Provides a strong foundation in human rights and humanitarian policy, engaging both theory and practice while giving you the flexibility to shape your academic experience to suit your interests and career goals.


Increasingly, human rights are viewed as an essential component of most major international policies, including economic development, peace-building, conflict resolution, business development, and gender issues. Grappling with these issues requires human rights knowledge, as well as expertise in multiple substantive realms. Students in the Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration combine interdisciplinary research and academic training with skills and technical knowledge from across SIPA and Columbia, preparing them for productive and ethical careers.

Who It’s For

The Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration consists of a combination of courses designed to give both a theoretical overview, as well as practical tools needed to succeed in the field. In addition to minimal core requirements, you can choose from a wealth of classes at SIPA and other Columbia schools and departments, including Columbia Law School and the Mailman School of Public Health, and an interdisciplinary program at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights.

Career Paths

The Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration prepares students for careers addressing human rights issues in government, civil society (at NGOs and INGOs), and in the private sector. The concentration has two focus areas:

  • The human rights policy focus area prepares students for careers that require knowledge of human rights advocacy, corporate social responsibility, conflict transformation and genocide prevention, gender and globalization, or rights-based development policy.
  • The humanitarian policy focus area leads to careers that focus on the management of complex emergencies, early recovery, peacekeeping and peace-building, aid coordination, and resource mobilization.

Our graduates work in human rights advocacy, forced migration, LGBTQI rights, development and human rights, corporate social responsibility, gender and women's rights, public health and human rights, children’s rights, transitional justice, humanitarian emergencies, and many other fields.

Curriculum & Courses

The Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy concentration allows flexibility for your own personal focus, offering courses in development, corporate social responsibility, climate change, gender rights, refugee rights, and more. There is one required course: International Human Rights Law.

Students must complete a minimum of 15 points of graduate coursework, consisting of five three-point courses.

View full curriculum requirements

Concentration & Specialization Requirements

Students must complete the following as part of this concentration:

  • Nine credits in core curriculum in Human Rights or Humanitarian focus area
  • Plus additional six credits in elective courses


Can I switch to Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy from another concentration?

Yes, but make sure you have enough time to complete the required 15 credits in core and elective courses.

Can I switch my focus area from human rights to humanitarian policy, or vice versa?

You can select or change your focus area anytime as long as you fulfill the requirements.

Can I count toward the concentration any elective courses that aren’t listed in the curriculum requirements?

Before you take courses that are not listed on the curriculum website, please make an appointment with the concentration director to discuss how the chosen course relates to your program of study.

May I take courses that reflect my interest in a specific area of human rights or humanitarian policy?

Yes! We encourage students to plan their curriculum around their area of expertise. This will allow them to build their coursework, engage in meaningful internships, and make a network of connections for future careers.

Are faculty, current students, and alumni available to give me advice on my coursework and career?

Absolutely; the concentration has a tight-knit community of students and professionals who can give you advice in this respect. Please reach out to us and we will connect you with relevant contacts. The concentration director, teaching faculty, and departmental assistants have regular office hours, and are available in person, by email, and online.