Technology and Human Rights Division
Multiple Locations Considered
Application Deadline: May 3, 2021

Organization Overview

Human Rights Watch (HRW) advances human rights worldwide. We investigate wrongs, expose the facts, offer solutions, and challenge those with power to respect rights. We collaborate with people claiming their rights, learn from partners, and engage the public. Human Rights Watch upholds the freedoms and defends the protections that promote dignity, equality, and justice.

Our approximately 500 staff based in more than 50 countries conduct research into human rights abuses, publicize our findings, and advocate for change; we raise money to sustain our work, ensure our security, and manage a complex international organization.

That mission is as urgent as it has ever been, and it faces complex new challenges. We must contend with the failures of governments to meet their obligations on water, land, education, social security and food. We must respond to conflict and crisis on an extraordinary scale, including the current global health emergency, and we must confront climate change, the resurgence of authoritarian populism, and the effects of extreme poverty and deepening inequality around the world. Rapidly advancing technologies, such as artificial intelligence, can compound these threats to rights and help to mitigate them. Strategic engagement, partnerships, and diversity are critical to our success in meeting these challenges, and to delivering sustained impact.

HRW’s guiding principles include independence, accurate and fair fact-finding, an impact orientation, and engagement with partners. Our core internal values include transparency, diversity and inclusion, learning and trust, safety and resilience, and accountability.

Position Overview

HRW is seeking an experienced and forward-thinking leader to direct and grow our newly created Technology and Human Rights division. This involves overseeing, supporting, and collaborating with experienced staff on two complimentary bodies of work: a) investigating and advocating against the role of technology in human rights abuses globally and b) using technology to research and expose human rights abuses.

The first body involves research and advocacy on how technology affects a wide range of human rights, including freedom of expression, privacy, social security, and labor rights. This encompasses issues such as platform accountability, data exploitation, encryption, surveillance, and the use of artificial intelligence and other probabilistic decision-making in the workplace, social protection systems, and criminal justice. The team conducts research and advocacy on these issues and supports tech-related work in the organization’s regional and thematic divisions.

A priority is challenging the social, economic, and political conditions that allow or encourage the misuse of technology by powerful actors, and their impact on specific populations, such as women, racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, older people, children, LGBT people, human rights defenders, and those affected by poverty and inequality.

The second body of work involves using technology and non-traditional research methodologies for Human Rights Watch’s research. This is conducted by members of the Digital Investigations Lab, supervised by a manager, who work across multiple disciplines including data analysis, remote sensing, computer science and open source investigations, usually in collaboration with other researchers. The new Director will supervise the Lab manager, facilitate collaboration between the Lab and the rest of the division, and help drive fundraising for sustainability and growth. They will ensure that HRW’s use of tech tools respects the standards that we apply to governments, companies, and others.

The Director should be a persuasive communicator and advocate with a deep knowledge of technology-related challenges, and an eye for emerging issues. They are expected to develop, in collaboration with our experts, a strategic plan for research, communications and advocacy that advances rights-protective approaches with governments and companies globally.

The Director should be a skilled manager who can oversee the division’s day-to-day work and supervise its staff, including the Lab manager. This involves setting priorities, supervising work plans, editing products, communicating publicly, raising funds, and ensuring the security of staff, information and partners.

The Director will demonstrate the ability and commitment to foster the safety and resilience of staff, to promote diversity and inclusion, to build consensus around key challenges, and to ensure the highest research standards in a culture of learning, trust, teamwork, innovation, and collaboration.

The Technology and Human Rights Director reports to a deputy in the Program Office. The Director will preferably be based in one of HRW’s larger offices but other locations will be considered.

Due to COVID-19, many of our global offices are currently closed or operating in reduced capacities. The successful candidate may be required to work remotely until our offices fully re-open. We recognize that this moment, during the pandemic, is a uniquely difficult time for most people, particularly those with caregiving responsibilities, and we aim to be as flexible and supportive as possible in both the recruitment for and onboarding of this position.


