Alex Fielding understands the phrase “money isn’t everything” better than most. After all, he’s lived it.
The Augustana alumnus, now a lawyer, once turned his back on the corporate world for an unpaid internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
“I did a year of corporate law, but decided it just wasn't what I wanted to do.”
The internship eventually led to a job at the International Criminal Court that did pay, “which was nice,” as Alex dryly observes. More importantly, however, it provided him with the chance to have a positive impact on the world around him.
His first such opportunity actually came while at Augustana, as a participant in the university’s Rural Development Exchange in Mexico. Inspired by his experience there, he applied for and won an internship funded by the Canadian government, and went to work for the UN in Geneva for six months.
“The internship in Geneva was what allowed me to get some experience, and get a foot in the door with some NGOs and international organizations.”
Right now, Alex is working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as a Detention Delegate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“Among other things, we work for prisoners of war and other individuals that are incarcerated for security reasons. They're particularly vulnerable, at risk of neglect, and even violence and death. We monitor their condition, and work with the government to try and ensure that their rights under international humanitarian law are protected.”
One major characteristic of Alex’s work is that everything’s confidential. Unlike most NGOs and international organizations, the ICRC works with governments and the military to help them improve their own capacities. The commitment to confidentiality provides the ICRC much greater access than other organizations enjoy.
“This kind of persuasion and mobilisation work can be very difficult, even dispiriting, but I believe in it. You have to be patient. The ICRC's role has a unique value. We're able to build very close relationships with the most senior levels of the military and government, and over time, we can improve conditions, not only for current prisoners, but for future detainees as well.