A NON INSPIRING STORY FROM A NON “HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER”. JUST AN INTERN HAVING MEETINGS TO ARRANGE

I am Patricio, from Argentina. This is how I presented myself to my HR colleagues back in 2019 avoiding the “Where are you from?” that follows, “Which is your Name?” If this is the first time that you hear this, that is to say, the first time that you know me (then I feel very sorry for you, it is not your lucky day). I repeat it: I am Patricio D´Acunti from Argentina. I was born in Buenos Aires, but I lived in a small town until I finished high school. After that, I returned to Buenos Aires to study law at the homonymous University (UBA), where I graduated in 2018.


Patricio in Bassano del Grappa, November 2020

In September 2019, I moved to Italy to start my master's studies in Human Rights because I understood that even if I had a law background and work experience in the legal area, studying abroad was a way to broaden my horizons even more, and also to give an international profile to my “career” Well, this is fine to say in job interviews, but actually what I wanted more than anything at that time was to live and study outside of my country for a while - and only for a while, as long as I planned to return in the future.


Having completed the first semester of the master's degree in presence (yes, at that time people used to leave their homes without “mascherina” to go to a classroom), I did the second and the third through our dear friend the online platform, Zoom. I was "attending" classes, reading papers and slides for the exams (and here's another debate for another time; do slides or powerpoints add anything positive to university education).


Anyway, eventually the issue of where to do my internship came about. I must say that it was quite easy for me to get a place because almost without sending applications, one day I received a message from the Director of an organization to whom I had sent a message about one year before, when I was still in my country. They took their time, but “better late than never”, as they say.


Without being so convinced of working for this organization, having my academic interests and vision regarding human rights and the world changed in the meantime, I finally agreed (as we say in spanish, “a bird in hand is better than a hundred flying”). After a couple of conversations, I agreed to start my internship in February 2021, then for six months at the International Human Rights Network Europe, based in Brussels. After my first intention to go to Belgium, I finally gave up and decided to do my six-month internship from Padova. It made no sense for me to go to a new country with a lockdown. In Italy at least pizza and aperitivo were a guarantee.


I hope to make this clear. I do not consider that doing this internship in a human rights organization makes me a “Human Rights Defender”, although a few months ago I did a campaign for the Human Rights Center promoting the master with a t-shirt that said “HR DEFENDER” - and you can look for it on social media. I apologize, it was just part of the show. I think it would be extremely hypocritical to classify me as such (and well, I did it once), since while many people risk their lives defending fundamental rights in various regions of the world, I work comfortably from my home in Padova, in slippers and without any risk. Likewise, I consider that the concept of “Human Rights Defender” is extremely abstract and empty in itself; although it gives an aura of purity and looks good on LinkedIn when under that label, antagonistic interests can be defended (and yes, this also happens with the title "lawyer", but this is more than anything related to the formal practice in a certain place). Anyway, I am not a HR defender and I don't pretend to be. But each one is free to call himself/herself whatever he/she wants, of course. I am just a student, an eternal student of things.


As for the work in the organization itself, I think I can only have a few interesting details besides that the problems are solved at home. The idea of ​​the organization is to promote human rights of Latin American people and organizations before the European Union (the NGO has older and more established headquarters in Geneva). In practice, that has become a bit difficult since during the first months everything was quite disorganized (I am used to disorganization since I grew up in Argentina), and we simply held many meetings that resulted in coordinating other meetings in which we finally agreed to hold other meetings. And you will know that we agreed on the latter.


However, over the months, we have managed to organize ourselves a little more and focus on more specific issues that were more in line with my interests and those of my colleagues. In this we have been working as a team along with the directors of the NGO who always accept new proposals and ways of working, making certain specific formal requests (petitions) to the European Union - something that probably does not make much sense, but this is off-topic - organizing events, and supporting the work here in Europe of organizations from Nicaragua, Colombia and Guatemala, among other countries.


I think that I can simply recommend; and it is a rather poor recommendation, to do an internship in an organization that fits with your academic and political interests because that way your experience will certainly be more fruitful, allowing you to delineate your career in the area. Despite that, it is not so bad to work as a first experience, in a place where you do not feel so comfortable because one can without hesitation learn certain lessons for the future. It is also extremely enlightening to defend causes with which you do not fully agree. I also don't think dentists like the mouths of all their patients (Does that ever happen?), but they work just the same.


It was not my idea to inspire anyone with these words. I am not, nor do I want to be a politician, an evangelical pastor or a football coach. I just told a boring little story. To say that I am going to inspire someone would be to put myself in the place of a “spiritual” leader, and nothing would make me more ashamed than to be labeled in such a fashion. I prefer to go unnoticed.


Leave your comments, criticisms, insults, etc.


Greetings and take care.


Written by Patricio D'Acunti

Edited by Alex Frattin

Patricio D'Acunti is a second year student of the master program in Human Rights & Multilevel Governance at the university of Padua.

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