Interning at VOSCE: Nour Atallah

This summer, I worked as a Policy Intern with the Canadian delegation to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As a law student, I was looking to explore career options in the international sphere and acquire a better understanding of international organizations. I was also hoping to discover new areas of interest that I had not considered before. This internship turned out to be a great match for my objectives as both the delegation environment and the organisation itself provided rich learning experiences. The delegation’s mission is to represent Canada at the OSCE which is a consensus-based organisation that brings together 57 member States with the goal of addressing security-related issues through a comprehensive approach, i.e., an understanding of security as a multifactorial question. As such, the OSCE works on three dimensions: the politico-military, the economic and environmental, and the human dimension.


Nour standing in front of the OSCE logo on a wall
Nour’s responsibilities included attending meetings at the OSCE, located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.
In this position, my main responsibilities included attending OSCE meetings and events, taking notes, and drafting reports that went out to Ottawa and other Canadian missions. I was lucky to cover meetings in all three dimensions, encompassing a wide range of topics, such as the war in Ukraine, climate change, human trafficking, border security, women’s rights, and disability rights. I was also in charge of two internal projects with the delegation, the first of which entailed helping the delegation better manage its records to make essential information more readily accessible, while the second consisted in providing a detailed analysis of a topical subject that will help inform Canada’s engagement at the OSCE. Finally, I had the opportunity to draft statements for the delegation’s Ambassador which were delivered at the Permanent Council meetings. These tasks allowed me to develop new skills as they required specific drafting processes and writing styles that I had not previously encountered. Getting a first-hand look at Canadian international relations and multilateral affairs in action was also a highly valuable experience. I was particularly grateful to be part of a supportive team whose members provided thoughtful and constructive feedback while showing great appreciation for my contributions.


Nour sitting at a table with a microphone and a plaque reading "Canada" in front of her
Nour Atallah at the weekly meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council.
Some of the highlights of my internship include attending panel discussions with Ukrainian civil society leaders, learning more about Eastern-European geopolitics, having helpful conversations with my colleagues about career paths, and meeting diplomats and interns from the delegations of other participating States. On the other hand, I found it challenging to witness Russia’s relentless attempts to convince the world that its war in Ukraine was justified. As interesting as it was to be present at the OSCE during such a defining period in European (and World) history, the pace at which progress takes place can feel too slow compared to the urgency of the situation, which can elicit feelings of helplessness and impatience. This also raises thought-provoking questions about the limits of consensus-based decision-making at the international level. Despite these challenges – or perhaps because of them – I have come out of this experience with a wealth of knowledge and new interests.


Being able to do this internship and receive credits for it has helped advance both my academic and career goals. As I undertake my third (and, hopefully, final) year of law school, I am using the knowledge that I have acquired during this internship to inform my course selection. For instance, I have discovered a keen interest in international humanitarian law which I will have a chance to learn more about in the upcoming academic year. The OSCE’s unsettled legal status and how the lack of legal personality affects its ability to fulfill its mission is another topic worth exploring.


Finally, this experience would not have been possible without the generous RBC Internship Award I received through the RBC Future Launch Programme. This award allowed me to move to Vienna where the OSCE is based and work with the Canadian delegation in person for the entire duration of the internship. After two years of online courses and remote work, I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to be fully present with the team and to explore a new city. I am also grateful to the Internship Offices Network at McGill for their tireless efforts and dedication to making this internship as enjoyable and productive as possible.

Nour in front of flags
Nour Atallah in front of the OSCE Neuer Saal flags.

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