Alumni Profile: Christie Edwards ’07 named Deputy Head of the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
November 15, 2017
- What year did you graduate?
- Please describe your journey from law school to where you are now.
I graduated from law school just as the economy went into a crisis, but I desperately wanted to continue a career in international human rights. I did some pro bono asylum representation, while teaching as an adjunct professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and working with several non-profit organizations in the area to gain experience with grantwriting, fundraising and development, and program management. I then decided to complete my LLM degree to pursue specializations in International Human Rights and Gender. After I graduated from my LLM program, I received a Helton Fellowship from the American Society of International Law, which allowed me to spend several months in Casablanca, Morocco, working on a legal advocacy campaign for the rights of single mothers.
When I returned to the US, I started working at a women’s human rights organization managing human rights advocacy programs for women in the Middle East and North Africa, right at the beginning of the Arab Spring. After a few years, I then moved to the American Red Cross as the Director of International Humanitarian Law, where I lead the organization’s legal education, public, and youth outreach efforts on IHL for four years, directly reaching over 60,000 people per year with a social reach of over 24 million through our public events and training opportunities. Additionally, I have served for the last several years as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, teaching courses on Women, Rights, & Gender Equality and Gender & Conflict.
I recently accepted a position Deputy Head of the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department in the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] Office of Democracy and Human Rights in Warsaw, Poland, where I will be moving in January. Additionally, I have been very active in the American Society of International Law. While serving as the Co-Chair of the ASIL Women in International Law Interest Group, I co-founded the Women’s Mentoring Program, now with over 250 participants in 19 cities worldwide, assisting young women entering the field of international law. I currently serve as the Chair of ASIL’s Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict.
- What is the most exciting / rewarding part of your job?
Over the last few years, I have worked on educating the American public, as well as our military and government leaders, to understand our obligations under the Geneva Conventions to protect civilians and those most vulnerable in combat, particularly on issues of torture and sexual and gender based violence. Given the numerous armed conflicts around the world today, I believe it is vitally important that that these protections are implemented and crucial for the future of our country and the world community.
In my new role at the OSCE, I will be working with the 57 member States (including the US!) to address issues of racial discrimination, xenophobia, hate crimes, anti-Semitism, and religious discrimination, which threaten the security of individuals and may give rise to wider scale conflict and violence that undermine international stability and security. By working with and training law enforcement, government leaders, educators, youth organizations, civil society groups, and religious leaders, communities will be better equipped to deal with these issues.
- How did you become interested in your area of practice?
I went to law school to pursue a career in international human rights, and as I worked with torture survivors, refugees, and asylum seekers while I was in law school, I wanted to be an advocate for those who had no one to speak on their behalf. As I’ve continued working in this field, I also strongly believe that the survivors of armed conflict, abuse, and other human rights violations should be empowered to speak on their own behalf, which often takes a great deal of advocacy, since women in particular do not always have that right or opportunity.
- What advice would you give to students who have recently graduated and have passed the bar?
Look for ways to serve your local community through volunteer work, joining the local bar association and organizations that interest you personally and professionally. This is a great way to network and show potential employers or contacts that you care deeply about these issues and are willing to work hard to succeed.
- Any fond memories that stand out for you about your time at TJSL? Did any particular office help you in any way? Career Services? Student Services? Etc…
Working with Professor Slomanson for two years as President of the International Law Society was an absolute joy and helped me develop many of the professional skills I use today! Convincing my friends and classmates to start the Date Auction tradition as a way to raise scholarship funds for study abroad programs was also one of my favorite law school memories!
- Did any of the organizations that you were involved with help shape where you are on now?
The leadership skills I developed as President of the International Law Society definitely helped me succeed professionally. I learned the basics of budget management, people management, and fundraising – all of which I use every day in my public interest career working for non-profit organizations and now with a multi-lateral organization.
- Anything else you would like to add…
If you are interested in pursuing a public interest career in the non-profit sector, use every opportunity (internships, volunteer work, etc.) to gain additional skills, such as grants management, budget management, personnel management, fundraising, and advocacy. When you are applying for jobs, these skills will set you apart since you will also have valuable legal skills to contribute. Additionally, think outside the box! Look for organizations that interest you and try to develop your own internship or volunteer/job experiences. Research fellowship opportunities to take you abroad and give you a different skill set. Ask your professors about their experiences in other communities and other sectors. Join organizations like the ABA and ASIL for networking, learning, mentoring, and leadership opportunities.