Philip Alston

Philip Alston
Faculty Director; John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law


Philip Alston is a faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. He is an international lawyer whose research and teaching interests focus primarily on human rights law and the law of international organizations.

Philip served as the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights from 2014-2020 and has visited and reported on countries including Chile, China, Mauritania, Romania, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. 

He was previously UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions from 2004 to 2010 and undertook fact-finding missions to: Sri Lanka, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Philippines, Israel, Lebanon, Albania, Kenya, Brazil, Central African Republic, Afghanistan, the United States, Albania, and Ecuador. 

In 2005 he was elected to chair the Annual Meeting of U.N. Human Rights Special Procedures, which brings together all of the Special Rapporteurs, Working Groups, Special Representatives and Independent Experts working on human rights in the U.N. system (almost 50 in total). In 2005-06 he chaired the Coordinating Committee set up to enhance and promote coordination among these different mechanisms.

He has also been the Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law since 1996.

Born and educated in Australia (Law and Economics) and California (JSD), Philip taught during the 1980s at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and at Harvard Law School. He then became Professor of Law and Foundation Director of the Centre for International and Public Law at the Australian National University, a post he held until 1995. From 1996 to 2001 he was Professor of International Law, and for part of that time Head of Department, at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy. He was also co-Director of the Academy of European Law and organized the Academy’s summer programs in human rights law. Other posts he has held include chief of staff to a Cabinet Minister in Australia during part of the Whitlam Government, and Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Capital Territory ( Canberra) for three years.

In the field of international law, Philip has been Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law since 1996 and prior to that was the Co-Editor of the Australian Yearbook of International Law. He co-founded the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law and was founding Vice-President of the European Society of International Law.