Katlego Bagwasi - “I Wanted to Be Involved in the International Dialogue”




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Jul 04, 2014
by Tanya Yilmaz
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Katlego Bagwasi - “I Wanted to Be Involved in the International Dialogue”

Rhodes Scholar and Salzburg Global Fellow on how she has dedicated her career in international law and justice to be able to shape world politics   Katlego Bagwasi attending the session on Holocaust education and Genocide prevention

Rhodes Scholar, Katlego Bagwasi has spoken of how her early notions of international justice led her to mold her career around international law, in an interview with Salzburg Global Seminar.

Bagwasi spoke to Salzburg Global while attending the session, “Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders” which she attended thanks to a grant program for Rhodes Scholars

The Salzburg Global Fellow said: “I wanted to have an input in the way that world politics is shaped, the way international peace translates and in the way wars break out – I wanted to be part of the people who were in the solution for maintaining world peace.”

Bagwasi spoke truthfully when discussing the realities in “realizing the dream of international peace”, arguing that despite the stretch in terms of achievement, international courts play a small, yet meaningful role in getting there.

Originally from Botswana, Bagwasi is currently based at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at The Hague, where she works as an intern in the Appeals Chamber, working closely with judges and assisting them in the research of fair judgments and the writings of their decisions.

“I’ve always wanted to get into the international sphere of law and not just be a national practicing lawyer within domestic courts. One of my professors actually worked in the Appeal Chamber at the International Criminal Court and he always encouraged me to further explore international law. So my work at The Hague is essentially being the judge’s think-tank,” explains Bagwasi.

Prior to this, she taught Public International Law in the Law Department at the University of Botswana where she was also the Legal Clinic Coordinator at the university. From 2009 to 2010, she was a practicing attorney at Monthe Marumo & Company.

“Whilst attending university and working, I was becoming more aware of law beyond my domestic court and I developed an interest in international politics and international relations and I really wanted to be involved in the international dialogue.”

As a Rhodes Scholar, Bagwasi was awarded the opportunity to study at the University of Oxford from where she holds an MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“I merely applied for it as a funding opportunity, like any other opportunity to apply for postgraduate studies but when I got the Rhodes Scholarship, I realized how enormous the responsibility is to be a Rhodes Scholar and how significant and life-changing it is.”

The Rhodes Scholarship was established in the honor of Cecil J. Rhodes, and is the oldest, and considered by many, the most prestigious international scholarship program that offers students full financial support in postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford.

Bagwasi praised the scholarship program for its comprehensive network of scholars and sees this spectrum of international opportunities as a “good safety net”.

“There are so many successful Rhodes Scholars who are literally running the world. My personal favorites are Edwin Cameron, Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa; one of my professors is a Rhodes Scholar - Sir Frank Berman and he is the QC in the Essex chambers in London.

“Many are in leadership positions around the globe and 90% of all Rhodes Scholars are success stories in different spheres, so you are tagged to be a ‘world leader’ or to have the potential to be which pushes you to achieve that,” Bagwasi explains.

In 2013, the Rhodes Trust establish a travel grant program so that these “world leaders” could come to Salzburg to take part in Salzburg Global Seminar sessions, further expanding their networks and future potential impact. It was thanks to this program that Bagwasi was able to attend the session on Holocaust education and genocide prevention. 

In terms of the future, Bagwasi is in no shortage of hope when discussing her aspirations to achieve international justice and peace.

“I want to be everything. I want at some point in my life to contribute significantly to civil society whether it be running a successful NGO or internalizing the law and using the law as a tool to make social change and interacting with it practically rather it just be in the court room.”

Discussing Holocaust education at Salzburg Global Seminar, Bagwasi said: “I think the session was very fulfilling in various spheres – the theme was to share experiences on Holocaust education and genocide prevention and I think that we had a varied selection.”

She added: “I think we’ve gone across the world in sharing all these experiences but not only that, we have shared within ourselves, with each other from different spheres and coming together on one topic and I think it was very successful in that respect.”

The session "Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders" was developed in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, with support from the Austrian Future Fund, the Austrian National Fund, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the Pratt Foundation. The session was the third symposium in the joint Salzburg Global-USHMM Initiative on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention. For more information and updates from the session, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/535 and on Twitter with the hashtag #SGShol