UNYANET members from all over Europe have met in Geneva for a study trip, organized by UNYANET and DMUN. Participants set to discover Geneva, an international human rights hub in the 4 day Study Trip titled The Human Rights Hub in the 21st Century – Strengths and Challenges of the International Human Rights System. During the trip they visited Le Palais des Nations which hosts UN headquarters in Geneva, EU representation to the UN in Geneva, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and NGO Les Medicins Sans Frontier. Participants also had an opportunity to talk with the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Geneva Director Corinne Momal-Vanian, observed the Human Rights Council and visited Red Cross museum. But it wasn’t just formal visits! Many networking activities like social evening program, cheese fondue and a sightseeing tour around the old pa rt of Geneva gave participants from Germany, Austria, Spain and Slovenia a wonderful opportunity to bond and create new international connections.
The trip started off on a good note with a dinner on the small island on river Rhone with a typical Swiss dish, cheese fondue.
A visit to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was the first step in exploring the human rights hub. At UNHCR participants learned about the background for creating the organization, its brief history and role it plays in international community. High Commissioner shared his many inspiring experiences with UNYANET members. Second stop was a visit to Le Palais des Nations, the UN Headquarters. There they were welcomed by the UNIS Geneva Director Corinne Momal-Vanian, who explained the work of the UNIS, the role of UN Geneva headquarters and answered many interesting questions from participants. At Le Palais des Nations UNYANET group also had an opportunity to observe 28th Human Rights Council. The participants concluded a day by attending an excellent debate on the Freedom of Expression: Right with Responsabilities? at the Geneva Security Center, followed by the evening social program.
Focus of the third day of the study trip were perspectives of different actors on the topic of human rights and the work of the UN. UNYANET group had a wonderful opportunity of hearing different and contrasting perspectives on the topic of UN and HRC. In the morning the participants were welcomed by Marco Ferri, a diplomat from the EU Delegation in Geneva. He gave some insight into the process of coordination of the foreign policy between EU member states as well as the role of EU in the UN. A different and contrasting perspective on the work of the UN and HRC was taken by the passionate NGO members from the Medecins Sans Frontieres. The participants also visited the Red Cross Museum which combines testimonies of victims with the history of the Red Cross and some of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes of our time. Some of the members of our group also got a chance to attend a Human Rights Committee, which is a think-thank of the UNHRC and consists of independent experts and NGOs who provide continuous advice to the Council. They finished their day with a walk around the Jardin Botanique, a stroll by the lake and a boat ride on Lac Leman.
Fourth day of the visit was devoted to exploring the old city center of Geneva. Each participant presented one landmark, from the Reformation wall and the story of l’Escalade, to the old city hall, Maison Tavel and Chatedrale de St-Pierre.
Study trip was concluded with the final discussion at the museum of Art and History of Geneva. The participants discussed their experience of the trip as well as the pressing issue of human rights and how international community is perceiving and dealing with the issue. They discussed the role of the UN and compared strikingly different perspectives on the current situation of solving the humanitarian crisis they received a t the UN and NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres. The whole study trip was not only very educational but also very inspiring.