A Career in Human Rights
Humans Rights is one of the most important career paths to take in this modern age. On the news, you will see horror stories around the world, where pain and suffering is inflicted upon individuals, countries and entire societies. In some ways, this is a dark time for human rights. From economic devastation in Venezuela, civil war raged in Yemen, China’s mass detention of one million Uighurs Muslims, to the Philippines extrajudicial killing spree and Myanmar’s arson against Rohingya Muslims, it is absolutely clear that human rights abuses remain a central issue in today’s biggest global challenges.
According to the Human Rights Foundation, citizens from 94 countries are suffering under non-democratic regimes. This means that 3.97 billion people are currently controlled by tyrants, monarchs, military juntas or competitive authoritarians. Meanwhile, populist discourse in western democracies is on the rise, where newly elected officials have been showcased to engage in dangerous rhetoric against vulnerable minorities, taking action to undermine democratic institutions, weaken independent judiciaries, and the checks and balances of law.
The good news, despite such disturbing scenario, is that there is a new alliance of rights-respecting governments that are joining forces with civic groups and organizations. In his essay, “World’s Autocrats Face Rising Resistance,” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth explains that much of this pushback is carried out, ironically enough, by the same multilateral institutions that autocrats around the world seek to weaken. Pressure in defense of human rights is not only asserted by the United Nations Human Rights Council, but also by solicited grassroots movements.
Rather than give into dark times and remaining pessimistic about the future of our democracies, there is great value in joining the human rights cause as a full blown career option. You will not only shine a light to so many distressed souls but also be engaged in changing global policies that remain nationalistic and economically self-serving.
To quote a famous Hogwarts headmaster: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.
To help you move into this highly-rewarding and motivating career path, we have compiled a list of organizations that offer the perfect platform to develop a meaningful professional life in the field of human rights. Besides international development, advocacy and policy, the avenues for such a career path are numerous, and include fields like law, technology, business, marketing and journalism.
Here is our top shortlist of the best organisations to work with.
An international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 that seeks to publicize violations by governments as governed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially issue such as freedom of speech and the right against torture.
A human rights group that has been fighting to put an end to slavery since 1839, making it the oldest human rights group in the world still in existence today. Nowadays, the group focuses on ending forced labor, bonded labor, human trafficking, child labor, descent-based slavery, slavery in supply chains, the exploitation of migrant workers, and forced and early marriages.
The Center for Economic and Social Rights is an international non-governmental organization that fights poverty and inequality by advancing human rights as guiding principles of social, economic and development policy.
A nonprofit organization with the central goal of sparking a mass movement for more ethical technology. It seeks to reverse the "digital attention crisis" caused by technology companies designing mobile devices and social media features, in order to capture as much attention as possible, regardless of their impact on users' quality of life.
Free2Work is an online resource for consumers to learn more about how the products they buy and the companies they support address the issues of forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking. This research platform is a joint initiative by The Not for Sale Campaign and the International Labor Rights Forum.
An international association of journalism organizations that support the training and sharing of information among investigative and data journalists, even in repressive regimes and marginalized communities.
HRW investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world. It includes country experts, lawyers, journalists, and others who work to protect those most at risk, from vulnerable minorities and civilians in wartime, to refugees and children in need. HRW directs their advocacy towards governments, armed groups and businesses, pushing them to change or enforce their laws, policies and practices.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association is the world federation of national and local organizations dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people across the globe.
Founded in 2009, IHRB is the leading international think tank on business and human rights. IHRB’s mission is to shape policy, advance practice and strengthen accountability in order to make respect for human rights part of everyday business.
The International Center for Transitional Justice was founded in 2001 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to pursuing accountability for mass atrocity and human rights abuse through transitional justice mechanisms.
The International Commission of Jurists is an international human rights non-governmental organization. The Commission itself is a standing group of 60 eminent jurists dedicated to ensuring respect for international human rights standards through the law.
ICC is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal with the mandate to prosecute individuals for gravest crimes of concern to the international community. This includes crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
INCLO is a network of 13 independent, national human rights organizations from different countries in the North and South that work together to promote fundamental rights and freedoms. They support and mutually reinforce the work of member organizations in their respective countries and collaborate on a bilateral and multilateral basis.
IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, promote international cooperation on migration issues, assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems, and provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.
IWGIA is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples' rights. Since 1968, IWGIA has cooperated with indigenous organisations and international institutions to promote recognition and implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples.
MLDI is an organization that provides legal representation for bloggers, journalists, reporters, photo journalists and other independent producers of media. Their assistance is designed to help those who are sued in criminal or civil courts of law for reporting information of public interest to receive a chance at a fair trial with the ultimate goal of strengthening and protecting the universal human right of freedom of the press.
REDRESS is a human rights organization that is fighting to end the practice of torture around the world. Through casework, advocacy and partnership with other organizations, the group works to get justice for individuals who have been tortured by governments. In addition, the group exposes instances of torture perpetuated by governments in an effort to put a stop to these methods of interrogation and intimidation.
Also known under its original name “Reporters Sans Frontières”, this international nonprofit organization based in Paris conducts political advocacy on issues relating to freedom of information and freedom of the press.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a United Nations programme with the mandate to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.
WITNESS is an international nonprofit organization that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. WITNESS engages technology companies, creates applications and supports digital policies that help human rights advocates safely, securely and ethically document human rights abuses and expose them to the world.