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Human Rights Career Paths: Programme Development Officer

Interview with Leo Twiggs, Programme Development Officer with IDLO in The Hague

“IDLO is the only intergovernmental organization exclusively devoted to promoting the rule of law. Governments, multilateral organizations, private foundations and the private sector support our work. We are headquartered in Rome, where we were first founded, and where we continue to enjoy strong support from the Italian government. We are present in The Hague, a city whose hospitality connects us with an unrivaled legal tradition. And we are represented at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, where we help shape the debate about human rights and development.”

(Source: idlo.int)

What does your role involve? What is a typical day for you?

I work for the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) as a Programme Development Officer. As a Programme Development Officer, I am responsible for creating and articulating current and future rule of law programming for the organisation, which means developing programming both in locations where IDLO is already working, and also in locations where IDLO hopes to expand operations. In a typical day, a Programme Development Officer might undertake needs assessments and scoping missions with the aim to design new projects for IDLO. Other tasks include designing country, regional or thematic results-based project proposals in line with IDLO’s strategic plan. I work with team members in diverse locations across the globe to ensure that programmes include results-based monitoring and evaluation of project activities and I provide guidance and recommendations for improvement of current rule of law programmes. I carry out contextual research on potential areas of programmatic expansion, and work with people around the world to design and draft proposals for rule of law programming.

What was your route to your current role?

Before law school, I worked as a Grant Writer and Development Officer in a Washington, D.C. based educational non-profit organisation. There, I learned how the world of proposal-based fundraising works, and learned how to draft project proposals. After I went to law school, where I specialised in international human rights law and was a research assistant for a former UN Special Rapporteur, I took a fellowship as a legal researcher in Geneva, where I learned about international human rights law and standards in practice and how they are applied (or not applied) in the real world. After my fellowship, I worked as a Programme Development Officer drafting competitive project proposals for rule of law funding. During my time in Geneva, I completed an LLM focused on international humanitarian law and human rights at the Geneva Academy Graduate Institute. From Geneva, I took a job as a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Myanmar as a Rule of Law Officer. In Myanmar, I gained first-hand experience with programme implementation. This experience led me to my current job.

What do you enjoy most about your job? What are the challenges?

What I enjoy most about the job is also the greatest challenge: learning about new areas of the law and the world in a short timeframe in order to develop a well-informed proposal that can be implemented and will achieve the desired results. I am fortunate that I am able to learn a great deal about new people, places, and justice systems every day.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring human rights professionals who want to pursue a similar career path?

If you have decided that a career in human rights or international development is your goal, then you must pursue it relentlessly. Be prepared to make sacrifices in terms of compensation, in terms of stability, and in terms of your family and community ties. Take every opportunity presented to you even if the job does not seem ideal. Each project and responsibility, no matter how small, is an opportunity to learn, perfect your skills, and make new connections. Above all, show respect for your colleagues and the people for whom you provide service. Remember that this career is essentially about the service of others. I think if you keep that mindset, and stay humble, people recognise you as someone they want to work with because they understand that you will put the results that the programme is trying to achieve before personal gain.

Do you have any other comments or words of advice?

If you’re from a developed, Western country, get experience in the developing world. It is almost impossible to design and implement quality rule of law programming without an understanding of how justice is provided in the developing world.

About the author

Natalie Matranga

Natalie Matranga is a lawyer and human rights professional from the United Kingdom. After practicing as a lawyer in the UK, Natalie worked in South East Asia (Cambodia and Myanmar) for a range of human rights and international development organisations, including local and international NGOs and the United Nations, specialising in rule of law and human rights in criminal justice systems in transitional and post-conflict contexts. Natalie is currently a partner at Amicus Legal & Advisory LLP, a consultancy firm providing research services and project support to NGOs and international organisations.