2009 PFIG Recipient Jonathan Crowe

Career Administrator

Jonathan Crowe
College of Arts & Sciences
Spanish and Foreign Affairs 
2010 Graduation Year

Internship: International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C.

Notes on the first week 

As I write this, I am halfway through my second week of working at the International Justice Mission Headquarters this summer. IJM is a faith-based human rights group headquartered in Washington, D.C. We confront violent forms of abuse like police brutality, bonded labor, illegal property-grabbing, and sex trafficking. We have offices throughout Latin America, Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia , and we work with several casework affiliate offices throughout the world. For a Spanish and Foreign Affairs double major interested in human rights, it’s a very exciting place!

My first week in D.C. was enjoyable. A training class of IJM interns, fellows, and new staff all gathered for a week at the headquarters office. It never ceases to amaze me how capable human beings are of bonding with one another over a shared mission in such a short period of time. We spent lots of time together both at work and after work. We spent Training Week in meetings learning about IJM and its work, and we received lots of training about why we do what we do. Two things stick out to me about Training Week. IJM does an excellent job of always telling you why you are doing something. For me, that has been a remarkable thing. It is a visible effort to serve those serving the organization. Also interesting was who did our training. IJM is still a relatively small and growing organization. There are 335 staff worldwide, and 90% are nationals of the countries in which they work. As a result, the executives conducted a lot of our training. This was exciting because many of us knew of them or became aware of them during the process of applying to intern or work for IJM, and that made hearing from them during Training Week both informative and moving. At the end of that week, we said some difficult goodbyes to our new friends deploying to IJM offices throughout the world, and our intern class prepared to begin work the next week.

The first week of office work was very interesting. The intern program is set up to ease the transition to office and work life as much as possible. It is probably the most people-centered approach that I have seen in person. On more than one occasion, our bosses inquired about how we were feeling, and they always worked to make sure that we felt as comfortable as possible.

I also received the bulk of my project assignment during that period. This summer, I will be researching the rule of law and corruption in developing countries. According to the United Nations, four billion people live outside of the rule of law, and the vast majority of them are the world’s poor.[1] Because of the nature of IJM’s work, the organization has a great deal to add to the debate on what it means to make the law work for the world’s poor with the ultimate goal of changing the world’s public justice systems. This idea of making public justice systems work for the poor is called “structural transformation.” As part of that goal, IJM Founder, CEO, and President Gary Haugen will be teaching a class about the rule of law at the University of Chicago Law School next year. I am helping research and create the materials for the class as well as a forthcoming book. I also work for Victor Boutros, a federal prosecutor. Both men attended law school at Chicago , and both will teach the class next year. The majority of my time thus far has focused on researching the various sources on topics related to the rule of law.

It’s been a great couple of weeks so far. I look forward to sharing more as the summer progresses!

[1] United Nations Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor. Making the Law Work for Everyone . Rep. Vol. 1 and 2. New York, June 2008. Available at http://www.undp.org/content/dam/aplaws/publication/en/publications/democ....

Midway 

The past few weeks have been filled with good adventures, hard work, and great memories. Particularly memorable was spending the Fourth of July in our nation’s capitol. Some friends and I spent the night before at the rehearsal concert. I never knew that there was a rehearsal concert, but, judging by the thousands of people there, it is a pretty popular event for people in the area. Surprises continued to abound; I never thought that I would see Aretha Franklin headline with Barry Manilow. The crowd loved them both, and it was a wonderful night. The next night was the Fourth, and some fellow interns and I spent most of the day on or around the Mall between the Washington Memorial and the Capitol building. After being warned that being on the Mall for the Fourth was an unforgettable yet terrifying experience, I have to say that I absolutely would do it again. The atmosphere, the friendships, and the fireworks all made for a great memory.

Interning at International Justice Mission has continued to be a very good experience. A lot of my work now centers on researching IJM’s plan to address the brokenness of public justice systems in the developing world as a way of addressing human rights violations. There has been a lot of time reading articles, looking at Google Scholar, and compiling two enormous binders filled with information. As with a lot of human rights work, the work pulls me in different directions. On one hand, I research areas of personal interest, and I know that my work will make a difference for many that desperately need an advocate. I always tell those that ask that it is my favorite job that I have ever had. On the other hand, however, the work is heartbreaking. There simply are no words to express the utter horror of reading story after story and statistic after statistic of abuse of those that have no one to advocate for them. It is utterly appalling to realize, as is my job, that these abuses take place all over the world, largely because of the brokenness of public justice systems. Many developing countries simply do not enforce their laws that forbid these abuses. For example, in South Asia, all bonded labor is illegal, but millions of children continue to toil without pay in horrific conditions.[1]Moreover, much of the world’s population lives outside the rule of law.[2]

So what gives me hope? Simply put, I believe that these tragedies are not the end of the story. That is why IJM is working on this issue; that is why I have a job. People are working to change the problem. People like Hernando de Soto and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright are working through the United Nations Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor. The World Bank recognizes the importance of the issue.[3] IJM is joining these and others in the fight to secure justice for the masses of forgotten people in our world. We believe that public justice systems can change. More directly, they must change; people’s lives depend on it. Their advance out of poverty, their human rights, and their human dignity hang on the issue of reform. Reforming the public justice systems is one of the best ways to redeem these situations; it is one of the best ways to secure these rights.

