My name is Kiran Basra and I am a fourth year student pursuing a double major in Political Science and Philosophy with a focus on international law, human rights, and diplomacy. This summer, I had the privilege of interning with the Permanent Mission of Canada to the International Organizations in Vienna (VPERM).
VPERM is responsible for advancing Canada’s interests with the international organizations located in Vienna - the majority of their work dealing with nuclear issues in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and mitigating crime with the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). I was originally interested in this internship because VPERM is one of the only Permanent Missions in the world that is responsible for working multilaterally inside of a regional UN headquarter. As someone who has always been fascinated by the United Nations, VPERM offered the rare opportunity to explore Canada’s relationship with a collection of international bodies on a diverse range of issues including space, crime, drugs, nuclear technology, and security.
My position was specifically with Canada’s Mission to the UNODC, where I had the privilege of working on a team with a First Secretary and Policy Officer who patiently answered all of my questions and challenged me with important tasks. Over the course of three months we worked on a variety of policies including terrorism, cybercrime, corruption, child-sexual exploitation, migrant smuggling, and wildlife trafficking.
Throughout my time with the Mission I was able to attend a variety of high-level political forums including the Thirty-first Commission for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Second Session of the Cybercrime Ad Hoc Committee, and working groups on the UN Convention Against Corruption and the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. These meetings were responsible for drafting legal recommendations which would hold Member States accountable to international law. In addition to political forums, I had the privilege of attending informative side events on a range of topics including UNODC’s updated gender strategy, INTERPOL’s approach to cybercrime, and Italy’s response to the mafia. I also had the chance to participate in several bilateral meetings with countries like Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, where I got to observe Canada’s different relationship with each state. At each meeting I took diligent notes and wrote daily reports in order to inform my team at the Mission and send updates back to Ottawa on important advancements being made in Vienna.
Beyond attending meetings and taking notes, I was also tasked with writing reports on critical issues such as evaluating UNODC’s advancements in Afghanistan, explaining UNODC’s proposed plan of action in Ukraine, re-capping donorship opportunities with organizations like the UNODC’s HIV and AIDs unit, and reporting on the launch of UNODC’s new gender strategy agenda. I also had the opportunity to assist Canada in the organization of the first High Level Roundtable which explored new strategies for tackling anti-corruption with over 50 different countries and NGOs.
Some of the most memorable moments during my time in Vienna include meeting the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, intervening on behalf of Canada in the formulation of a cybercrime treaty at the AHC 2nd Commission, and observing a Russia walk-out during CCPCJ. I also enjoyed practicing my French with other Francophone nations and in meetings with Ottawa, where the majority of conversation was conducted in my second language.
I am receiving academic credit for this internship and will be writing my thesis for POLI 599 on the spirit of Vienna and how consensus affects international legal agreements. Under the supervision of Professor Fernando Nunez-Mietz, I will be exploring how Vienna’s mechanism of passing resolutions differs from other UN headquarters like Geneva and New York, and whether this mechanism affects the efficacy of legal agreements that are passed.
These past three months have been the most transformative of my life - this internship gave me the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of inspiring people, participate in treaties and in meetings I had previously only read about in class, and be introduced to a career that I hope to pursue in the future. For the first time in my life, I was working in a job where I actually looked forward for the weekend to end - which is a testament to how rewarding I found the work to be.
I would like to sincerely thank RBC for their generous financial support, without whom this experience would have never been possible. I would also like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the ION and AIO team, who patiently answered all of my questions and were incredibly understanding when unforeseen challenges arose. This internship is unique to McGill and born solely from the work of the internship office and their strong relationship with the Canadian Mission. I am forever grateful to this team for giving me such an invaluable opportunity that I will never forget.