Multiple Locations Considered
Application Deadline: Open Until Filled

SpencerStuart is proud to partner with Human Rights Watch in the search for an Executive Director.

To contact the team with questions or candidate recommendations, please email: HRWED@spencerstuart.com  



Human Rights Watch (HRW) defends the rights of people worldwide by scrupulously investigating abuses, exposing the facts and pressuring those with power to respect rights and secure justice. It is an independent, international organization that plays a key role in a vibrant movement to uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all. This work is guided by international human rights and humanitarian law.

HRW investigates and reports on abuses worldwide, partnering with organizations around the globe to protect embattled activists, bring justice to victims and hold abusers to account. The HRW team is roughly 590 people of 79 nationalities, including world-leading country experts, lawyers, journalists, data analysts and others who are fighting to protect the most at-risk, from vulnerable minorities and civilians in wartime, to refugees, children and older people. This advocacy is directed towards governments, non-state actors and businesses, pushing them to change or enforce their laws, policies, and practices. To ensure full independence, HRW does not accept any government funding and carefully reviews all donations to ensure consistency with its policies, mission and values.

By investigating and exposing human rights abuses, HRW works to create a world where everyone is treated fairly and equitably, regardless of their race or ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability and any other dimension of identity. It strives to uphold the firm belief "that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).


HRW was founded in 1978 as "Helsinki Watch" to investigate rights abuses in countries that signed the Helsinki Accords, most notably those behind the Iron Curtain. Since then, its work has expanded to six continents. HRW has investigated massacres and even genocides, along with government take-overs of media and the baseless arrests of activists and political opposition figures. Concurrently, HRW expanded its scope to address abuses against those likely to face discrimination, including women, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities. When families victimized by war crimes found no justice at home, HRW championed international justice in international courts. The research methods used have also developed with the times, from in-person interviews to incorporating satellite imagery to track the destruction of villages and city blocks, and mining big data and analyzing social media posts for evidence of human rights abuse. Every mission circles back to HRW’s commitment to justice, dignity, compassion and equality.


  • Investigate: Researchers work in the field in roughly 100 countries, uncovering facts that create an undeniable record of human rights abuses.
  • Expose: HRW tells the stories of what it finds, sharing them with millions of social media and online followers each day. News media cite HRW more than 1000 times a day on average, furthering its reach. 
  • Change: HRW meets with governments, the United Nations, non-state actors, rebel groups, corporations and others to apply pressure and ensure that policy is changed, laws are enforced, and justice is served. 


When it comes to ending abuses and bringing perpetrators to justice, some victories are big and others are merely steps on a much longer journey to change, whether that change is immediate or incremental. HRW works on issues for years and knows from experience how to transform deep-rooted problems.

HRW has been instrumental in some foundational victories for human rights. In one example, HRW's activity led to a worldwide landmine ban, for which it was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, along with other key parties. HRW’s impact extends across a wide range of situations, such as the Russia-Ukraine War, repression in Myanmar, Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the conflict in Tigray, Covid-19, policing in the United States, and refugees in Europe.

For more insight, please visit https://www.hrw.org/about/about-us


HRW's human rights experts include country specialists, lawyers, journalists, advocates, data analysts and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities. These experts conduct fact-finding missions and investigate human rights abuses, impartially reporting on the status of human right conditions in over 100 countries. These facts are then strategically disseminated by HRW's advocacy and communications teams to promote human rights and justice around the world. The HRW team also comprises a wide range of highly skilled development and operational staff who ensure the organization’s ability to deliver on its mission. The work of HRW is overseen by the senior management and its board of directors.

Key Human Rights Watch Facts

The Organization

  • Approximately 590 staff members of 79 nationalities across 132 cities
  • 33 registered offices globally
  • 44,000 donors globally
  • Annual budget of $97 million
  • 0% government funding

The Work

  • Research covering roughly 100 countries
  • 4,485 publications (2021)
  • 35 million website visits (2021)
  • 13 million social media followers (as of end 2021)
  • 400,000 media mentions across 190 countries in 60 languages (2021)

Human Rights Watch Executive Committee

Link to full bios: https://www.hrw.org/about/people

Tirana Hassan, Acting Executive Director, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Programs Officer

Wisla Heneghan, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer

Sari Bashi, Program Director

Colin Mincy, Chief People Officer

Valentina Rosa, Chief Development Officer

Human Rights Watch Board of Directors

29 directors comprising a diverse and international range of human rights, not-for-profit, law, government and business backgrounds.

To see the full list of directors and their bios: https://www.hrw.org/about/people/board-directors


The Executive Director of HRW is a preeminent position globally and a key influencer in shaping the world agenda on upholding human rights. The organization's external environment, given the work it does, is often complex and challenging. The role comes with tremendous external visibility and influence across governments, businesses, institutions of justice, and civil society.

