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Annina, from Sciences Po to UNESCO

Annina Claesson, graduate of the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs and consultant to UNESCO (credits: Annina Claesson)

Graduated in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action from Sciences Po's Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) in June 2021, with the Summa Cum Laude honors, Annina Claesson works as a Consultant at UNESCO’s Section for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, under the organization’s Communication and Information sector. Interview with a brilliant Alumna. 

What is your role and main responsibilities?

Our team works to promote press freedom, transparency of internet companies, and supporting journalists in their work, among other focus areas. My role is mainly comprised of research and drafting. The portfolios I am involved with mostly involve issues related to addressing hate speech, gendered online violence, and other digital challenges related to freedom of expression. Right now, I’m also part of the editorial team for the flagship World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development report, for which we just released two chapters.

How did you secure this role?

I first came into contact with UNESCO during the “projet collectif” capstone I undertook during my first year at PSIA. This was a desk research project on initiatives to address hate speech. It was officially under a different Sector than the one I am working with now, but it was also through this project that I met my current supervisor. The project proved very useful for my Master’s thesis, where I focused on newsroom responses to gendered online violence against journalists. UNESCO was producing a large report on the same topic at the time, so I got in touch with the lead editors of that study, and ended up helping out with it part-time over the summer after my graduation. I expressed that I would be interested in a consultancy position, and fortunately the person I had met during my capstone needed support at that time. After some written tests and informal interviews, I was hired.

What is the most fascinating and/or surprising aspect at your role? 

The mission covered by my team at UNESCO are very close to my heart, so most of all, I love being able to spend my time digging deep into these issues. Our work has been highly relevant to headlines about Facebook’s conduct these past few months and we also work closely with recent Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa. Right now feels like a big moment for the protection of freedom of expression with all of the nuances and challenges that this involves. As a UN agency, UNESCO has the role of facilitating collaboration between a range of different actors, so it’s great being in the middle of a hub of researchers and advocates working for the same goals.

How did your PSIA experience help you with the role?  

The experiences I had with the capstone and my thesis directly led to my current position by getting me in touch with the right people, so that is the most immediate thing that comes to mind. More broadly, I do make use of what I learned in courses on human rights law on a daily basis – we lean on the ICCPR and other instruments when arguing for how freedom of speech should be protected or restricted in certain situations. PSIA translates quite naturally to work within the UN system, especially in terms of the kinds of drafting assignments we end up doing a lot of the time – as well as the tight deadlines!

What advice would you give to others? 

In my case, developing a level of “expertise” on a certain topic I was passionate about, especially through my Master’s thesis, worked out in my favour. We are encouraged to be “jack-of-all-trades” at PSIA and that is certainly valuable, but I would advise to not shy away from putting yourself forward as knowledgeable and curious about a specific topic. Networking gets mentioned all the time – but I find it is more useful to think of it in terms of always being on the lookout for interesting people who are working on things you would like to contribute to.

This interview was originally published on the PSIA website. 

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