Christian Weaver: UK’s Youth Delegate to the Congress...

Christian Weaver: UK’s Youth Delegate to the Congress of the Council of Europe

Christian Weaver

This article was first written in 2017 and details Christian Weaver’s experience as the UK Youth Delegate to the Council of Europe 2017.

Tell us about your role as the UK’s Youth Delegate to the Congress of the Council of Europe…

I currently sit as the UK’s Youth Delegate to the Congress of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is Europe’s leading human rights organisation and the ‘Congress’ is made up of representatives from local authorities across Europe. Its role is to promote local and regional democracy. An underlying belief within the Congress is that widespread change first happens at a ‘community’ level, and that is why Congress’ work is so important.

Appointed to advocate the views of UK youth, I regularly attend the Palace of Europe in Strasbourg. I research, write and deliver speeches on issues I have expertise in (many of which are legal), work on projects promoting social cohesion and assist the work of other youth delegates with projects in their respective countries.

What route did you take to get to the position?

Just to rock the boat a little, I’m not always a fan of the route mindset. The best route to achieving what is meant for you in life is through getting to know yourself, understanding your core, and then aggressively living your life in alignment to it. With this in mind, being appointed the UK’s Youth Delegate to the Congress of the Council of Europe was a natural fit, in that the skills required encapsulated many which I was honing in the activities of my day to day life.

Whilst I don’t think I could have planned to attain this role, I can identify three things that, although I may not have realised it at the time, played a key role in working at the Council of Europe. These are my knowledge in law and human rights, my desire to help engage and represent young people in the political system and my networks.

Whilst the first two points are self-explanatory, I would like to touch on networks.

I cannot ignore the fact that, the reason I even heard about this opportunity was due to somebody in my ‘network’ sending me a link.

I have always been sceptical of the ‘networking your way to success’ mindset. It’s an excuse for not taking the time to become an expert in your chosen area and also lead to a lot of ‘fake’ relationships which, if you are not careful, can cause big problems when they break.

I would however say that organically arising networks are extremely important. These are the networks you make in the course of living in alignment with your core. It was someone in this type of network that alerted me when this role came up.

What do you enjoy most about your current position? 

Developing professional relationships and genuine friendships with people from all over Europe has been the most enjoyable and valuable part of my current position. Each youth delegate has achieved amazing things and I cannot stress how inspired I have been speaking with them all. Being surrounded by them has also given me a greater realisation of how big the world actually is, and, with this in mind, I have learned how important it is to never allow your current surroundings / local environment to dictate your level of ambition. There really is a huge amount of opportunity out there!

My highlight was co-authoring a speech about the detention of journalists in Turkey without trial following the attempted 2016 military coup. Unsurprisingly, we as youth delegates unanimously opposed this, not least because of the brutal attack on freedom of speech and a free press that it represented. The speech was delivered in the hemicycle of the Council of Europe, where numerous senior decision makers were sat.

How did you course at NTU help your professional career and reach where you are now?

My role requires an ability to make strong, persuasive arguments in public / to large audiences. My second year assessed moot drilled this ability in to me. Mooting may sometimes seem a chore during your studies, but the ability to develop strong arguments is something that law students learn much sooner than others and is a skill transferable to so many other walks of life. The BPTC cemented this skill.

NTU staff regularly send out emails looking for writers for the NLS blog etc. Participate! Your time at university is an excellent ‘training ground’ to practise these skills and it was my experience writing for the NLS blog that gave me the confidence to start writing for the Huffington Post and Nottingham Post.

NTU staff were a great source of support and have certainly helped give me the confidence to make arguments to senior decision makers. The encouragement from staff has given me the ‘backbone’ to feel confident making my arguments to senior decision makers. I must express particular thanks to Julie Higginbottom who I saw fortnightly during my NLS years. Meetings with her have played a key role in my professional and personal development.

What advice would you give to current law students?

Law does not exist within a vacuum. Whilst the European Court of Human Rights is of course related to the Council of Europe, the Council of Europe is very much a political institution, despite law being a very important part of it. My advice would therefore be to maintain a strong understanding of issues affecting the law. This can comprise regularly watching the news or reading Counsel magazine, but it really is important.

Do not worry if you don’t know what area of law you want to practise in yet. Try and develop a good understanding of everything for the time being. You will then be in a much stronger position to choose where exactly you want to go.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?

The fact that I only speak English. I would encourage EVERYBODY to learn at least one other language. Whilst we as English speakers are fortunate, in that most other European’s can speak our language as well as their own, I certainly feel at times that my Council of Europe experience is limited as a result of speaking only one language.

If you want to effect legal, social or political change, you are in effect calling for a change to something previously classed as a norm. You must therefore be particularly persuasive. Not speaking the language of the person you are trying to influence instantly puts you on the back foot, as the person is already ‘doing you a favour’ by speaking their non-native language to accommodate you. Learning a second language reduces the chances of this happening!

You can see what Christian is doing now by following him at @ChristianKamali

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