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Director, Technology and Human Rights

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch

Multiple locations
Posted on Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Technology and Human Rights Division
Multiple Locations Considered
Application Deadline: October 16, 2023

The Organization

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international human rights research 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. We’re comprised of over 600 staff in more than 50 countries.

HRW’s mission is as urgent as it has ever been, and it faces a complex scenario. Major geopolitical shifts are converging with multiple challenges, including the climate crisis, longstanding and growing inequality, and resurgent authoritarian populism. These are occurring in a time of rapidly advancing technologies that greatly impact societies, states, and economies worldwide. Our ability to respond effectively to these global human rights challenges requires an understanding and analysis of how technology impacts human rights. We must highlight the human face of technologically-facilitated harm and work with partners to promote rights-respecting conduct, standards and laws for governments, international organizations, and the private sector.

The Opportunity

HRW is seeking an experienced, flexible, highly collaborative, and forward-thinking leader to direct our Technology and Human Rights Division and help shape cross-organizational initiatives on technology and rights. This involves overseeing, supporting, and guiding a small team of experienced staff within the division to:

  • investigate uses of technology that facilitate human rights abuses and advocate to ensure effective protections from such abuses; and
  • facilitate, collaboratively shape, and support work on technology and rights across Human Rights Watch’s other regional and thematic divisions and its Advocacy department.

For its own investigations and advocacy, the Technology and Human Rights Division has a strategic focus on three key domains where technology has significant repercussions for rights everywhere:

1. The Digital Public Sphere, with work that includes challenging data exploitation and other threats to democratic institutions and healthy civic spaces, particularly in the context of elections;

2. The Digital State, with work on: (a) ending tech-driven repression and exclusion in law enforcement and migration contexts, including via surveillance; and (b) ensuring the automation of essential public services protects socio-economic rights; and

3. The Digital Economy, with work on ending labor rights abuses in the app-based “gig” economy, and other forms of tech-facilitated labor exploitation.

Across all this work, the division aims to advance norms, laws and regulation that increase transparency and accountability around how technology is used by governments, companies and international organizations.

In addition to overseeing the Technology and Human Rights Division’s own investigations and advocacy, a key part of the Director’s job will be to navigate relationships and provide policy advice and support as technology-related issues arise within countries, regions, or other thematic areas, and develop joint work with other parts of the organization in ways that mobilize regional and thematic expertise.

The Director should be a persuasive communicator and advocate with a deep knowledge of technology-related challenges and an eye for emerging issues. They are expected to play a leading role in representing Human Rights Watch externally, with partners, businesses, governments, the media, and donors.

The Director should be a skilled and highly experienced manager who can oversee the division’s day-to-day work and motivate and supervise its staff. This involves setting priorities, supervising work plans, editing products, and ensuring the security of staff, information and partners. It also involves further developing the division’s strategic plan in line with the organization’s global strategic goals, focusing on areas where Human Rights Watch has strong added value, and including clear theories of change so the division’s work translates into positive impact for rights-holders.

The Director must lead and motivate the Technology and Human Rights Division’s team of four staff. The Director must demonstrate the ability and commitment to foster the safety and well-being of staff and to promote diversity and inclusion. The Director will work with staff to design innovative approaches to research and advocacy to tackle key human rights challenges and ensure the highest research standards in a culture of learning, trust, teamwork, and collaboration.

The Technology and Human Rights Director reports to a deputy director in the Program Office. The Director will preferably be based in one of HRW’s larger offices, but other locations will be considered.

The successful candidate may have the option to work remotely. We aim to be as flexible and supportive as possible in both the recruitment for and onboarding of this position.


1. Spearhead the implementation of the division’s strategies in collaboration with a team of motivated and experienced researchers, experts and advocates, with a strong focus on impact;

2. In collaborate with colleagues and external partners, develop global research, communication, and advocacy strategies to address major technology-related abuses and their underlying causes, as well as to identify and respond to emerging challenges and threats;

3. Ensure that divisional plans align with the organization’s broader strategic plan and priorities. Develop operational plans for the Technology and Human Rights Division that include clear goals and benchmarks consistent with these strategies;

4. Work closely with the division’s staff and colleagues in other regional and thematic divisions and other departments to effectively plan for, shape, and prioritize technology-related work, helping the division’s staff balance the need to do their own work and work that is joint with others;

5. In collaboration with other divisions, develop strategies for technology-related research and advocacy on the private sector;

6. Ensure the highest possible research standards, including thorough vetting of research and media products, developing innovative research methods, and, as appropriate, facilitating the training of staff in other divisions and departments on substantive issues, methodologies, and policies;

7. Collaborate with colleagues across the program, media, advocacy and operations departments to ensure that our use of technology for research, advocacy, outreach, communications, and IT infrastructure is consistent with the standards that we apply to others;

