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Deputy Executive Director, Chief Programs Officer

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch

Multiple locations
Posted on Friday, October 13, 2023

Multiple Office Locations Considered
Application Deadline: Open Until Filled



Human Rights Watch (HRW) defends the rights of people worldwide by scrupulously investigating abuses, exposing the facts and pressuring those with power to respect rights and secure justice. It is an independent, international organization that plays a key role in a vibrant movement to uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all. This work is guided by international human rights and humanitarian law.

HRW investigates and reports on abuses worldwide, partnering with organizations around the globe to protect embattled activists, bring justice to victims and hold abusers to account. The HRW team is roughly 600 staff of 79 nationalities, including world-leading country experts, lawyers, journalists, data analysts and others who are fighting to protect the most at-risk, from vulnerable minorities and civilians in wartime, to refugees, children and older people. This advocacy is directed towards governments, non-state actors and businesses, pushing them to change or enforce their laws, policies, and practices. To ensure full independence, HRW does not accept any government funding and carefully reviews all donations to ensure consistency with its policies, mission and values.

By investigating and exposing human rights abuses, HRW works to create a world where everyone is treated fairly and equitably, regardless of their race or ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability and any other dimension of identity. It strives to uphold the firm belief "that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights," (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).


HRW was founded in 1978 as "Helsinki Watch" to investigate rights abuses in countries that signed the Helsinki Accords, most notably those behind the Iron Curtain. It later expanded to Americas Watch and later Asia Watch, Africa Watch and Middle East Watch, also known as “The Watch Committees.” In 1998 they formally merged under the name Human Rights Watch. Concurrently, HRW expanded its scope to address abuses against those likely to face discrimination, including women, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities. When families victimized by war crimes found no justice at home, HRW championed international justice in international courts. The research methods used have also developed with the times, from in-person interviews to incorporating satellite imagery to track the destruction of villages and city blocks, and mining big data and analyzing social media posts for evidence of human rights abuse. The organization continues to evolve to meet the human rights challenges of today. All of the organization’s work circles back to HRW’s commitment to justice, dignity, compassion and equality.


  • Investigate: Researchers work in the field in roughly 100 countries, uncovering facts that create an undeniable record of human rights abuses.
  • Expose: HRW tells the stories of what it finds, sharing them with millions of social media and online followers each day. News media cite HRW more than 1000 times a day on average, furthering its reach.
  • Change: HRW meets with governments, the United Nations, non-state actors, rebel groups, corporations and others to apply pressure and ensure that policy is changed, laws are enforced, and justice is served.


When it comes to ending abuses and bringing perpetrators to justice, some victories are big and others are merely steps on a much longer journey to change, whether that change is immediate or incremental. HRW works on issues for years and knows from experience how to transform deep-rooted problems.

HRW has been instrumental in some foundational victories for human rights. In one example, HRW's activity led to a worldwide landmine ban, for which it was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, along with other key parties. HRW’s impact extends across a wide range of situations, such as the Russia-Ukraine War, repression in Myanmar, Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the conflict in Tigray, Covid-19, policing in the United States, and refugees in Europe.

For more insight, please visit https://www.hrw.org/about/about-us


HRW's human rights experts include country specialists, lawyers, journalists, advocates, analysts, and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities. These experts conduct fact-finding missions and investigate human rights abuses, impartially reporting on the status of human rights conditions in over 100 countries. These facts are then strategically disseminated by HRW's advocacy and communications teams to influence decision makers, ensure accountability and promote human rights and justice around the world. The HRW team also comprises a wide range of skilled development and operational staff who ensure the organization’s ability to deliver on its mission. The work of HRW is overseen by the senior management and its board of directors.

