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Researcher/Advocate, US Democracy

Human Rights Watch

Job Description

Researcher/Advocate, US Democracy

Full Job Description

United States Program
Multiple US Locations Considered
Application Deadline: March 26, 2023

Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) work in the United States relies on democratic institutions to advance its goals of human rights and racial justice for all. Our core work to protect migrant rights is undermined by anti-migrant and racist policies being leveraged to grow political power. Our criminal legal system reform work requires an end to law enforcement threats to democracy and a balance of power that cannot be achieved without the restoration of voting rights to citizens with criminal convictions. And, our work to advance racial and reparative justice, including for enslavement and its legacy, is fundamental to the advancement of democratic legitimacy and healthy institutions. Threats to US democracy are making our work both more crucial and more difficult.

Human Rights Watch seeks to help ensure that US democracy is robust, resilient, and inclusive of everyone by working with movements to address the root causes of its erosion. We contribute to a healthy democracy in the US by promoting: protected space for robust, independent civil society and civic engagement; the right to vote, free from discrimination and racial or partisan suppression; checks, balances, and allocation of power; equality and non-discrimination; and, access to facts and information, including through a free press and safe social media platforms.

The Opportunity:

To advance this effort, HRW is seeking a Researcher/Advocate to document the improper measures authorities and non-states actors are taking to chill or stifle civic engagement and public protest and efforts to limit the right to vote.

The location of this role is flexible within the United States. The successful candidate may have the option to work remotely but will travel frequently to key US offices in DC, NY and California. We aim to be as flexible and supportive as possible in both the recruitment for and onboarding of this position.

This is a fixed-term position for two years with possibility of extension.


1. Design and execute human rights investigations, monitor and document the chilling and limiting of civic engagement and civil society and the undermining of the enabling environment for a rights-respecting, inclusive democracy, including the right to vote;

2. In consultation and partnership with most-impacted communities, collect and analyze information from a wide variety of sources including directly-impacted individuals, non-profit organizations and groups, open-source and ORR/FOIA obtained data and document sources, court documents, government officials, witnesses, journalists, and other reliable sources;

3. Write and publicize reports, briefing papers, letters, news releases, op-eds, and submissions to local, state, federal and international bodies based on findings; collect supporting documents and materials such as photographs and videos; facilitate co-authorship of written products with partners and foster connections with artist-activists to support compelling visual content, data visualization and narrative change in most-impacted communities;

4. Work with colleagues to develop multimedia, social media, and video content that communicates the advocacy goals and key findings from investigations, aligned with partners;

5. Assist in the development and implementation of local, regional, and international strategies to change abusive laws, policies, and practices, to fortify the enabling environment for civic engagement and a healthy democracy, and to support narrative change, including connecting a healthy democracy to the core USP priority of advancing racial justice;

6. Respond promptly to queries from the media, public, and colleagues in the social justice and human rights eco-system and take initiative to project concerns in public debate;

7. Place abuses and threats to democracy within the broader political, social and economic context and present human rights concerns to government officials, opinion leaders, inter-governmental agencies, and the media;

8. Assist the Director of the Democracy Initiative and HRW’s Development and Global Initiative Department in fundraising;

9. Work closely with community-based, non-profit, faith, labor, and other civic organizations to foster partnerships and allies to ensure that HRW’s work is movement-generous and adds value;

10. Work in close partnership with directly affected people to ensure that HRW’s work is responsive to their needs and contains inclusive, well-informed recommendations;

11. Liaise with HRW staff located in multiple locations throughout the world to ensure effective coordination and delivery of activities;

12. Promote an inclusive and positive work environment including by incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion values into the US Program’s research and advocacy, working with staff to develop initiatives aimed at movement-building and expanding our partnership with diverse directly affected individuals and other stakeholders, and building an inclusive team environment for direct reports;

13. Be prepared and willing to work flexible hours to accommodate developing and urgent events;

14. Travel domestically and overseas, as required;

15. Deliver outputs in a timely manner and be consistent with the agreed strategy and priorities of the Initiative; and

16. Perform other responsibilities, as may be required.


We are open to hearing from all candidates who think that they can be successful in this role even if they don’t have all our desired qualifications. Candidates directly impacted by the chilling of civil society in the United States are encouraged to apply.

Education: A graduate or law degree, or equivalent experience in social science, government, political science, criminal justice, or a related field is required.

Experience: A minimum of three years of relevant work experience is preferred. Experience with democracy defense, voting rights, protest rights, criminal justice, racial justice or immigration, or with the US federal or a state government, is desirable. Experience in an international and/or nonprofit environment is preferred.

Related Skills and Knowledge:

1. Ability to identify, research, analyze and effectively communicate important developments related to human rights in the US and democracy is required.

2. Ability and sensitivity to conduct interviews with a wide range of people, including directly-impacted people are required.

3. Ability to distil information so as to focus time and effort on issues of greatest importance or issues that are most capable of being influenced is required.

4. Ability to identify and advise the Director/Department in developing and implementing advocacy strategies in order to seize advocacy opportunities is required.

5. Knowledge of and experience working on issues related to democracy defense, voting rights, protest rights, criminal justice, racial justice or immigration, or with the US federal or a state government, is highly desirable.

6. Excellent oral and written communication skills in English are required; proficiency in another language is desirable.

7. Strong initiative and follow-through, the capacity to think creatively and strategically, excellent writing and editing skills, and a dynamic public speaking ability are required.

8. Strong interpersonal skills in order to work collaboratively within HRW, as well as with external partners, are required.

9. Ability to balance multiple simultaneous projects effectively, including having good planning and organizational skills and ability to work under pressure are required.

10. Ability to make sound decisions consistent with functions is required.

11. Demonstrated ability to think strategically about the global and local media environments and how to use media to further advocacy goals is desirable.

Salary and Benefits: HRW seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and employer-paid benefits. HRW offers a relocation assistance package and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required, but the successful candidate must be able to start employment working in the United States; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply. This position is based in the United States and the salary range would be USD 77,000-85,000. Salary ranges outside of the United States vary based on location.

How to Apply: Please apply immediately or by March 26, 2023 by visiting our online job portal at careers.hrw.org and attaching a letter of interest and a CV or resume. No calls or email inquiries, please. Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

If you are experiencing technical difficulties with your application submission, or if you require a disability-related accommodation, please email recruitment@hrw.org. Due to the large response, application submissions via email will not be accepted and inquiries regarding the status of applications will go unanswered.

Human Rights Watch is strong because it is diverse. We actively seek a diverse applicant pool and encourage candidates of all backgrounds to apply. Human Rights Watch does not discriminate on the basis of disability, age, gender identity and expression, national origin, race and ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or criminal record. We welcome all kinds of diversity. Our employees include people who are parents and nonparents, the self-taught and university educated, and from a wide span of socio-economic backgrounds and perspectives on the world. Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer.

The United States Program of Human Rights Watch protects and promotes the fundamental rights and dignity of every person subject to the authority of the US government. We investigate and expose systemic human rights violations committed by the US federal, state and local governments, with the aim of ensuring racial equity across issue areas but with a particular focus on immigration, the criminal legal system, and achieving racial justice in the United States. We prioritize issues affecting people who are most likely to have difficulty vindicating their rights through the political process or in the courts. Our investigations become the basis for strategic advocacy to press those in power to effect changes in laws and policies to respect fundamental rights.

Human Rights Watch is an international human rights monitoring and advocacy organization known for its in-depth investigations, its incisive and timely reporting, its innovative and high- profile advocacy campaigns, and its success in changing the human rights-related policies and practices of influential governments and international institutions.

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