8. Maintain an overview of global developments on technology and human rights. Respond to and/or anticipate relevant developments or events to frame news stories on technology through a human rights lens, advise senior management on effective responses, and project a human rights perspective into national, regional and global media coverage;

9. Represent the organization in national, regional and international media on human rights issues related to technology;

10. Advocate with high-level officials from governments, companies, the United Nations, and other international and regional bodies;

11. Foster and strengthen partnerships with other human rights and civil society organizations, particularly local partners, and lead our tech-related collaborations in the human rights movement;

12. Collaborate with Human Rights Watch’s security teams and others to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff, information security, and security of interlocutors and partners;

13. Manage budget setting and spending priorities of the division, in co-operation with the finance department, and ensure that resources are allocated to maximize impact;

14. Partner with Human Rights Watch’s development department to fundraise for the division and the organization more broadly, providing information and draft reports to donors, promoting the work of Human Rights Watch, and engaging potential new donors; and

15. Perform other responsibilities as required.

Managerial Responsibilities:

1. Provide space and encouragement for creativity, innovation, bold thinking, teamwork, and strong partnerships in furtherance of strategic objectives and impact;

2. Provide leadership, motivation, and mentorship to the Technology and Human Rights Division, setting clear expectations, performance objectives, and providing regular and constructive feedback;

3. Foster an inclusive, creative, and positive work environment, encouraging diverse perspectives and participation in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, while proactively addressing bias, discrimination, and microaggressions;

4. Model inclusive behavior and consistently adhere to Human Rights Watch’s internal values;

5. Incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion values and initiatives into the work of the Technology and Human Rights division; and

6. Build consensus around key challenges and ensure the highest research standards in a culture of learning, trust, teamwork, innovation, and collaboration.

Candidate Profile

The successful candidate will be a thoughtful, collaborative, and strategic leader with deep knowledge and experience working on a diverse range of human rights issues related to technology. They should have at least 10 years of relevant experience in international human rights or related work, including strategic planning and project development, investigations, reporting, and advocacy, plus relevant management experience, preferably one that involved managing down and up, as well as across teams.


We are eager to hear from candidates who can perform the essential functions of this role even if they do not meet all of our desired qualifications – particularly if they are from backgrounds underrepresented in the NGO, media or tech sectors.

Education: A bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience in a relevant field is required.

Experience: A minimum of ten years of experience in international human rights, investigative journalism, or related work, including strategic planning and project development, investigations, reporting, and advocacy. This should include substantial experience working on human rights issues related to technology.

Related Skills and Knowledge:

1. Demonstrated experience managing teams, ideally supervising a distributed team of experienced professionals from varied disciplines, as well as experience managing laterally across numerous teams, is required.

2. Demonstrated knowledge of human rights issues related to technology, including the threats and complexities posed by new and emerging technologies and the role of technology in the major human rights challenges of our time is required.

3. Experience conducting, overseeing, or reviewing complex investigations into technology-related harms, such as experience overseeing interview-based research or reporting, or technical analyses is required.

4. Experience developing legal, policy or grassroots approaches to stop or mitigate current or prospective tech-related violations and their structural causes, and that harness the power of technology to promote human rights is strongly preferred.

5. Strong commitment to understanding how technology can impact the rights of women and other specific populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities, children, older people, people with disabilities, people living in poverty and low-wage workers is required.

6. Demonstrated experience developing innovative bodies of work and crafting ambitious multi-year strategies and implementation plans is required. Experience in integrating monitoring and evaluation is desirable.

7. Ability to present and defend complex technology-related issues and positions to officials in governments, companies, and other bodies and institutions is required.

8. Ability to explain technical systems to non-technical audiences from a human rights perspective, to explain the human rights principles and impact of technologies to technical audiences, and to translate strategically between the two groups is required.

9. Familiarity with how technology and non-traditional research methodologies can be used to document and expose human rights violations is preferred.

10. Excellent oral and written communication skills in English and ideally one other commonly spoken language is required.

11. Proven understanding of how to engage with news media and cultivating relationships with journalists is preferred.

12. Strong interpersonal skills to work collaboratively within HRW, as well as develop constructive relationships with NGO partners, and company and government officials are required.

13. Demonstrated awareness and sensitivity to the needs and concerns of individuals from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and orientations is required.

Salary and Benefits: Human Rights Watch seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and employer-paid benefits. Human Rights Watch offers a relocation assistance package and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply. If based in the United States, the salary range would be US$150,000-160,000. Salary ranges outside of the United States vary based on location.

How to Apply: Please apply by October 16, 2023, by visiting our online job portal at careers.hrw.org. No calls or email inquiries, please. Only complete applications will be reviewed and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

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 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.