Key Human Rights Watch Facts

The Organization

  • Approximately 600 staff members of 79 nationalities across 132 cities
  • 33 registered offices globally
  • 44,000 donors globally
  • Annual budget of $97 million
  • 0% government funding

The Work

  • Research covering roughly 100 countries
  • 4,485 publications
  • 35 million website visits
  • 13 million social media followers
  • 400,000 media mentions across 190 countries in 60 languages

Human Rights Watch Leadership Team & Structure

Link to full bios: https://www.hrw.org/about/people

Human Rights Watch Board of Directors

29 directors comprising a diverse and international range of human rights, not-for-profit, law, government and business backgrounds.

To see the full list of directors and their bios: https://www.hrw.org/about/people/board-directors


The Deputy Executive Director, Chief Programs Officer (CPO) of HRW has been reconceived as a part of the evolution of HRW. This executive will lead half of HRW’s headcount, roughly encompassing staff located in 89 countries. The organization's external environment, given the work it does, is often complex and challenging.

This role comes with tremendous responsibility to further develop and successfully support the ongoing development of structures and processes to ensure an enabling environment for effective collaboration across HRW’s Programmatic Departments. Additionally, they will play a key role in ensuring the organization can implement an ambitious and impactful global human rights strategy that has already been developed. Reporting to the Executive Director, Tirana Hassan, the Deputy Executive Director, CPO will have overall responsibility for the organization’s research, legal and policy, advocacy, and communications departments and their operations. The DED, CPO is responsible for ensuring the effective leadership and management of activities, partner coordination, work planning, information flows and budgets across these departments, with 70% of their time devoted to internal management and leadership, and 30% for steering HRW’s external strategy, fundraising and external representation. The CPO will have demonstrated experience overseeing a team of organizational leaders responsible for ensuring efficient, effective, and impactful work and in successfully providing top-level guidance for effective leadership teams. This individual will be a core part of the Executive leadership team and be expected to drive forward the implementation of the current HRW global strategy. This leader will support the organization’s continued growth and development by ensuring cross-functional integration, operational and programmatic excellence, and best-in-class management practices across departments. The DED, CPO will work alongside the ED, the Deputy Executive Director, Chief Operating Officer and other senior leaders to help facilitate the organization through its ongoing transition to ensure internal structures, processes, and culture are appropriately aligned with the organization’s values and its evolving global strategy.

One focus of this role will be to ensure that internal norms, values, and behaviors are consistent and coherent with the principles and standards that HRW articulates externally. The DED, CPO will be able to balance internal organizational and change management while also delivering on the organization’s core mission. Critical to this role is maintaining and strengthening HRW’s credibility, influence, and impact externally while building trust internally, and supporting a culture of excellence, collaboration, engagement, and inclusion, in which its diverse and passionate staff can thrive. An individual with the courage and conviction to defend the rights of all people, and the passion and empathy to inspire and lead by example, will find success in this role.

Key Relationships

Reports to

Executive Director, Tirana Hassan

Direct reports

Program Director, Sari Bashi

Legal and Policy Director, James Ross

Chief Advocacy Officer, Bruno Stagno

Chief Communications Officer, Mei Fong

Other key relationships

Chief Operating Officer

Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to Executive Director

Senior Advisor on Global Strategy

Chief People Officer

Chief Financial Officer

General Counsel

Chief Development Officer

Chief Technology Officer

Physical Safety Director

Global Head of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion


  • Lead and develop department heads across all programmatic areas to reach excellence.
  • Help optimize organizational structure and processes and accelerate ongoing change management efforts; expand internal management capability both through direct, hands-on leadership and by empowering other leaders across the organization.
  • Develop systems for planning and coordination that connect decision-making and resource allocation to strategy.
  • Establish and expand relationships, credibility and influence with critical internal and external stakeholders.
  • Extend fundraising excellence by partnering with the Chief Development Officer in diversifying and deepening the existing donor base and implementing new fundraising strategies that match the resource needs across programmatic departments; design and execute multi-year fundraising campaigns.
  • Partner with the Chief Financial Officer to develop financial planning and budget processes that support the implementation of strategies.
  • Liaise with the International Board on programmatic reporting, resource allocation and policy issues.
  • Continue elevating HRW’s international identity, cementing its reputation as a truly global organization, through representing the organization in key forums, fundraising events and the media, as required.
  • Foster a high-performing organization through partnering with senior leaders on strategic workforce planning, attracting and retaining world-class and diverse talent, and engaging staff and developing their capabilities.
  • Ensure rigor and integrity of HRW’s programmatic work across departments to ensure it is delivered to the highest standard; stay abreast of innovations in the human rights sector and, for those relevant to HRW, develop systems to oversee their effective implementation.
  • Live and promote the values of the organization and promote trust by increasing transparency and collaboration across teams to amplify HRW’s external impact. Ensure ongoing commitment to diversity as well as equity and inclusion for staff of all backgrounds across regions globally.


The Deputy Executive Director, Chief Programs Officer will be a bold, strategic, and inspirational leader who has a track record of leading teams to deliver ambitious and high-quality human rights and social change programs. They will have a track record of leading through change and delivering results and complex programs in fast paced environments. This leader will demonstrate an authentic passion for HRW's mission and be able to implement a concise and inspiring vision. They will have a global mindset based on both professional and lived experiences and have experience successfully managing and leading in a complex and diverse organization. The DED, CPO will contribute to building and expanding the fundraising base, ensuring strong foundations from which the organization can continue delivering impact. This individual will be an experienced and capable non-profit professional with the credibility to inspire and support leaders who are designing and implementing complex, impact, and high-profile programs globally. They will be comfortable building and maintaining strong relationships with senior stakeholders and will inspire trust and commitment from HRW’s staff and its Board. The DED, CPO should enjoy working across diverse teams of bright, capable individuals to drive high performance and achievement in a robust, emotionally intelligent manner. They will be skilled at identifying areas for operational improvement in current programs, working with staff to design and implement new, effective and impactful programs, and income generation targets to ensure their longer-term sustainability.

The DED, CPO will be a skilled diplomat capable of forging common ground and building strong alliances among different stakeholders, both internally and externally. This leader will have impeccable communication skills, with the ability to remain agile in addressing various human rights topics and to adapt their style to different audiences globally. They must engender tremendous followership and inspire confidence in others. The DED, CPO will have a compelling, collaborative, and inclusive management approach and a proven ability to develop and lead a high-performing and diverse team. They will be engaged and decisive, with a commitment to achieve ambitious goals, make difficult decisions, and collaborate with their leadership to deliver the greatest possible impact. They will have a demonstrated ability and commitment to foster and prioritize the safety and well-being of staff and be a champion of DEI in all aspects of their work.


Operational Leadership Experience

Has led large, complex organizations or teams through significant change. Track record of developing teams, implementing transformative changes along with structures and processes to increase the effectiveness of an organization as it grows and scales.

Global Mindset

Has lived and worked in multiple parts of the world and can understand and can work respectfully and effectively across different cultures and perspectives when leading teams, collaborating and influencing others, especially in multi-cultural and multi-geography teams. Has a demonstrated ability to uphold and enhance the diversity HRW seeks to foster. Has experience working with building international or regional alliances and partnerships. Understands HRW’s role and added value in the wider global human rights movement.

Passion for Mission

Clear and unfaltering evidence of a personal and professional commitment to human rights; demonstrated purpose-driven leadership of mission-driven organizations and experience working for lasting human rights impact. Has a deep understanding of strategy and how to deliver human rights change. Direct human rights programmatic implementation experience preferred.

Research and Advocacy Experience

Proven track record of running a large inter-disciplinary team in global organizations. Demonstrated experience in field-based research and/or international advocacy.


Building and Developing Teams

  • Invests in and develops their team.
  • Diagnoses future capabilities required at different levels of the organization.
  • Systematically develops leaders and team members through stretch assignments with specific competency development goals, coaching and a range of other approaches.
  • Reviews the capability and capacity of departments under their supervision and supports strategic growth and development.
  • Guides the development and provides the framework for ambitious, successful and financially sustainable departmental strategies.
  • Delegates authority to the team and ensures accountability for delivering on strategic objectives.
  • Passes leadership responsibilities down through the organization, ensuring alignment with the overall strategy and/or direction.
  • Sets up forums or practices to reinforce independent and open communication among team members.
  • Supports teams and builds capacity of leaders to manage change.

Leading Change, Strengthening Systems and Ensuring Effective Inter-Disciplinary Collaboration

  • Creates and empowers change leaders and understands how to involve key influencers in the design and implementation of strategy and systems.
  • Identifies internal changes consistent with the strategy but radical in implementation and gains buy-in with individual, customized influence efforts.
  • Establishes processes or practices to encourage and reinforce innovation and change thinking.
  • Adapts change plans/influence strategies to the political realities and constraints of the organization, targeting the most influential people regardless of formal role, and engaging people in a reasoned way.
  • Identifies and implements systems to help facilitate sustainable growth and effective use of resources as the organization evolves in a changing geopolitical environment. Advocates for new direction, takes it onboard personally, even countering conventional practice.
  • Thinks strategically about challenges facing a growing, evolving organization and yet also remains focused on operational excellence and the day-to-day imperatives of the organization.
  • Understands how global trends and changes can impact the organization’s work and can support leaders to adapt and evolve.
  • Takes personal ownership for advancing significant change and evolution.
  • Communicates direction with a clear rationale and timelines.
  • Creates or takes advantage of multiple opportunities to evolve and deliver ambitious bodies of work.
  • Adapts communication content, approach, or style around change to appeal to different audiences.

Collaborating and Influencing

  • Identifies all necessary stakeholders and connects with them to gain support or agreement.
  • Negotiates with a genuine give-and-take approach that takes all parties’ perspectives into account.
  • Takes advantage of opportunities to build strategic relationships to achieve a specific outcome.
  • Engages others in open dialogue and adapts own influence approach to different stakeholders in ways that address their interests or concerns.
  • Anticipates emerging or potential conflicts among all stakeholders and takes steps to pre-empt them.
  • Spends time identifying all stakeholders necessary and meets or connects with all of them, neglecting no one to shape a collective consensus.
  • Takes difficult decisions when needed and provide clear rationales in line with HRW’s organizational values.
  • Clear and persuasive communicator who can unpack new and complex ideas for various audiences and represent the organization in internal and external meetings and events.


  • Visionary leadership style that is inspirational to all members of a diverse organization.
  • Authentic and influential leader and communicator who engenders trust-based followership and captivates audiences.
  • Courageous, decisive and bold in taking informed risks, making decisions and working to deliver impact on behalf of HRW.
  • Strong EQ and empathetic style with the ability to read emotions in others and respond appropriately and effectively.
  • Active listener who solicits perspectives and ideas from all team members.
  • High integrity and trustworthiness, possesses unquestionable ethics.
  • Inclusive and transparent, explicit in logic when sharing a view or presenting decisions, engages others in ideation and implementation.
  • Agile, flexible, and innovative; has sound instincts for knowing when to challenge implicit assumptions or pursue alternate ways of framing a complex problem.
  • Engaged, able to roll up sleeves and work hard to deliver against HRW’s goals and priorities while modeling appropriate life/work balance and commitment to wellbeing.


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. The DED, CPO will preferably be based in London, Berlin, Brussels, Nairobi or Johannesburg, but other global office locations will be considered.


SpencerStuart is proud to partner with Human Rights Watch in the search for the Deputy Executive Director, Chief Programs Officer. All inquiries and interest should be directed to SpencerStuart.

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 come from a wide span of socio-economic backgrounds and perspectives on the world. Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer.