Program Director At Human Rights Watch

Program Director
Program Department
Location: Flexible, HRW Global Office Preferred
Application Deadline: February 6, 2022

Compelling fact-finding that influences policy is at the heart of Human Rights Watch’s capacity for impact. We are looking for an exceptional strategic leader and accomplished human rights professional to lead the Program Department and oversee HRW’s six regional and ten thematic divisions carrying out integrated fact-finding investigations, analysis, output, and partnerships work.

The Program Department is the largest department at HRW and is primarily responsible for the organization’s fact-finding and reporting worldwide. The department consists of more than 200 staff around the world. The Program Director, with four deputies in the central Program Office, is responsible for ensuring the quality and integrity of HRW’s entire research output and standards and interdisciplinary collaboration required to advance human rights across the globe.

The Program Director should be an inspirational and effective leader and people manager, and a strategic thinker with deep knowledge of human rights issues, research methodologies and advocacy in the field of international human rights. The successful candidate will have experience in developing and strengthening systems for effective management that foster the engagement and effectiveness of staff, which include: promoting diversity, equity and inclusion; fostering staff resilience and well-being; ensuring the implementation of the highest research and ethical standards in accordance with best practices in the human rights field; and encouraging inclusive and authentic partnerships with others in the human rights movement. They will also have a track record of contributing to an organizational culture of learning, trust, resilience, and collaboration – all of which are critical to inspire and support the innovation needed to meet the many challenges facing the human rights movement.

The Program Director reports to the Deputy Executive Director, Chief Programs Officer and will be a permanent member of the Programmatic Leadership Team.

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 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.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

Modeling effective leadership

  • Manage the core team of deputy Program Directors to effectively lead and support more than 200 Program staff based around the world, many of whom work in challenging environments.
  • Model, cultivate and coach inclusive and collaborative leadership across the Department that demonstrates commitment to diversity and belongin
  • Oversee and ensure the consistent application of policies and standards around performance management and conduct.
  • Recruit and cultivate diverse and exceptional talent and manage performance in a fair, consistent, transparent, and empathetic manner.
  • Support staff resilience across the Program Department by promoting flexibility and life/work balance of all Program Department staff.
  • Promote an inclusive and positive work environment including by fostering diversity, equity and inclusion within the Program Office and Department, and proactively addressing bias, discrimination, and microaggressions.
  • Contribute to overall organizational leadership, strategy, and a healthy and inclusive culture.

Strategy and innovation

  • Oversee a coherent vision and strategy for the Program Department and ensure coherence across a diverse set of regional and thematic divisions with staff spread across many time zones.
  • Oversee the development of strategies and operational plans of the research divisions, ensuring that plans include clear goals and benchmarks, and that they align with the broader strategic plan and priorities of the organization.
  • Ensure well-articulated theories of change in divisional strategies that can be measured and evaluated.
  • Ensure that HRW is testing and scaling innovative methodologies and presenting findings in ways that facilitate organizational learning and advance human rights change.
  • Keep abreast of new developments in policy and practice, and the application of technology in the human rights sector.
  • Ensure that the Program Office facilitates innovation, drawing from practices within HRW, in the human rights movement, and non-traditional partners and allies.
  • Contribute to a culture that prioritizes creativity, supports informed and responsible risk-taking, and encourages learning from failure as critical pathways to innovation.
  • Engage in high level fundraising, donor cultivation, and other development activities.
  • Oversee and monitor the Program Department budget and ensure strategic allocation of funds within research programs and the Program Office.

Systems for effective, impactful work

  • Build on systems to ensure consistency and rigor in conducting research and implementing internal fact-checking guidelines and ethical standards, in line with best practices in the human rights field.
  • Develop systems for distributing functions across time zones to manage divisional workflow effectively.
  • Facilitate discussions and make clear and transparent decisions that address blockages in effective divisional collaboration.
  • Develop systems for coordinating the collaboration of regional and thematic divisions and building models of effective and impactful teamwork.
  • Contribute to the development of systems and a culture that facilitates collaboration between all HRW departments to ensure operational effectiveness, efficiency, and impact.
  • Ensuring organizational responses to consistently and effectively address key developing and future human rights issues.


  • Foster and strengthen sustainable partnerships with other human rights actors.
  • Build on and execute the vision for HRW’s role as a collaborative and authentic partner in the evolving human rights movement and prepare for the human rights challenges of the future.


The successful candidate will be a curious, compassionate, humble, collaborative and strategic leader with at least 15 years of relevant experience in international human rights or related work, including investigations, reporting and advocacy, with at least five years in a senior management role.

Experience with and commitment to rigor

  • Knowledge of and experience working in international human rights, including in-person interviewing, fact-finding and advocacy, and familiarity with international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
  • A strong commitment to human rights research and strategic work that has impact.
  • A deep understanding of global rights trends and critical human rights challenges and opportunities, and an ability to formulate strategies for impact given an evolving global advocacy landscape.
  • Strong out-of-the-box thinker with a proven track record preparing an organization for the challenges of the future.

Track record of success in leading teams

  • A high degree of emotional intelligence and collegiality.
  • Experience effectively managing senior professional staff.
  • Ability to coach colleagues to understand stakeholders’ perspectives and to handle high-level stakeholder challenges.
  • Demonstrated awareness and sensitivity to the needs and concerns of individuals with diverse identities, cultures, backgrounds, skillsets, and orientations.
  • An awareness of their own limitations, who leads by example and drives performance while displaying personal growth and openness to feedback.
  • Experience with and commitment to being a collaborative team player who can empathetically engage with staff across levels and jurisdictions.
  • Ability to act in a transparent and consistent manner guided by the values and best interest of the organization.
  • Ability to adapt and lead confidently through complex, evolving situations.

Experience with delivering results

  • Track record of identifiable and measurable successes in managing and advising on complex projects, implementing operational change, conducting monitoring and evaluation, and ensuring high-quality deliverables.
  • Experience in building a work culture and practice that is inclusive and that attracts and retains staff from diverse backgrounds.
  • Experience developing systems to foster interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Demonstrated ability to set priorities, delegate responsibilities, and allocate resources.
  • Demonstrated ability to apply culturally competent behaviors, attitudes, and practices to enable effective policies and structures.
  • Excellent presentation, communication, public speaking and listening skills.
  • Fluency in English.

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 February 6, 2022, by visiting our online job portal at and submitting a cover letter and 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, please email 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 based anywhere 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.

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.

How to apply

How to Apply: Please apply immediately or by February 6, 2022, by visiting our online job portal at and submitting a cover letter and 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, please email Due to the large response, application submissions via email will not be accepted and inquiries regarding the status of applications will go unanswered.