As we and our grantee partners learned over the past few years, there is a need for greater scientific and legal expertise in the environmental and human rights space. Fellowship programs stood out as a potentially effective framework to increase resources and strengthen the capacity of the next generation of scientific and legal advocates.
- i) Access to resources and opportunity are essential for the human and environmental rights leaders of tomorrow.
- ii) Advocates with varying expertise and experience levels need a platform for getting their work seen and their voices heard; and
- iii) Protecting the planet and communities will require advocates who are equipped with the skills, training, exposure, and career mentorship to help situate them to lead well.
Our Fellowship Program developed organically and evolved to meet partner needs. Longtime TCI grantee partner ELAW has a history of hosting Fellows, supporting their advocacy, and learning through a customized Fellowship program. Their work has served as a source of inspiration. Other TCI allies and advisors include EDLC and Trust for Mutual Understanding (TMU), who provided examples of relationship-first Fellowship programs based on trust and a commitment to true bilateral exchange.
In conversations with some of our grantee partners and allies with long-term and established Fellowship programs, we noted some gaps.
Too many Fellowship programs fail to reflect the diversity of the advocates in the field and often skew towards white, Global North-based Fellows. Global South Fellowship opportunities, when they exist, often go to those who are already academic and social elites. Some people within the Fellowship sphere both domestically and globally have intimated to us that Fellows sometimes feel they have limited room to craft their own project within the broader framework of the host organization’s advocacy. Public interest lawyers and law students have much less career guidance and fewer remunerated Fellowship opportunities available to them. It is uncommon to find Fellowship programs geared towards both lawyers and scientists and grounded in an appreciation of how both disciplines complement and strengthen each other. Fellows rarely get the opportunity to learn from other Fellows in an intentional manner or have sustained opportunity and connection with Host Organizations post-Fellowship.