Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict: What Participants Say

6 June 2024

Omar Bielma Velazquez is a Mexican career diplomat. Since 2022, he has served as a Human Rights Delegate at the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva. From 2019 to 2022, he was the Head of the Consular Section at the Embassy of Mexico in Ethiopia and Permanent Observer to the African Union. Prior to joining the Mexican Foreign Service, he worked as a foreign affairs advisor at the Mexican Senate.

Can you describe your current job and primary responsibilities?

Since late 2022, I have served as a Human Rights Delegate at the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN in Geneva. Within the vast human rights agenda, I am particularly in charge of civil and political rights. Additionally, I also follow files related to African countries, people of African descent and racial discrimination in general. My primary responsibilities are to engage in the meetings and negotiations related to the above topics at the Human Rights Council (HRC) and at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which include a range of specific activities – from drafting statements and reports, to negotiating resolutions to be considered for adoption by the HRC.

What motivated you to enroll in this programme?

When I moved to Geneva, I thought that I could take the opportunity to benefit from the educational institutions specialized in international affairs that are present in the city. Then, when I came across the Executive Master programme, I immediately felt that it was tailored to my needs: the courses were relevant to my work and the programme was aimed at people working full time. Additionally, many faculty members are also engaged in professional activities in the broader Geneva ecosystem, which reinforces the link between theory and practice throughout the programme.

In what ways do you anticipate applying the specialized knowledge gained from this programme to your professional work?

As a delegate at the HRC, I believe that I am already applying the knowledge acquired in class to my work. The programme has deepened my understanding in human rights and international humanitarian law, which for instance improves my abilities to create stronger arguments when negotiating a resolution. In some courses, I have also learned about the drafting history and context of some conventions and related documents, which is helpful to understand the state of current discussions at the UN level.

Which specific courses or topics within the programme do you find most relevant to your professional development?

On the one hand, the courses in the human rights module were of particular interest for my areas of work and immediately applicable. For instance, in the courses on the introduction to international human rights law and the implementation of international human rights law we analyzed topics directly related to the HRC and its mechanisms. On the other hand, since many resolutions at the HRC are incorporating elements of international humanitarian law, the courses on the interplay between human rights and international humanitarian law and on the law of international and non-international armed conflicts were very relevant to sharpen my knowledge.

How has the diverse background of professionals in the programme enriched your learning experience?

I am very glad to share the programme with many talented participants from diverse backgrounds, because they enrich the content of the discussions with their first-hand experiences. Also, despite the programme being held online, there’s a sense of community within the group.

How do you manage to balance your professional responsibilities with the demands of online classes?

The workload of the programme can be challenging at times, so it requires a lot of discipline, but it is worth the time and effort. Also, it is very helpful that the Geneva Academy provides the recordings of the lectures you may not be able to attend due to work commitments.

How do you foresee the Executive Master contributing to your career advancement, especially in acquiring additional responsibilities or moving your career forward?

The Executive Master has provided me with specialized knowledge in public international law in general, and particularly in international humanitarian law and human rights. Therefore, whereas my current job is focused on human rights, I could also engage in topics related to those other areas of international law that we studied during the programme.

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