• Thought Leadership
    Prof. Edwin Rekosh frames the problem of closing space for civil society at PILnet’s European Pro Bono Forum – an annual convening of business lawyers and civil society. Amsterdam, Nov. 18, 2016
  • New Strategies and Tactics
    The post-war international human rights legal framework and the neo-liberal ideology that drove economic globalization during the last quarter century are each premised on limiting national sovereignty. But sovereignty is fighting back—against both.
  • Innovating for Human Rights
    As the world continues to change, trends in technology, philanthropy, business and society present opportunities to improve human rights in novel ways that may enhance the impact, sustainability and resilience of current efforts.

Human Rights Forward is a program founded by Cardozo Law’s Director of Human Rights Initiatives, Professor Edwin Rekosh, that is helping chart the path forward at a time when the international order supporting human rights is under grave threat, and civil society in under assault throughout the world. It aims to spearhead innovation, facilitate strategic thinking and engage the business community in order to find new approaches to protecting and expanding human rights advocacy globally.

Human Rights Forward focuses on three objectives:

  • Developing and disseminating new models for organizing human rights activity;
  • Working through NGO networks to support strategies and tactics in response to government attacks on public advocacy and freedom of association; and
  • Engaging the business community in acting to support civil society and human rights.


“The world is indeed changing, but not in the ways that the human rights movement anticipated. In most countries, there is an increasingly visible legitimacy gap at the national level in the way that human rights groups and networks have organized themselves, which is easy to exploit by governments that regard citizen engagement to be a nuisance.

A return to basic local organizing practices may be in order for many human rights organizations. And at the same time, trends in technology, philanthropy, business and society present novel opportunities to improve human rights efforts that may enhance their impact, sustainability and resilience.”

-Edwin Rekosh, “To Preserve Human Rights, Organizational Models Must Change,” Nov. 28, 2016. Read more on openGlobalRights.


Notable activities:


February 2018. The Center for Strategic & International Studies hosted a panel discussion in Washington, DC featuring Prof. Rekosh entitled Rethinking Civil Society Sustainability (webcast).

December 2017. The International Network for Civil Liberties (INCLO) published Gaining Ground: A Framework for Developing Strategies and Tactics in Response to Governmental Attacks on NGOs, authored by Prof. Rekosh.

November 2017. Prof. Rekosh gave a keynote presentation on New Business Models for Human Rights at the International Civl Society Centre (ICSC) 2017 Global Perspectives conference in Mexico City. His reflections are summarized in this blog post on Disrupt & Innovate.

June 2017. The Center for Strategic & International Studies published “Rethinking the Human Rights Business Model,” a report by Prof. Rekosh. The report investigates opportunities to diversify and broaden support for nongovernmental approaches to realizing human rights, highlighting innovative strategies that NGOs and others can pursue and structures they can adopt to pursue them, with a view to enhancing their impact, sustainability, and resilience.

April 2017. Prof. Rekosh was a lead speaker at NYU's Bernstein Institute for Human Rights Annual Symposium:"Defending Dissent: Civil Society and Human Rights in the Global Crackdown."  The conference drew together leading human rights activists, lawyers and scholars to spotlight tactics to safeguard crucial spaces for dissent. The opening panel "Global Crackdown on Dissent" can be viewed on-line.

April 2017. Human Rights Forward organized a panel on "Civil Society Under Fire" at the Skoll World Forum held at Oxford's Saïd Business School. The panel focused on new ways to achieve systemic change on human rights as civil society organizations face increasing pressure around the world from restrictive laws and policies. Skoll covered the panel in this reflection piece.




Innovating for Human Rights

A  paper on “Rethinking the Human Rights Business Model” by Prof. Rekosh, published by the Washington, DC thinktank Center for Security and International Studies, provides a conceptual framework for thinking about innovative organizational models in the context of the human rights field. Human Rights Forward is also collaborating with openDemocracy on a series of articles on the theme of “New Business Models for Human Rights.”

New Strategies and Tactics

In collaboration with the International Network for Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO), Human Rights Forward has developed a resource to assist NGOs in making tactical and strategic choices in responding to governmental actions to restrict civic space, ranging from questions of compliance with new regulatory standards, to coalition building with other civil society organizations, to strategically reframing their work. LEARN MORE

Business for Civil Society

To engage business in supporting civil society, Human Rights Forward collaborates with DLA Piper and the Business Network on Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders, which also includes the Business and Human Resource Center, International Service for Human Rights and the B Team. Activities include research and writing to support the business case for civil society, educating business leaders about their responsibilities for human rights through simulations and other means, and engaging individual companies with a view to developing industry-wide initiatives.