Advocates Program

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Founded in 1989, the Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP) is a unique and successful model of human rights capacity building. HRAP capitalizes on its affiliation with Columbia University and its location in New York City to provide grassroots leaders the tools, knowledge, access, and networks to promote the realization of human rights and strengthen their respective organizations.

HRAP’s comprehensive program of advocacy, networking, skills-building, and academic coursework provides advocates the opportunity to hone practical skills, develop a deeper understanding of human rights, and foster mutually beneficial relationships with organizations and individuals in their respective fields.

Program Overview

After completing the intensive four-month program, Advocates are able to more effectively lobby for their causes and address the human rights concerns of their community. The comparative advantages of the Human Rights Advocates Program are its:

  • Comprehensive program of skills-building, networking, advocacy, and academic coursework
  • Emphasis on individual and organizational capacity building
  • Affiliation with Columbia University and location in New York
  • Weeklong networking trip to Washington, D.C.
  • Alumni body of 271 human rights advocates in more than 80 countries

Skills-Building Workshops

Advocates attend a number of skills-building workshops led by staff from organizations including Human Rights Watch and WITNESS. The workshops strengthen their effectiveness as individual advocates and allow them to build stronger organizations in their respective home countries. Topics include fundraising, campaign strategy, advocacy tools, media relations, stress management and research and documentation.

Networking and Collaborative Relationships

Organizations and Policy-makers

Throughout the four-month program, Advocates are able to meet with a range of human rights organizations, international institutions, foundations, donors, and policymakers that are based in New York City. Each year, Advocates also participate in a networking and advocacy trip to Washington DC.

During group and individual meetings, Advocates share their unique grassroots knowledge and learn more about the strategies and best practices of other human rights organizations. These meetings also often lead to joint projects and funding opportunities.

Student Life in New York City

HRAP integrates Advocates into various aspects of student life. Advocates reside at International House with international and US students and participate in a range of social, learning and cultural activities organized by International House and Columbia University.

Other Advocates

The four-month program gives Advocates time and space to reflect on their work and share their experiences and insights with one another. HRAP also facilitates relationship-building among alumni of the program. For example, since 2010, the Director of Capacity Building has been recruiting HRAP alumni to lead workshops for program participants.

Unique Access to Advocacy Forums

Advocates are frequently invited to participate and attend panel discussions and lectures, both at Columbia University and throughout the United States. During such events, Advocates are able to raise public awareness and promote the work of their organizations.

Columbia University

Advocates audit at least two graduate level courses at Columbia University. Advocates attend classes at the School of International and Public Affairs, the Law School, the Mailman School of Public Health, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciencees, the School of Social Work, Teachers College and Barnard. Each Advocate is assigned a Columbia University professor as mentor. Advocates often develop strong relationships with professors, students, and other members of the Columbia University community.