Following three decades of successful leadership by Ken Roth, the next Executive Director will steward the organization through its ongoing transition in which internal structures, processes and culture are appropriately being reexamined and aligned with the evolving organizational strategy. At the head of an organization comprising many highly-skilled and passionate activists, leadership must ensure that internal norms, values and behaviors are consistent and coherent with the principles and standards that HRW articulates externally.

Balancing internal and external objectives is key to success in the role. Continuing to build HRW’s credibility, influence and impact externally while building trust internally, nurturing a culture of excellence, collaboration, engagement and inclusion, in which its diverse and passionate staff can thrive, will be critical in the transition to new leadership. An individual with the courage and conviction to defend the rights of all people, and the passion and empathy to inspire and lead by example, will find success in this role.

Key Relationships

Reports to:         The Executive Director at HRW will report to the Board of Directors

Direct reports:    The Executive Director has two direct reports:

  • Deputy ED and Chief Programs Officer
  • Deputy ED and Chief Operating Officer

Multiple key directors report into these 2 Deputy EDs. These include:

  • Chief of Staff to Executive Committee
  • Chief People Officer
  • Finance Director
  • Chief Advocacy Officer
  • Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Program Director
  • General Counsel
  • Chief Communications Officer
  • Chief Development Officer
  • Legal and Policy Director
  • Physical Safety Director
  • Internal Communications Director
  • Chief of Staff
  • Head of the Collaboratory
  • Senior Advisor on Global Strategy

Other key relationships:

Key external stakeholders include governments, intergovernmental organizations, media outlets, donors, partner organizations working in the fields of human rights and social justice, and businesses.


Leading Externally

  • Strengthen and refine HRW’s strategy in order to preserve the current balance of flexibility and longevity in purpose and vision. Be prepared to speak to a wide range of global developments, identifying risks and trends and outlining steps that can be taken to protect victims and advance human rights. 
  • Establish and expand relationships, credibility and influence with critical stakeholders. 
  • Extend fundraising excellence by enlarging and deepening existing base and implementing new fundraising strategies. 
  • Continue elevating international identity and brand of HRW, cementing its reputation as a truly global organization.

Leading Internally

  • Optimize organizational structure and processes and accelerate ongoing realignment and change management efforts; expand internal management capability both through direct, hands-on leadership and by empowering other leaders across the organization. Connect decision-making and resource allocation to strategy. 
  • Foster a high-performing organization through partnering with the senior leadership team on strategic workforce planning, attracting and retaining world-class talent, and engaging staff and developing their capabilities.
  • Expand arsenal of tactics to drive results, both in terms of the mediums leveraged and the strategies deployed to enact change. Leverage data-driven decision-making to improve impact. 
  • Ensure rigor and integrity of reporting is fully preserved; continue nurturing a bottoms-up approach to research and reporting. Support expansion and integration of digital investigative tools and methods. 
  • Live and promote the values of the organization. Build trust by increasing transparency and collaboration across teams to amplify the collective impact HRW can have externally. Ensure ongoing commitment to diversity as well as equity and inclusion for staff of all backgrounds across regions globally. 


The next ED of Human Rights Watch will be a bold, strategic, substantive and inspirational leader who brings credibility and expertise in human rights issues. This leader will demonstrate an authentic passion for HRW's mission and be able to articulate a concise and inspiring vision. They will have a global mindset based on both professional and lived experiences. They will have experience successfully managing and leading a complex and diverse organization. The ED will be capable of building and expanding the fundraising base, ensuring strong foundations from which the organization can continue delivering impact.

The next ED will refine and strengthen a powerful strategy with a clear set of priorities to guide the organization over the long-term. They will be a skilled diplomat capable of forging common ground and building strong alliances among different stakeholders, both internally and externally. This leader will have impeccable communication skills, with the ability to remain agile in addressing various human rights topics and to adapt their style to different audiences globally. They must engender tremendous followership and inspire confidence in others. The ED will have a compelling, collaborative and inclusive management approach and a proven ability to develop and lead a high-performing and diverse team. They will be engaged and decisive, with a commitment to achieve ambitious goals, make difficult decisions and collaborate with their leadership to deliver the greatest possible impact.


Human Rights Expertise

Demonstrated expertise and experience within the human rights field/sector will be critical to the next ED’s credibility and success. Research and/or advocacy experience would be ideal.

Global Mindset

Has lived and worked in multiple parts of the world and can understand and readily navigate different cultures and perspectives when leading teams, collaborating and influencing others. Has a demonstrated ability to uphold the diversity HRW seeks to foster.

Inspirational & Strategic Communicator

Exceptional written and verbal communication skills that are effective with a variety of audiences (employees, governments, donors, media, etc.); they will be clear, engaging, inspirational, analytical, and agile consistently and across all forms of communications, including social media.

Passion for Mission

Clear and unfaltering evidence of a personal and professional commitment to human rights; demonstrated purpose-driven leadership of mission-driven organizations and experience working for the greater good.

Senior Executive Leadership Experience

Has led large, complex organizations or teams through significant change. Track record of implementing transformative culture change along with structures and processes to increase the effectiveness of an organization as it grows and scales.

Fundraising Experience

Proven ability to drive fundraising by leveraging mission, vision and storytelling to demonstrate an organization’s impact.


Strategic Thinking

  • Proactively shapes longer-term strategy for the organization and sets strong foundations for sustained success
  • Balances short- and long-term views and takes calculated risks to pursue bold opportunities that incorporate disruptive thinking and innovative strategies to significantly increase impact
  • Sees around corners to create a clear and coherent strategy that anticipates the future environment, at least five years ahead; able to adapt aspects of strategy or priorities within the strategy, when necessary
  • Communicates and acts on the new direction for the organization, leading to actionable changes across multiple teams
  • Considers the role of HRW in the broader human rights movement and INGO sector and how it can most effectively support, partner and lead in this space
  • Demonstrates awareness and understanding of the colonial legacies that shape our world and human rights efforts, to ensure that HRW’s strategy is designed to help address this with humility, commitment, and effectiveness

Collaborating, Influencing, and Leading Change

  • Builds trust, credibility, and confidence with stakeholders, both internally and externally; builds and leverages a network of relationships and partnerships on behalf of the organization
  • Fosters deep relationships and effective partnerships and promotes collaboration with all key stakeholders
  • Listens thoughtfully and engages in dialogue that is adapted to different audiences to build consensus or buy-in
  • Catalyzes and accelerates change both in terms of culture and organizational structures as well as how work is executed
  • Identifies and enlists key influencers to act as change agents, involving them in designing and delivering change
  • Communicates a compelling case for change to gain buy-in and brings others along; adapts plans and theories of change to the organization’s political realities and constraints

Leading People and Building Change

  • Communicates the vision and purpose of the organization with passion to inspire leadership and teams globally to work together to achieve HRW's mission
  • Focuses and aligns individuals and teams, enlisting top leadership to reinforce key messages and HRW's purpose and values
  • Empowers all individuals in the organization and delegates authority and accountability to the team to deliver on strategic objectives; fosters open communication and dialogue across divisions and teams
  • Connects talent to the organization’s strategic goals and makes a thoughtful, balanced assessment of the strengths and potential gaps within the team
  • Fosters the recruitment, retention and development of exceptional talent to strengthen the team or address gaps; establishes best-in-class development planning to support both leadership and broader staff
  • Acts on opportunities to increase the diversity of talent in the team; creates an environment and culture of equity, inclusion and belonging for individuals from every background
  • Ensures and fosters a positive working atmosphere

Driving Results

  • Sets ambitious yet realistic goals for the organization and consistently delivers or surpasses expectations
  • Makes process changes to existing ways of working to significantly improve results; incorporates bold, new strategies and leverages different mediums
  • Establishes processes that ensure operational excellence; constantly works to increase efficiency and impact by adapting processes as needed over time
  • Measures and communicates the organization's progress and its impact; connects the efforts and contributions of stakeholders to specific outcomes to stimulate additional engagement


  • Visionary leadership style that is inspirational to all members of a diverse organization
  • Authentic and genuine influential leader and communicator who engenders trust-based followership and captivates audiences
  • Courageous, decisive and bold in taking smart risks, making decisions and working to deliver impact on behalf of HRW
  • Strong EQ and empathetic style with the ability to read emotions in others and responds effectively, managing to the best outcome in times of conflict or tension
  • High interpersonal awareness, with an ability to ‘read the room’ effectively and understand agendas and motivations among stakeholders; can tap into these levers in a variety of ways to influence long-term outcomes
  • Active listener who solicits perspectives and ideas from all team members
  • High integrity and trustworthiness, possesses unquestionable ethics
  • Inclusive and transparent, explicit in logic when sharing a view or presenting decisions, engages others in ideation and implementation
  • Agile, flexible, and innovative; has sound instincts for knowing when to challenge implicit assumptions or pursue alternate ways of framing a complex problem
  • Engaged, able to roll up sleeves and work hard to deliver against HRW’s goals and priorities while modeling appropriate life/work balance and commitment to wellbeing
  • Intellectually curious, constantly learning and seeking new information


All inquiries and interest should be directed to SpencerStuart.


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. If this position were to be based in the United States, the salary range would be USD 500,000-550,000. Salary ranges outside of the United States vary based on location.

To contact the team with questions or candidate recommendations, please email: HRWED@spencerstuart.com  

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