Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) – Experience Report 2012

August – November 2012

by Latharsany Devasakayam

I had the opportunity to do an internship at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi, from 27th August to 26th November 2012. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative is a non-governmental organisation which advocates for the realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth. The NGO was founded in 1987 and its aim is to campaign for human rights such as the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights etc. in those countries. In CHRI there are four teams. One team campaigns for the Rights of Information, the second group promotes the Police Reform and the third team, Prison Reform, campaigns, amongst other things, for the improvement of the conditions in the prisons in India. The fourth team, Strategies Initiatives Programmes, focuses especially on different human rights issues in the Commonwealth. I was in the Strategies Initiatives Programmes team. CHRI has also offices in London as well as in Ghana and the office in Delhi. My first task was to write about the position of the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) at the United Nations regarding the crises especially in the Arab world. IBSA is a Dialogue Forum which was founded in 2003 by the three foreign ministers of India, Brazil and South Africa. In my work, I especially focused on how those three countries, which were sometimes represented in the Security Council as non-permanent members during that time, voted in the resolutions regarding the crises especially in the Arab world. This work was very interesting and gave me more information about those three countries’ position regarding human rights. Further I also researched and wrote about other issues in the Commonwealth such as the shooting in the mine in South Africa, did a brief on the situation in Maladives etc. My next task was about BRICS which means Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Here the focus was the same as the IBSA, that means to find out how the members of the BRICS voted in the resolutions of the United Nations regarding the crises especially in the Arab world. This all shows that my internship in CHRI was characterised by a variety of tasks. When I arrived in Delhi in August, a staff from the CHRI picked me up at the airport. All staff from the CHRI were helpful.

The office of the CHRI was in South Delhi which was in comparison to North Delhi quiet, clean and safe. Furthermore, nowadays, rich people are starting to settle in South Delhi. During my internship I stayed in an accommodation in Shivalik, Malviya Nagar, which was proposed by CHRI. My accommodation in Shivalik was only 10 minutes away from the office. Therefore, I walked every day to the office and back through a wonderful park. I stayed in Shivalik together with about 16 people. The majority of them was also from Europe and studied or did an internship in Delhi like me. It was nice to have such a large group of people especially for the trips at the weekends. As already mentioned, the area Malviya Nagar (South Delhi) was not dangerous. I lived very near to a market and therefore there were lots of people also during the evening. There were also a lot of restaurants and shops near our accommodation. It was very convenient for us to get things. Further I could also go alone to the market in the evening. Therefore I think Delhi is not that dangerous, if you are cautious and not walk alone in the streets late at night. This is my opinion regarding Delhi, however I could only speak for South Delhi which is considered safer than the other parts of Delhi. During my internship, we also visited Old Delhi. There were a lot of people and it was noisy on the streets in comparison to South Delhi. Regarding the weather in Delhi, I arrived in August and it was very hot. Even in the morning, when I walked to the office, it was already warm. In the middle of October and November the climate changed. For me, the temperature was not too warm, but comfortable. However, I also want to say that in the night it could be really cold during this period.

At the weekends, some from our apartment did sightseeing. In Delhi, there are lots of things to visit such as the Red Fort or Lotus Temple. Some of us also visited Jaipur and Amritsar during the weekends. Jaipur was only 6 hours from Delhi and Amritsar 7-8 hours by bus. It was interesting to visit these two cities, especially in Jaipur where there were a lot of things to visit. I also like the Golden Temple in Amritsar. After our visit in Amritsar, we also went to the border between India and Pakistan where there was a daily ceremony in the evening which was very interesting to observe.

Lastly, I am happy that I could do an internship in the CHRI, because it gave me the opportunity to learn about the Human Rights issues in the Commonwealth as well as about the Indian culture. Therefore I want to thank the team of Gateway to India who gave me the opportunity to do an internship there. I am also glad to have learnt more about IBSA, BRICS and other countries in the Commonwealth regarding their position on human rights. Delhi, in my point of view, is a very interesting city with lots of contrasts, as for example, you could see on one side poverty, on the other side luxurious lifestyle. I really liked my stay in this city and I hope I could visit it again.