Careers and Internships at PHR | Director of Advocacy

Director of Advocacy

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which shared in the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, is a U.S.-based nonprofit working at the intersection of medicine, science, and law to end human suffering, save lives, and secure justice and universal human rights for all.  With a global network of thousands of medical, legal, and scientific experts, PHR uses the power of forensic expertise to document human rights and humanitarian law violations and prevent abuses, protect survivors, and promote justice. Building upon its highly respected place in the field, and supported by a committed and talented team, PHR seeks a senior leader to serve as its new director of advocacy to further leverage a worldwide network toward effective advocacy around human rights issues and the alleviation of suffering.

Organizational Overview

Physicians for Human Rights was founded in 1986 by five physicians from differing backgrounds, compelled by first-hand experiences with human suffering in the United States and abroad, and united in the belief that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to prevent harm and promote respect for human rights. Since its founding, PHR has built a long and distinguished record of accomplishment by conducting groundbreaking investigations and advocacy.  Individually and in concert with other groups, PHR continues to provide the medical and scientific facts about human rights abuses that bolster the legal and moral imperatives to alleviate human suffering, uphold human dignity, and save lives.

PHR’s approach includes extensive documentation of the use of illegal and inhumane weapons in armed conflicts, attacks on civilians, and the collection of rigorous evidence of the physical and psychological impacts of torture and sexual violence as a weapon of war. Other activities central to the organization’s mission include protecting the rights of those seeking asylum in the United States and halting attacks on medical facilities and persecution of frontline health professionals, who are frequently the first to respond to humanitarian and human rights emergencies.

With its dedicated staff of approximately 50 people, dozens of interns, consultants, and hundreds of volunteers, Physicians for Human Rights:

  • Makes fact-based claims about human rights and humanitarian law violations based on established medical science, clinical know-how, research, investigations, and forensic documentation that produce sound evidence of abuses, negating perpetrators’ “plausible deniability” and strengthening truth-telling and prosecution of perpetrators in local, regional, and international justice settings;
  • Trains and supports physicians, nurses, psychologists, lawyers, police officers, judges, and others in conflict and post-conflict regions to document torture, sexual violence, and other human rights and humanitarian law violations using forensic techniques so that there is an evidentiary foundation for promoting prevention, protection, justice, and redress;
  • Prevents human rights violations by working with medical associations and individuals to reinforce the highest standards of medical ethics and uphold their professional obligation to “do no harm”;
  • Defends medical professionals – whose ethical standards compel them to competently treat patients regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation – when they are harassed, attacked, or jailed by authorities for carrying out their professional obligations;
  • Corroborates the human rights abuse claims of individuals fleeing government-sanctioned persecution and torture in their homelands through a network of more than 1,700 medical professionals – trained primarily through partnerships with medical schools – who conduct physical and psychological examinations of U.S. asylum-seekers; and
  • Uses what it learns through research, investigations, trainings, and examinations of victims to advocate for human rights policy reforms globally and to prompt robust responses to humanitarian emergencies and human rights violations from state governments, regional bodies, and the United Nations.

Director of Advocacy Role: Opportunities and Challenges

Health professionals are uniquely positioned to be a powerful voice for human rights advocacy. Reporting directly to PHR’s executive director, the director of advocacy will lead the expansion of the network’s existing advocacy work, engaging, mobilizing, and leveraging the positive potential of PHR’s vast network of health and science professionals to promote human rights worldwide.

S/he/they will nurture a strong culture and strategic approach to advocacy throughout the entire organization and will develop and implement PHR’s global strategy to leverage the influence of doctors, forensic scientists, public health workers, and other allied professionals. The new director and their team will collaborate with stakeholders to build and mobilize a global movement of health professionals, growing PHR’s partnership base and sustaining shared support for human rights efforts, in order to impact policies, practices, and lasting positive change worldwide.

Specifically, the new director will:

