Elsa Stamatopoulou joined Columbia University in 2011 after a 31-year service at the United Nations (in Vienna, Geneva and New York) with some 22 years dedicated to human rights, in addition to 8 years exclusively devoted to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Indigenous issues were part of her portfolio since 1983 and she became the first Chief of the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2003. In 2011, she taught the first-ever course at Columbia on Indigenous Peoples’ rights, the first course on cultural rights (2016) and is the first Director of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Program at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia, also co-chaired Columbia’s University Seminar on Indigenous Studies from its inception in 2014 to 2020.
Her academic background is in law, international law, criminal justice and political science (Athens Law School, Vienna University, Northeastern University and Graduate Institute of International Studies at the University of Geneva). She has worked on international normative frameworks, institution-building, the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other groups, women’s rights, cultural rights, development, private sector and inter-governmental cooperation. She has collaborated closely with non-governmental organizations in her native Greece and elsewhere and has received the Ingrid Washinawatok El Issa O’Peqtaw Metaehmoh-Flying Eagle Woman Peace, Justice and Sovereignty Award; the award of the NGO Committee on the Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples; the Eleanor Roosevelt Award of the Human Rights Center and of Voices 21; the Innovation in Academia Award for Arts & Culture, 2016, by the University of Kent (UK); in 2010, the Museum “Tepee of the World” was given her name in the Republic of Sakha, Siberia, Russia. In 2016, she was featured as one of the UN’s 80 Leading Women from 1945-2016. She co-chairs the International Commission on the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Board of the International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).
Monograph: Cultural Rights in International Law, 2007, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (Brill). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 50 Years and Beyond (ed. with Y. Danieli and C. Diaz), 1998, Baywood Publishing Co. She oversaw the first edition of the UN publication State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, New York, 2009. She has edited or co-edited five volumes on Indigenous Peoples rights published by the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia: Global Indigenous Youth: Through Their Eyes, (co-editor with D. Angel and V. Carmen-Lopez), 2019; Walking and Learning with Indigenous Peoples : A Contribution to the 5th Anniversary of the International Summer Program on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Policy at Columbia University, 2018 (co-editor. with P. Calla); Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Unreported Struggles: Conflict and Peace (ed.), 2017, Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights; Indigenous Peoples’ Access to Justice, Including Truth and Reconciliation Processes, (co-editor with W. Littlechild), 2014.
Book chapters and articles she has published deal with Indigenous Peoples’ rights, women’s rights, historical injustices and human rights responses, cultural rights, development and international organizations, among other topics.
At Columbia, Prof. Stamatopoulou is affiliated with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and the Department of Anthropology.