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.

ISHR is proud to release the 2012 HRAP report. Other recent Program Reports are also available for download. Read the 2011 Report, 2010 Report, or 2009 Report.

Program Overview

“HRAP stands at the intersection of human rights theory and practice. For me, HRAP provided a quantum leap in my quest to acquire the knowledge, skills and core competencies to engage meaningfully in shaping the globalization debate, its processes and outcome in favor of human rights. From the highly focused advocates’ seminars, the academic courses from Columbia faculties, the educative field trips, the high profile Washington DC trip to the very practical fundraising classes, all aspects of the HRAP experience are highly participatory, result oriented and very rewarding. It is an experience of a lifetime, my expectations have been surpassed!”

– Chukwumuanya Igboekwu, Nigeria, 2006 HRAP Advocate

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

2012 HRAP Workshop

HRAP organizes highly interactive workshops for the Advocates so that they can learn not only from experts but from one another as well.

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.

“I feel encouraged by this program to never give up. I have been able to meet others facing the same struggles and the motivation and encouragement that I have gained from this experience will help me not give up either. Coming here gives me a refreshed perspective on ways that I can help my country and my people. I am the first South Sudanese in HRAP, but I cannot be the last.”

– 2013 Advocate Biel Boutros Biel, South Sudan

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.

Advocate Dr. Roger Luhiriri on Panel

In September 2008, Advocate Dr. Roger Luhiriri joined panel discussions in NYC and DC to discuss extreme violence against women in the Congo.

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.

"In retrospect, every facet of the course was beneficial. My sessions with new media and development motivated me to open a Facebook account for FIDA-Ghana and to improve our website. I must say that the feedback from three representatives of the Tanzanian Women Lawyers Association of both the Facebook page and our website made me realize the effect of the changes to the wider public. In a sentence I would say that HRAP has expanded my potential to be able to mentor others, speak out against ill-treatment and act in innovative ways to remedy abusive situations."

—2010 Advocate Susan Aryeetey of FIDA Ghana


The Institute for the Study of Human Rights is grateful to the following for their generous support of the Human Rights Advocates Program:

Columbia University, Harriman Institute
Open Society Foundations, Africa Division
Open Society Foundations, International Women’s Fund
Sperry Fund

Alumni Support

Tonderai Chikuhwa, Senior Adviser to the SRSG

Tonderai Chikuhwa, Senior Adviser to the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict, spoke to the 2012 Advocates and students about how the office engages complementary mandates at the UN to promote the prevention of mass atrocities.

The Institute for the Study of Human Rights is very grateful to the following HRAP alumni who kindly interviewed candidates for the 2013 HRAP:

1998 Silvana Turner, Argentina
1999 Advocate Mikheil Mirziashvili, Georgia
2003 Advocate Patricia Guerrero, Colombia
2004 Advocate K.R. Renuka, India
2007 Advocate Ly Pisey, Cambodia
2008 Advocate Roger Luhiriri, Democratic Republic of Congo
2008 Advocate Peter Mulbah, Liberia
2009 Advocate Evalyne Achan, Uganda
2009 Advocate Akiny Ocholla, Kenya
2009 Advocate Ambika Paudel, Nepal
2010 Advocate Najlaa Ahmed, Sudan
2010 Advocate Susan Aryeetey, Ghana
2010 Advocate Bakary Tandia, Mauritania/USA
2010 Advocate Agnes Atim, Uganda
2011 Advocate Lana Ackar, Bosnia
2011 Advocate Nadia Juliana Bazan Londono, Colombia
2011 Advocate Lydia Cherop, Uganda
2011 Advocate Ngungua Sangua Gisele, Democratic Republic of Congo
2011 Advocate Colins Imoh, Nigeria
2011 Advocate Rita Mainaly, Nepal
2011 Advocate Elvis Mbembe Binda, Rwanda
2011 Advocate John Mwebe, Uganda
2011 Advocate Salima Namusobya, Uganda
2011 Advocate Huda Shafig, Sudan
2011 Advocate Abu Tunde, Nigeria
2012 Advocate Rachel Wambui Mburu, Kenya
2012 Advocate Lydia Jacenta Nakiganda, Uganda
2012 Advocate Primah Kwagala Namudiba, Uganda


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