About Our Institute

The Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) was established in 1978 at Columbia University. ISHR is committed to its three core goals of providing interdisciplinary human rights education to Columbia students, fostering innovative academic research, and offering its expertise in capacity building to human rights leaders, organizations, and universities around the world.

ISHR was the first academic center in the world to be founded on an interdisciplinary commitment to the study of human rights. This remains one of ISHR's most distinctive features. We recognize that on a fundamental level, human rights research must transcend traditional academic boundaries, departments, and disciplines, reaching out to the practitioners’ world in the process, to address the ever-increasing complexities of human rights in a globalized world. ISHR’s emphases on interdisciplinarity, engagement, and globalism draw from and complement the strengths that have long characterized intellectual life at Columbia.


Columbia University
Columbia University in New York City.

ISHR’s distinction is also earned through its active engagement with the world of human rights practitioners. This engagement informs the academic work of Columbia’s faculty while simultaneously challenging activists to assess and evaluate their approaches to human rights in the light of academic findings. ISHR continues to be a leader in bridging the academic study of human rights and the worlds of advocacy and public policy. ISHR’s global connections are especially strong with advocates in the Global South, predominantly through the Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP) and the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA).

At a time in which Columbia is increasingly focusing on global issues, all of these components form and define the educational and instructional shape of human rights education at Columbia, ensuring that it is focused on the real world challenges practitioners face, bringing voices from the Global South to CU and critically evaluating the movement from an interdisciplinary perspective.