The 2014-2015 OPBP Executive Committee held its first welcome and informal information session on 18 November 2014. It was well attended with a huge turnout of graduate students interested in learning more about OPBP, how to get involved as volunteers or project coordinators and the OPBP Internship Fund.
OPBP was grateful to have the Dean of the Law Faculty, Professor Timothy Endicott in attendance who talked about the relationship between OPBP and the Law Faculty. He expressed how much he valued the work of OPBP and how his initial apprehensions that the pro bono research projects would distract students from the primary aim of an academic institution were allayed over time and now he looks at it as an exercise not just compatible with, but complementary to graduate studies at the Faculty. OPBP Faculty Members and co-founders, Professor Sandra Fredman and Associate Professor Liora Lazarus, spoke briefly about the beginnings of OPBP and its work through the years. Liora Lazarus stated that OPBP was established to provide human rights and public interest organisations globally with high quality research assistance provided by Oxford graduate students who are drawn from all over the world with diverse legal knowledge and expertise. Sandra Fredman talked about the partnerships that OPBP has with organisations such as the Legal Resources Centre, South Africa (LRC) and the Southern Africa Judicial Assistance Project (SAJAP).
Kate Mitchell, the former OPBP Vice-chairperson, highlighted some of the high profile projects that OPBP has been involved in including the arbitrary detention comparative study project for the UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary Detention. Zachary Vermeer, the OPBP Chairperson, introduced the new Executive Committee and gave a brief presentation on how OPBP works in relation to project coordination and the call for volunteers. He also highlighted some of the projects OPBP has been involved in. Yulia Ioffe, the Internship Coordinator also gave a presentation about the OPBP Internship Fund and the grant cycle.
Toby Collis and Rachel Clement both shared their experience volunteering for OPBP projects as well as being recipients of the OPBP-Internship Fund. Toby interned with the Malawian Judiciary while Rachel interned with the SAJAP in Namibia. They spoke about the wealth of information they gained and the contribution they were also able to make. They also highlighted that, those who intend to take up internships in other countries should also set aside time to travel around and get to appreciate the beauty and national heritage of these countries. Such an experience they said was made possible and much easier by the OPBP Internship Fund.
The OPBP Executive Committee would like to thank everyone who attended the welcome event!