Launched in 2001, the Justice Initiative Fellows Program is a joint program of the Open Society Justice Initiative and Central European University. The program currently sponsors ten fellows to pursue a two-year program of study and practical work experience. The Justice Initiative Fellows Program has two main objectives:
• To invest in the professional development of promising young human rights lawyers and activists by giving them opportunities for academic and practical training, and
• To assist leading human rights NGOs in countries of Justice Initiative presence to build organizational capacity through training of their staff, including legal professionals and human rights activists.
Applicants from Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia, Middle East and Central/South America are eligible to participate in the program. The Justice Initiative runs the program in partnership with the Legal Studies Department of the Central European University.
Justice Initiative Fellows are nominated by NGOs from their home countries and reside for one year in Budapest, Hungary, where they undertake a degree program (MA or LL.M. in Human Rights) at the CEU Legal Studies Department. During their stay, Fellows participate in a three-month internship with a leading European NGO. The second year of the fellowship is devoted to work in the home country with the nominating NGO.
CEU-specific requirements: Applicants to all programs must meet the general CEU admissions requirements. In addition, applicants to the LLM programs must have completed a law degree or be in the last year of law school and expect to graduate before the beginning of August. Applicants to the Human Rights MA Program must have at least a BA by the time they start their studies at CEU. For the departmental requirements see the Prospective Studentssection of the Legal Department website.
Additional requirements for OSJI Fellows: Applicants must be nominated by a non-governmental organization concerned with human rights. The applicant must demonstrate a strong commitment to human rights, have a university degree and be able to certify a high degree of proficiency in English.
In addition to the documents required by the Legal Studies Department applicants must include in their application:
1. A nomination letter from an NGO describing the reasons for nominating the applicant, the expectations the NGO has of the project, and contractually committing (to the Justice Initiative) to hire the applicant for at least one year after s/he returns from the twelve-month training program in Hungary. The nomination letter should also indicate a monthly salary gross rate in USD (including all taxes and fees) that will be offered to the applicant by the NGO in case s/he is selected for the program (provided to the NGO by the Justice Initiative in the form of a grant).
2. Proof of English proficiency.
3. A statement of purpose for applying to the Justice Initiative Fellows program.
4. A proposal of project activities that the candidate plans to work on with the nominating NGO during the second year of the fellowship.
Criteria for selection will include – in addition to the admission test results – the applicant’s experience, his/her potential to contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights, and the suitability of the applicant’s proposed role with the nominating NGO. Upon selection, Fellows will be required to sign an agreement with the Justice Initiative committing themselves to the program for two years. The first year is spent at Central European University, the second in the applicant’s home country, working with the nominating NGO. The call for application can be downloaded here in pdf version.
During the first year of the Justice Initiative Fellows Program the financial conditions for the Fellows are identical to CEU policies for full fellowship students. The JI Fellows will return to their nominating NGOs after the first year, where they will spend at least one year working in human rights advocacy on a non-profit basis. The Justice Initiative will pay a local salary during this second year equal to an amount determined to be similar to equivalent work by the nominating NGO. This amount will be provided to the nominating NGOs in the form of a grant.
After one year of intense and outstanding academic training at the CEU Human Rights Program, JI Fellows returning to their home countries apply the acquired theoretical knowledge and practical skills in their day-to-day work at their respective NGOs. As members of the Justice Initiative network, they participate in regional and international projects, provide assistance for other NGOs with similar goals, and supply feedback to JI via reports and regular updates on their activities.
Many of the fellows move on to become prominent NGO leaders, HR advocates or join intergovernmental or supranational organizations.
Profiles of some of our former JI fellows can be found on our alumni website.