This summer has proved to be very exciting thus far. As I reach the halfway point, I marvel at what has happened so far, and I wonder what the rest of the summer has in store. Living in DC means that there are never dull moments. Whether watching Marine One fly over my head, strolling to the Vietnam and Korean War memorials with a friend, or hiking through the Shenandoahs to discover a bear hopping out of a tree six feet in front of our group, I am so grateful for my experiences, and I look forward to seeing what awaits me in the second half of my summer.

[1] The Small Hands of Slavery. Rep. New York : Human Rights Watch, 1996. Google Scholar. 22 June 2009. Available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/pdfs/c/crd/india969.pdf.

[2] United Nations Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor. Making the Law Work for Everyone. Rep. Vol. 1 and 2. New York, June 2008.

[3] http://tinyurl.com/dfyymq

Final Reflections

The human heart longs for freedom. This is one of the fundamental truths of the human existence. That almost always gets expressed in a really interesting way—sometimes politically, sometimes emotionally, sometimes relationally, sometimes intellectually, etc. It seems like it is a never ending list. But there are certain expressions of freedom that are essential—life, liberty, human dignity, and the fruits of one’s own love and labor. In the developing world, go to any brothel to see trafficking victims or any brick kiln or rice mill to see bonded laborers to experience what it looks like when power holders abuse their authority to undermine these essential human freedoms.

At International Justice Mission this summer, I have had the privilege of fighting for the freedom of others. International Justice Mission believes that the law is essential to these human freedoms. Since the law in the developing world often provides for these freedoms, securing these freedoms on the ground becomes a question of enforcement. It has seemed odd to me at times this summer that enforcing rules is the way to freedom, but the message is clear. Where the law provides for freedom from various forms of oppression, the enforcement of those laws is necessary in order to realize those freedoms.

The law is essential to human rights. One of if not the primary role of all governments is to protect and enforce the rights of those living within their borders, and the law is essential to that protection and enforcement. Any look around the world reveals that the abuse of power is everywhere. People constantly misuse their power to take from others precious gifts like life and liberty as well as other human dignities—police brutality, illegal detention, sex trafficking, and bonded labor are a few examples.

The law, however, can be a tool of restraint. It can be a tool by which potential oppressors do not abuse their power over potential victims. It can be a tool of hope for the vulnerable. Their business contracts can provide accurate safeguards in which they can make money. This aids their advance out of poverty as well as the development of their economies. Countries with transparent rule of law are predictable and are better environments for investment; investors know that their money is free from the constraints of corruption. The law and its enforcement also give hope in the realization of the liberty, dignity, and rights of the vulnerable. Laws that forbid sex trafficking and police that enforce those laws provide protection to potential victims of those crimes.

The development of my thoughts on these topics and my experiences working on these issues have taken place with the backdrop of being in our nation’s capitol. A major part of any NGO’s work centers on the idea of mobilizing power actors, those in authority, to act on behalf of the vulnerable. Being in a city with so much power has made me think about the necessity of having those in power that care deeply for the poor. There is so much happening in Washington every week—Supreme Court nominations, prisoners in North Korea, and health care reform are a few. How deeply the poor need advocates in positions of power amidst all of the other work that a normal Washington week brings.

The poor also need advocates in everyday life. Becoming one of those advocates is a goal of mine. One of the things that I have learned this summer is the difference that a small group of very committed people can make. Perhaps because they are rare, committed people can motivate others to their cause. They can recruit them, mobilize them, encourage them, and involve them. Advocating on behalf of the poor is one of the ways that committed people can make a difference.

I believe that one of the best ways to do that is to advocate for rule of law reform in the developing world. IJM President and CEO Gary Haugen and Department of Justice prosecutor Victor Boutros will teach next year at the University of Chicago about the necessity of rule of law for the poor. The class will feature a lot of my work from this summer. It is one of many important steps to take in advocating for those that have no voice. I would encourage each of you to visit the International Justice Mission website for ways that you and those you know can get involved (www.ijm.org).