1. Provide leadership for the new Technology and Human Rights Division, and develop its vision, strategy, and priorities in collaboration with a team of motivated and experienced researchers, experts and advocates;
2. Supervise the manager of the Digital Investigations Lab to ensure the effective and ethical deployment of its methodologies, and support collaboration between the Lab and the rest of the division;
3. In collaboration with colleagues and external partners, develop global research, communication, and advocacy strategies to address major technology-related abuses, their underlying causes, and emerging challenges;
4. Develop operational plans for the Technology and Human Rights Division that include clear goals and benchmarks. Ensure that divisional plans align with the organization’s broader strategic plan and programmatic priorities;
5. In collaboration with the Business and Human Rights Division and other programs, develop strategies for technology-related research and advocacy on the private sector;
6. Ensure the highest possible research standards, including thorough vetting of research and media products, developing innovative research methods, and ensuring that the division’s work meets a high ethical standard;
7. Support colleagues across the organization to engage with actors in the technology sector and incorporate issues related to technology into their work;
8. Collaborate with colleagues in the operations department to ensure that our use of technology for advocacy, outreach, communications, and IT infrastructure is consistent with the standards that we apply to others;
9. Maintain an overview of global developments on technology and human rights. Respond to and/or anticipate relevant developments or events to frame news stories on technology through a human rights prism, advise senior management on effective responses, and project a human rights perspective into national, regional and global media coverage;
10. Represent the organization in national, regional and international media on human rights issues related to technology;
11. Advocate with high-level officials from governments, companies, the United Nations, European Union, and other regional and international and regional bodies;
12. Foster and strengthen partnerships with other human rights and civil society organizations, particularly local partners, and lead our tech-related collaborations in the human rights movement;
13. Lead management of the division’s staff and operations in collaboration with the Program Office and other colleagues. Guide, motivate, and mentor direct reports. Communicate clear expectations, set performance objectives, provide regular and timely constructive feedback, ensure balanced workload, and provide guidance on professional growth. Monitor staff well-being to help manage stress, boost resilience, and encourage self-care;
14. Collaborate with HRW’s security teams and others to ensure the safety and resilience of staff, information security, and security of interlocutors and partners;
15. Promote an inclusive and positive work environment including by soliciting diverse points of views, encouraging staff to participate in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and proactively addressing bias, discrimination, and micro-aggressions;
16. Manage budget setting and spending priorities, in co-operation with the Finance Department, and ensure that resources are allocated to maximize impact;
17. Partner with the Development Department to fundraise for the division, providing information and draft reports to donors, promoting the work of HRW, and engaging potential new donors;
18. Perform other responsibilities as required.

Candidate Profile

The successful candidate will be a thoughtful, collaborative, and strategic leader with deep knowledge and experience working on a diverse range of human rights issues related to technology. They should have at least 1o years of relevant experience in international human rights or related work, including strategic planning and project development, investigations, reporting, and advocacy, plus relevant management experience, preferably one that involved managing down and up.

We are eager to hear from candidates who can perform the essential functions of this role even if they do not meet all of our desired qualifications – particularly if they are from backgrounds underrepresented in the NGO or tech sectors.

Qualifications / Skills

1. Deep knowledge of human rights issues related to technology, including the threats and complexities posed by new and emerging technologies and the role of technology in the major human rights challenges of our time.
2. Experience developing legal, policy and grassroots approaches to stop or mitigate current or prospective tech-related violations and their structural causes, and that harness the power of technology to promote human rights.
3. Understanding how technology can impact the rights of women and other specific populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities, children, older people, people with disabilities, people living in poverty and low-wage workers.
4. Demonstrated experience developing innovative bodies of work, crafting ambitious multi-year strategies, and implementation plans. Experience in integrating monitoring and evaluation highly desirable.
5. Ability to present and defend complex technology-related issues and positions to officials in governments, companies, and other bodies and institutions.
6. Ability to explain technical systems to non-technical audiences from a human rights perspective, to explain the human rights principles and impact of technologies to technical audiences, and to translate strategically between the two groups.
7. Familiarity with how technology and non-traditional research methodologies can be used to document and expose human rights violations.
8. Extensive management experience supervising a distributed team of experienced professionals from varied disciplines.
9. Excellent oral and written communication skills in English and ideally one other commonly spoken language.
10. Track record of dealing with the media and cultivating relationships with journalists.
11. Strong interpersonal skills to work collaboratively within HRW, as well as develop constructive relationships with partners, company and government officials.
12. Demonstrated awareness and sensitivity to the needs and concerns of individuals from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and orientations.

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; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.

How to Apply: Please apply immediately or by May 3, 2021 by visiting our online job portal at careers.hrw.org. 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, 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 ability, 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.

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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