ISHR Human Rights Research Fellowship - 2 Project Deadlines Extended

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Institute for the Study of Human Rights


ISHR Human Rights Research Fellowship

The ISHR Human Rights Research Fellowship will provide students with an opportunity to gain valuable research experience, while supporting the work of Columbia faculty conducting human rights-related research. 

Students who receive the Fellowship are expected to complete approximately 80-120 hours of research assistance during the academic year. The research opportunities selected for the 2019-2020 academic year are available below. ISHR will award one research stipend per opportunity in the amount of $1,500. Priority will be given to HRSMA and UHRP students. 

Please contact us at with any questions.



Project Title:

Integrating Indigenous Rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent into Investment Approval Processes

Supervising Faculty

Lisa Sachs, Research Scholar in the Faculty of Law; Director, Center on Sustainable Investment

Summary of Project

The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) is undertaking research and other activities to integrate best practices concerning responsible investments in land and agriculture into host government investment approval processes. Amongst the challenges facing government authorities is integrating the human right of indigenous and tribal peoples to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) in a meaningful and effective way into investment approval processes. CCSI has begun to explore this topic through, for example, a working paper that proposes mechanisms for integrating FPIC into investor-state contract negotiations and a workshop with representatives of various indigenous peoples from Latin America. To further advance this area of work, CCSI plans to identify the points at which FPIC is relevant in investment approval processes, and highlight how authorities involved along the various stages of these processes can meaningfully integrate FPIC into their responsibilities. CCSI hopes to produce a briefing note on this topic, geared toward host government actors.

Research Assistance

CCSI is seeking an ISHR Human Rights Research Fellow to support research for, and drafting and production of, this briefing note. We seek to hire a graduate student with some substantive experience touching on human rights, sustainable development and/or responsible business practices. The fellowship will begin in November 2019 and last between 8-12 weeks, depending on the fellow’s availability.  

Submission Requirements

Applicants are requested to submit a cover letter, resume, and unedited writing sample to Nancy Siporin at by November 22nd.



Note: only one of the following two projects will be supported with a fellowship

Project 1 Title

The Catalytic Role of Special Procedures on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Summary of Project 1

The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are among the international community’s most important human rights mechanisms. Their country visits, communications, research and reports provide the reliable insight needed to inform dialogue on the progress states have made, as well as the difficulties they have encountered, in recognizing and implementing human rights. The project focuses specifically on mandates dealing with economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs). While the Special Procedure play a key role, little is known about whether and how their work translates into tangible impacts in the increased enjoyment of human rights. The project seeks to develop a better understanding of the role and influence of the Special Procedures. It aims at identifying the opportunities and success factors, but also risks, challenges, and obstacles, mandate-holders face in achieving long term change and contributing to the realization of ESCRs. 

Do the Special Procedures have an impact? Do they play a role in influencing policy change? In the end, do they contribute to more people enjoying their human rights to a larger extent? Drawing on case studies, the project will evaluate how the work undertaken by a number of Special Procedures has contributed to advancing the rights of individuals. The objective of the project is to assess various strategies and approaches used by mandate-holders, to provide a platform for mutual sharing and learning, to compile lessons learnt, and to feed them into policy dialogues.

Research Assistance:

We have carried out in-depth interviews with five former Special Rapporteurs to gather their views and perspectives as well as interviews with over than 20 stakeholders involved in some aspects of the work of the Special Rapporteurs. We also held a two-day roundtable with close to 30 experts. We have begun to analyze the data collected and are now at the stage of drafting a report. The student research fellow who will support the project will help analyze the interview data, support the drafting process, and work on preparing selected case studies.

Supervising Faculty: 

Inga Winkler, Lecturer in the Discipline of Human Rights in the Department of Political Science

Submission Requirements:

Please submit a CV, cover letter, and writing sample to by November 22nd


Summary of Project 2:

Menstrual health is gaining increasing attention, including through the lens of human rights. In this new research project, we are interested in how organizations working in the field address the human rights dimensions of menstruation. We will examine the narrative and framing that organizations adopt through a textual analysis of materials they produce. Our preliminary research shows that organizations demonstrate a narrow and reductionist understanding of human rights that focuses on the instrumentality of menstrual hygiene; dignity as privacy; and an understanding of cultural rights driven by Western liberalist understandings. The broader notions of human rights as stressing participation, voice and agency; addressing discrimination and marginalization; and demanding accountability do not appear to be as central.

Research Assistance: The RA will support the development of the research design, will collect materials from different organizations, and will help code these according to the identified human rights themes.

Supervising Faculty: 

Inga Winkler, Lecturer in the Discipline of Human Rights in the Department of Political Science

Submission Requirements: Please submit a CV, cover letter, and writing sample to by November 22nd