Crazy, Candid, Calculated Course Week

Last week the Duke Program on Global Policy and Governance hosted its sixteenth annual course week in Geneva to complement our summer internships. This year there were four tracks: Humanitarian action; global health; environment, energy, and economics (EEE); and social innovation.

I’ve heard good things about the other tracks, but I think that the track I am in, environment, energy, and economics, was the best. (But I could be a little biased…)

Duke Sanford Professor Tana Johnson was our course instructor and in just five days we spoke to over 20 professionals and visited three sites including the headquarters for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Palais des Nations, and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Having the opportunity to listen to professionals working in the international environmental field in all different arenas, at all different levels was a fantastic professional learning experience. Every day I learned something new about environmental governance and I had the chance to ask our speakers ample questions about the climate negotiations, the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, and financing for development!

There were 12 students including myself in the EEE track. Our wide-ranging backgrounds really contributed to the diverse questions we asked speakers, and it spiced up our discussions in class about the future of global governance. I was surprised at how open and honest our speakers were when answering our questions.

There were multiple highlights for me during the course week.

On Monday we kicked off the week with an enthusiastic lecture from environmental lawyer Johanna Bernstein who reviewed how the language in international environmental negotiations has been watered down since the first environmental summit in 1972.

The next day we visited IUCN in Glonn, Switzerland where we toured the so-called “Greenest Building in Europe,” and heard about an innovative new conservation idea from an NGO called Earthmind.

A fellow
Standing in front of the “greenest building in Europe” IUCN’s headquarters
Green roof with solar PV panels that provide 50 percent of the building’s energy needs

On Wednesday I learned even more about trade and the environment when we heard from ICTSD in the morning. Afterward we visited the Palais des Nations for meetings at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Sustainable Energy Division (UNECE) as well as the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The whole EEE gang ready to visit the UN!
The whole EEE gang ready to visit the UN!
My badge to get into the United Nations Headquarters
My badge to get into the United Nations Headquarters
Getting ready to speak with Scott Foster, the Director of UNECE's Sustainable Energy Division
Getting ready to speak with Scott Foster, the Director of UNECE’s Sustainable Energy Division

After our meetings we had the chance to take a look around the building, and we even took a special tour of the UN’s private library which has over one million books!

The general assembly room for the UN
The huge general assembly room for the UN
A gorgeous courtyard between buildings at the Palais


On Thursday we visited the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters.

I had a chance to sit where the US negotiates at the WTO
Part of the main negotiating room
The WTO was full of these bright paintings highlighting workers rights. The International Labour Organization (ILO) used to operate in this building

On Friday we concluded the week with a talk from John Scanlon, Secretary-General for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). At the end of the day we had a very short graduation ceremony where we all received certificates for completing the course.

All of us at the end of the course holding our “graduation” certificates

It was certainly a memorable week and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in such an engaging course. The knowledge I gained during last week will certainly benefit my current internship work, and I know this experience will shape my professional endeavors as I complete my Masters program this year!