Human Rights Movement

Human rights methodology and institutions are undergoing a transformation, as the international human rights regime founded in the post-WWII era adapts to a changed and changing world. Advocates and scholars are reaching beyond the silos shaped by the field’s historical roots in law and journalism. As a result, methods of human rights investigation, research, and persuasion are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, influenced by fields as diverse as forensics, anthropology, environmental science, public health, economics, data science, statistics, communications, and the arts.

Rapid growth in communication and information technologies have opened up new frontiers for data collection, analysis, and exchange that have the potential to revolutionize approaches to human rights work. International human rights institutions have rarely been at the vanguard of these changes; their operations and procedures are evolving at a far slower pace. Increasing public scrutiny and questions regarding the legitimacy of human rights bodies historically dominated by the Global North, however, have prompted efforts to diversify and decentralize the human rights work performed by both intergovernmental and civil society institutions.

Thanks to its unique blend of in-house expertise, CHRGJ has been on the cutting edge of this methodological and institutional renaissance. Most faculty and senior staff at the Center have degrees or prior experience in fields beyond the law, including sociology, anthropology, political science, international development, philosophy, literature, and journalism. Their commitment to cross-disciplinary approaches to their research, scholarship, and advocacy has been applied in a wide range of contexts. These include: sociological analysis of how international law influences states; anthropological studies of the vernacularization of human rights; critical and constructive examination of fact-finding methods; theorizing and pioneering of techniques for applying social science methodologies to human rights research; investigation of the use of data visualization in human rights advocacy; and exploration of how new technologies, such as satellite imagery, crowd-sourced eyewitness accounts, and algorithms may strengthen the credibility and capacity of human rights reporting and advocacy, or conversely pose new threats to rights-holders.

The Center has trained this same creative and critical eye onto international human rights institutions. Using their platforms as United Nations independent experts, academics, and advocates, Center faculty and staff have challenged the structure and procedures of various human rights institutions, in efforts to enhance their accessibility and accountability to the people whose rights they aim to protect, and to encourage their adaptation to a modernizing world.

Human Rights Resilience Project

The Human Rights Resilience Project is an interdisciplinary research initiative co-led by Professor Margaret Satterthwaite, CHRGJ Faculty Director and Co-Chair, in collaboration with Professor Sarah Knuckey of Columbia Law School and Professor Adam Brown of Sarah Lawrence University and NYU School of Medicine. Since 2015, a research team of human rights lawyers and psychologists have been working to document, raise awareness, and develop culturally-sensitive training programs to promote well-being and resilience among human rights workers. The project is grounded in the belief that the well-being of human rights activists is essential for sustainable movements.


Human Rights Methodology Lab

The Human Rights Methodology Lab is a joint initiative of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice with Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute and Human Rights Watch, brings together leading human rights practitioners with experts from diverse disciplines to discuss concrete human rights research problems in order to build knowledge about, and encourage discussion of, innovation in human rights research methodologies.

Initiative on Human Rights Fact-Finding, Methods, and Evidence

The Initiative on Human Rights Fact-Finding, Methods, and Evidence is a response to human rights violations has been proliferating and becoming more sophisticated and complex. At the same time, it remains strikingly under-theorized with few attempts made to subject the assumptions, methodologies and techniques of this rapidly developing field to critical and constructive scrutiny.  The Initiative on Fact Finding, Methods, and Evidence aimed to identify key issues that might benefit from further sustained analysis and critique, taking account potential contributions by diverse disciplines.  The overall goal was to generate a better understanding of these issues with a view to facilitating more effective fact-finding.

Legal Empowerment

Jailhouse Lawyer Initiative

The Jailhouse Lawyer Initiative aims to re-conceptualize the role of jailhouse lawyers as agents of empowerment. JLI is a national project of the Legal Empowerment Advocacy Hub and is supported by the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights. JLI advocates for the legal empowerment of current and former jailhouse lawyers and law clerks – a process central to ending the cycle of incarceration and enabling communities to obtain freedom from the inside out.

Indigenous Land Rights and Earth Defense

The Indigenous Land Rights and Earth Defense by Global Justice Clinic works to empower marginalized populations to know and exercise their human rights. The Clinic works in proximity with communities and grassroots organizations to ensure they have access to the information and tools they need to advance the fulfillment of rights, to anticipate and prevent human rights abuses, and to seek accountability for violations. The goal of these legal empowerment efforts is not only justice. The objective is also to support individuals and communities deprived of their rights to lead efforts to prevent and redress violations.

Legal Empowerment and Immigration

In the fall of 2017 the Global Justice Clinic began contributing to efforts to promote justice and support empowerment in the Haitian immigrant community in New York.  In the fall of 2018, the Global Justice Clinic expanded its legal empowerment work to include other immigrant populations, and launched one project based in New York City and a second that is nation-wide. Check out more of GJC’s work on legal empowerment and immigration.

César Rodríguez-Garavito
CHRGJ Chair and Faculty Director
Professor of Clinical Law
Margaret L. Satterthwaite
CHRGJ Faculty Director
Director, Global Justice Clinic
Professor of Clinical Law
May 15, 2019
CTRL+HALT+Defeat: State-Sponsored Surveillance and the Suppression of Dissent
View Document
Reports and Briefing Papers
March 1, 2019
Attempted Digital Surveillance as a Completed Human Rights Violation: Why Targeting Human Rights Defenders Infringes on Rights
View Document
Articles and Chapters
July 20, 2018
Trauma, Depression, and Burnout in the Human Rights Field: Identifying Barriers and Pathways to Resilient Advocacy
View Document

Related Pages

Human Rights Methodology Lab
Human Rights Resilience Project

Your information has been sent successfully!