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 are not required to take simulation or practicum courses, however, we strongly suggest you take advantage of our practice-based elective offerings such as the Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy Practicum and the Humanitarian Response Simulation. For more information on course requirements and approved elective courses, please visit the SIPA Bulletin.

Students must complete a minimum of 15 points of graduate coursework.

View full curriculum requirements

View HRHP related capstone projects

Concentration Requirements

Students must complete the following 15-credit sequence as part of this concentration:

  • Three credits in core requirements (International Human Rights Law),
  • Six credits in either Human Rights focus area or Humanitarian Policy focus area,
  • Plus additional six credits in approved elective courses.



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

Yes, as long as you complete the required 15 credits in core and elective courses prior to graduation.

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. Please contact the Concentration directly if you have any questions, or would like to explore the differences between the focus areas.

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 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 and by email.