  • Design and build an expanded advocacy function that will enhance PHR’s impact and advance its human rights agenda worldwide. The director will be the architect of a strategy that builds momentum for a movement of health professionals, leveraging their standing and powerful voices into action and advocacy across the human rights landscape.
  • Monitor the global human rights landscape and identify opportunities for effective global advocacy campaigns to advance PHR’s human rights agenda, through building of partnerships and coalitions. More specifically, PHR will advocate to protect health workers and facilities increasingly targeted in conflicts and during civil unrest; and respond to instances where health professionals participate or are complicit in human rights abuses and violate their oaths to “do no harm,” among others.
  • Build a movement of resistance and change practices within the medical community. The director will leverage the strength of the organization’s place in the human rights sector to drive engagement and partnership with a vast global network of health professionals, supporting them to become advocates for human rights as an extension of their work. Continuously identify, inspire, and support experts from the medical and health fields who can serve as advocates, with a goal of creating a more visible and highly powerful voice for human rights.
  • Develop and implement creative strategies for achieving policy recommendations across a spectrum of PHR’s program areas, internationally and in the specific countries in which PHR works. Craft a policy advocacy agenda with partners that implements innovative campaign strategies, including digital campaigns and social media efforts, to further local, national, and international policy goals and shape narratives and practices, both to prevent violations and to advance human rights.
  • Develop and support a highly committed advocacy team, designing team structures and systems that foster excellence, collaboration, and innovation. The new director will directly supervise a team of three to five advocacy coordinators located in New York, Washington DC, and select international locations. S/he/they will serve as a mentor and coach and build a culture in which team members feel valued and empowered, have opportunities for continued growth and learning, and are recognized for the unique contributions, perspectives, and commitment they bring to the work. The director will be a systems thinker with the ability to listen, motivate, and execute in a fluid, team-based environment.  S/he/they will provide consistent, clear cross-team communication to build trust and promote team morale and transparency.
  • Serve as a prominent spokesperson and advocate on international human rights issues.  Representing PHR to partners and the public, the new director will cultivate relationships with peer organizations and other leaders in the human rights sector and seek opportunities to engage in discussions and initiatives that advance PHR’s mission. S/he/they will engage with funders, media, international entities, and other key stakeholders in a way that reflects the values, vision, and goals of the organization.
  • Collaborate internally and externally on fundraising and communications efforts. Work with program and communications teams to ensure that advocacy is integrated throughout all of PHR’s work. Help determine advocacy targets at the inception of all programs and projects and assess impact. Partner with development team to create funding strategies for advocacy efforts and contribute to overall fundraising efforts.
  • As a member of the executive leadership team, inform and help shape PHR’s continued growth and impact. Serve as a thought partner and collaborator with the executive director, program director and other members of the senior leadership team to support organizational decision making and strategy.
  • Contribute to the ongoing development of a supportive, equitable, and inclusive work environment.  The director will seek opportunities to deepen PHR’s collective understanding of and commitment to principles and practices that reflect diversity, equity, inclusion, and power.

Qualifications of the Ideal Candidate

While no one candidate will possess all of the qualifications listed below, the ideal candidate will embody many of the following professional and personal abilities, attributes, and experiences:

  • A deep commitment to advancing human rights and the communities affected by social injustice and human rights abuses.
  • 15-20 years of professional experience, including at least 10 years of progressive advocacy campaign management experience in the civil/human rights, humanitarian, public health, environmental, and/or advocacy fields, with a demonstrated ability to lead and inspire teams and networks in multiple global locations, and to manage resources and budgets.
  • Demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit in approach to advocacy work; enthusiasm for creating strategy and process from the ground up, building an outcomes-oriented culture of accountability, and proactively managing others to take ownership, initiative, and action.
  • A record of success driving effective and integrated strategic advocacy programming, with an understanding of the political climate, emerging issues, and opportunities for advocacy in the international human rights landscape and how to leverage PHR’s unique space at the intersection of medicine, law, and human rights; demonstrated ability to develop and manage effective global advocacy strategies, including via mobilizing constituencies, to affect change.
  • Proven track record of building and sustaining constituencies, partnerships, and alliances, including funder relationships, to expand impact and foster change.
  • Demonstrated success navigating fast-paced, rapidly changing field environments; experience creating strategies and infrastructure that can maintain consistency while being innovative and responsive to circumstances unfolding in the field.
  • Exceptional communication skills, including compelling public speaking and persuasive writing skills, and the ability to translate complex, technical issues into accessible language for wider audiences, including the media, senior officials, intergovernmental bodies, and donors; fluency in using digital tools, including social media, to engage audiences is required.
  • Experience with and enthusiasm for mentorship and staff development; strong ability to instill teams and networks with a sense of shared commitment and purpose; demonstrated commitment to responsive, accountable leadership and the ability to inculcate those values into the team.
  • Familiarity with organizational fundraising strategies; ability to understand strategic opportunities and to develop the case for support for complex and long-term program initiatives.
  • An advanced degree in a relevant/aligned field is preferred.
  • Bi- or multi-lingual fluency preferred.
  • A willingness to travel domestically and internationally as needed, sometimes on short notice.

To Apply

This search is being conducted by Allison Kupfer Poteet, Linh Nguyen, and Melinda Hull of the national search firm NPAG.  Nominations and applications, including a cover letter describing your interest and qualifications, and your resume (in Word or PDF format) should be submitted to: In order to expedite the internal sorting and reviewing process, please type your name (Last, First) as the only contents in the subject line of your e-mail.

Physicians for Human Rights is an equal opportunity employer. We recruit and hire without regard to race, national origin, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, prior conviction, arrest history, disability, marital status, veteran status, or age.

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