, which operates independently from it, as well as a mechanism of protection, which receives complaints from citizens for human rights violations they suffered. The CNDH has to advance its arguments, for example on the abolition of the death penalty, on the ratification of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, or on gender equality within the Family Code, sometimes in disagreement with the government, other times in opposition with public opinion, while keeping the trust of both in order to operate safely and effectively within the country.