Program Director

Human Rights Watch, To be Determined (See Posting), Germany

Job Description

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 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 operations environment.

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, and food. We must respond to conflict and crisis on an extraordinary scale, and we must confront the persistence of repression around the world. Climate change, the resurgence of authoritarian populism, rapidly advancing technologies, and the effects of deep inequality all compound these threats to rights. Innovation, efficiency, 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

  • Compelling fact-finding that influences policy is at the heart of Human Rights Watch’s capacity for impact. We are looking for an accomplished human rights professional to serve as Program Director and lead our regional and thematic divisions carrying out integrated research, advocacy, communications, and partnerships work.
  • The Program Director should be a strategic thinker, a strong manager, and an inspirational communicator and advocate in the field of international human rights. The Program Director should have proven dedication to the defense and advancement of human rights and deep knowledge of human rights issues and research methodologies.
  • The Program Director must lead, motivate, and provide an overarching vision for more than 200 Program staff based around the world, many of whom work in challenging environments. The successful candidate will demonstrate an ability to foster the safety and resilience of staff, to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, and to ensure the highest research standards in a culture of learning, trust, teamwork and collaboration.
  • The Program Director must ensure that the proven strength of our approach in addressing all dimensions of human rights is complemented by new tools, and by research that responds to the challenges of populism, new technologies, climate change, migration, and inequality. The Program Director must accomplish these responsibilities in the context of closing space for civil society, while advancing the internationalization of our work, ensuring our credibility, and fostering authentic partnerships with others in the human rights movement.
  • The Program Director sits on the Executive Management Team, the organization’s most senior leadership body, and reports to the Deputy Executive Director. The successful candidate, in coordination with other members of the Executive Management Team, will provide the dynamic vision, strategy and leadership of HRW’s programmatic work for maximum impact in defending human rights and dignity worldwide.
  • The Program Department is the largest department at HRW and is primarily responsible for the organization’s research and reporting worldwide. The department consists of more than 200 staff in 6 regional programs and 10 thematic programs. 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 the cross-institutional collaboration required to advance human rights across the globe.


  • Provide the overall 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;
  • Lead the Program Office’s core strategic role to integrate research, advocacy, communications, and partnerships work, and to further develop and roll out our monitoring and evaluation strategy;
  • Oversee the formulation and implementation of the annual 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;
  • Develop and propose organizational programmatic priorities that meet the challenges and opportunities of the human rights movement and ensure successful implementation of selected priorities;
  • Foster and strengthen partnerships with other human rights actors and lead our collaboration in the human rights movement;
  • Oversee and monitor the Program Department budget and ensure strategic allocation of funds within research programs and the Program Office;
  • Oversee effective coordination, coherence, and communication on all program related issues among the regional and thematic divisions of the Program Department and between the Program Department and other parts of HRW;
  • Supporting divisional directors in the management of their research programs by providing strong management systems and ensuring enforcement of internal guidelines and policies;
  • Liaising with the security team and overseeing divisional directors to ensure robust security assessments and protocols for our staff and for those we work with;
  • Overseeing and managing HRW’s workflow ensuring that projects are appropriately coordinated with relevant stakeholders and that research, media, and advocacy products are appropriately vetted;
  • Elevating and implementing standards and training across our research program:
  • Ensure the highest possible research standards, including through vetting research and media products, overseeing rigorous implementation of internal fact checking guidelines, and ensuring that our methods meet a high ethical standard, and are informed and stay updated with the latest developments in the field;
  • Developing and running training courses in HRW methodology and research standards for new and existing staff;
  • Foster HRW’s organizational culture and staff diversity and resilience across the Program Department by:
  • Promoting resilience and life/work balance of all Program Department staff;
  • Developing supportive systems for managing work effectively across many time zones;
  • Ensuring opportunities for development, growth, and training of human rights professionals at all stages of their careers;
  • Fostering diversity, equity and inclusion within the Program Office and Department;
  • Lead, motivate, and mentor direct reports, including communicating clear expectations, setting performance objectives, providing regular and timely constructive feedback, ensuring balanced workload, providing guidance on professional growth, and monitoring staff well-being as it pertains to stress and resilience issues and self-care;
  • Work collaboratively with all departments and divisions to ensure operational effectiveness, efficiency, and impact;
  • 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 microaggressions;
  • Engage in regular public speaking, advocacy, and media work on behalf of HRW on the full range of the organization’s work;
  • Engage in high level fundraising, donor cultivation, and other development activities; and
  • Perform other responsibilities as required.

Candidate Profile

The successful candidate will be a thoughtful, 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 position.

Required Qualifications / Skills

  • nowledge of and experience working in international human rights and familiarity with international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
  • Strong vision of global rights trends and ability to write and speak about them.
  • Ability to identify critical human rights challenges and opportunities and formulate strategy.
  • Excellent political judgment and understanding of global advocacy.
  • Excellent presentation, communication, public speaking, and listening skills.
  • Proven track record of leadership, management and organizational skill, including the ability to lead a diverse and inclusive team of staff in multiple global locations.
  • Track record supervising senior professional staff.
  • 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.
  • Ability to foster strong operational environment around financial management, information technology, human resources, and security.

Desirable Qualifications / Skills

  • Advanced (graduate) degree in international relations, journalism, law, social sciences or related studies.
  • Track record of, and passion for, being a collaborative team player who can empathetically engage with staff across levels and jurisdictions.
  • Ability to coach colleagues to understand stakeholders’ perspectives and to handle high-level stakeholder challenges.
  • A high level of professionalism and ability to work with sensitive and confidential matters by displaying strong judgement and leveraging outstanding relationship and diplomatic skills.
  • Proficiency in at least one other language in addition to English.
  • 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 January 20, 2020 by visiting our online job portal at 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 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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