Human Rights Workshop

Background Information

The YEA 2016/17 Human Rights Workshop, conducted by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), took place on 17 November in the United Nations in Vienna from 16:30-18:30. Like in previous years of cooperation with the UNHCR, the workshop was held by Marie-Claire Sowinetz from the Austrian Liaison Office. The aim of the workshop was to inform YEA participants of the international norms and realities related to refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as to discuss the asylum system in Austria. Twelve out of sixteen students attended the workshop, and the YEA team was represented by Nathalie, Katharina, Aleksandar, Ian and Billy.

Main event

Marie-Claire started off the workshop by discussing the history and purpose of the UNHCR and the Geneva Convention, explaining the protection that refugees are entitled to and why the UN Refugee Agency was established. She discussed what UNHCR does in general and what the Austrian office in particular does.

The students were “quizzed” throughout the session, where Marie-Claire asked the group a question, e.g. “How many refugees and internally displaced persons are there currently around the world?”, and the students would guess the answer. After giving the correct answer, Marie-Claire would then go into more depth, explaining the specific issue that was raised with the particular question further.

The students were very engaged during the entire workshop, asking Marie-Claire questions whenever they wanted further information on something she spoke about, as well as when they wanted to raise a point about something that was not mentioned in her presentation.

Their engagement and questions showed that they are truly engaged with the topic of refugees and already possess a lot of knowledge in this area. They showed real understanding of the information being presented to them and were very actively engaging with it throughout.


To conclude the session, the students discussed the situation in Austria and were encouraged to help out with one of the many initiatives in Vienna helping refugees, should they wish to further engage with the topic and be active in this area. Billy then issued final words pointing out that several of the students have already been very active with refugees and that the YEA program is very satisfied with the group of participants this year. The students and Marie-Claire thanked each other for an exciting and informative workshop.

Human Rights Workshop Report by Nathalie Mikhailova


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