Between 1989 and 2021, a total of 346 human rights advocates from 95 countries attended HRAP. In recent years, advocates have ranged from early career advocates who have cut their teeth in very urgent human rights situations to mid-career advocates who have founded organizations.
Below are the biographies of current Advocates and descriptions by select alumni as to why they became human rights advocates.
To see a list of additional past Advocates click here.
To read about more about the work of our Advocates click here .
Palestinian Authority, 1990
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Raji Sourani, a 1990 graduate of the HRAP, writes, “My life would have been very different without my experience at HRAP.”
Since he finished the program, Sourani, a human rights lawyer, has gone on to achieve notable professional accomplishments. In 1995, Sourani co-founded the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), a non-profit organization based in Gaza dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law, and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Since then, PCHR has become the leading human rights organization in the Gaza Strip, serving as an independent legal body in Gaza that documents and investigates human rights abuses and provides legal aid and counseling to victims.
HRAP provides advocates with unique access to a range of human rights organizations, institutions and policymakers that are based in New York City. Sourani says that these networking opportunities greatly enhanced his work at PCHR: “The professional and personal relationships that I developed during my time at HRAP have lasted until today, remain ever present, and are of invaluable importance in the work of PCHR.”
When reflecting on his experience in HRAP and its impact on his current work, Sourani concludes: “My participation in HRAP has significantly helped my work in human rights advocacy and litigation. My time at Columbia University was an eye-opening experience and provided me with access to an international legal network, and especially within the New York human rights community. It has expanded the reach of my work and that of PCHR immensely.”
Sourani has held prominent executive decision-making positions at various international human rights organizations. He served as the president for 2 terms, and as a member of Board for 3 terms, of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, Cairo, Egypt (2011–2016); as a vice-president of the Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme for 3 terms, Paris, France (2001–2013); and as a board member at International Commission of Jurists, Geneva, Switzerland (2006–2012). Currently, he is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Legal Assistance Consortium (since 2015) and a member of the International Executive Committee of the International Human Rights Commission (since 2003).
He has received several awards for his work in Gaza, including the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Human Rights in 2002, the International Service Human Rights Award in 2002, the Human Rights Prize awarded by the Republic of France in 1996, and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award with Israeli lawyer, Avigdor Feldman in 1991. Sourani received the 2013 Right Livelihood Award for his work defending and promoting human rights for all in Palestine and the Arab World for 35 years.
- Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, April 2013, updated in January 2014, and in July 2019 by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor.