The Advocates for Human Rights

Changing the world for good


The mission of The Advocates for Human Rights is to implement international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law. By involving volunteers in research, education and advocacy, we build broad constituencies in the United States and selected global communities.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Ms. Robin Phillips

Main address

330 2ND AVE S STE 800


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Formerly known as

Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights

Minnesota Lawyers International Human Rights Committee



NTEE code info

International Human Rights (Q70)

Civil Rights, Advocacy for Specific Groups (R20)

Women's Rights (R24)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Advocates for Human Rights works to change systems and conditions that cause human rights abuses, improve laws and lives throughout the world, represent individual victims of human rights violations, and fight injustice, The Advocates develops partnerships and mobilizes volunteers to address some of the most pressing issues of our time because we believe everyone has the power and responsibility to advance human rights.  By engaging volunteers The Advocates not only accomplishes critical research and advocacy, it transforms them into advocates. The Advocates works on two levels: the systemic and the individual direct services level. This unique approach grounds policy work in the lived experiences of partners and clients. When clients experience injustice, we help them and advocate to change the systems that perpetuate those injustices. When partners report obstacles, we identify gaps in legal protections and develop solutions. We address the most intractable human rights issues.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Women's Human Rights

The Advocates for Human Rights is committed to improving women’s human rights throughout the world. Our Women’s Human Rights Program, founded in 1993, works tirelessly for information, advocacy, and change.

We have worked in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Mexico, Haiti, and the United States. At the request of government officials, embassies, and NGOs, we help draft laws that promote the well-being of women. We have provided commentary on new and proposed domestic violence laws in nearly 30 countries.

We have published reports on violence against women as a human rights issue. We have worked with host country partners to document violations of women's human rights, including:

Domestic violence;
Employment discrimination;
Sexual harassment in the workplace; and
Trafficking in women and girls.

We train police, prosecutors, lawyers, and judges to implement both new and existing laws on domestic violence. We have conducted trainings in Armenia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Russia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Latvia, and Lithuania. We prepare and implement these trainings in collaboration with local partners. This results in us being authorities on the nuances of the various legal systems of our partners all over the world. Working with host countries creates meaningful and sustainable change.

In addition, our Stop Violence Against Women website serves as a forum for information, advocacy, and change. On the site, we detail women’s human rights news from around the world. By working with the UN, we developed the Legislation and Justice sections of the site's Virtual Knowledge Center to End Violence Against Women. On this forum, we provide expert guidance on drafting, advocating for, implementing, and monitoring national legislation of diverse regions around the world. We also provide information regarding programming tools and methods to help overcome the barriers women and girls face every day.

Population(s) Served
Women and girls

The Advocates for Human Rights works to create systems change, strengthen accountability, raise awareness, foster tolerance, and help individuals more fully realize their inherent rights. The Advocates has a long history of developing innovative and sustainable strategies to hold governments accountable for human rights abuses and strengthen institutions in the international justice system.

Working with global partners, The Advocates for Human Rights:

Calls attention to human rights abuses through advocacy intiatives;
Partners with diaspora communities and human rights defenders in other countries to eliminate abuses;
Spearheads transitional justice to help countries and people recover from conflict;
Recruits, trains, and integrates volunteers around the world into our advocacy work;
Leads volunteers on international fact-finding trips to document human rights violations;
Assists post-conflict countries to move to peace and accountability; and
Expands individual and group access to the United Nations and other international organizations that hold governments accountable.
We hold Special Consultative Status with the United Nations, and we participate in regional human rights mechanisms in many different countries. At the United Nations, we:

Present oral and written statements to charter-based bodies, such as the Human Rights Council;
Participate in UN review of compliance with human rights treaties through shadow reporting; and
Provide expert technical advice.
We also participate in regional human rights mechanisms, such as the African Commission on Human and People's Rights.

Partnering to Promote, Protect Human Rights
Through our international monitoring missions, we produce reports on the rights of children, women's human rights, harassment of human rights defenders, military and police abuses, restrictions on freedom of the press, and other human rights abuses. Since 2002, The Advocates has adapted human rights monitoring methods to support social justice causes in countries such as Peru, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

Women's Human Rights Work
Our international work regarding women's human rights is especially vital. We travel to countries worldwide to:
Document human rights abuses against women;
Change laws to better protect women;
Monitor implementation of the laws; and
Advocate for amendments to strengthen those laws.
The Advocates has partnered with organizations in more than 20 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Morocco, Nepal, Mexico and Haiti, and in Minnesota. Staff and volunteers conduct in-country research through close collaboration with local women's non-governmental organizations, using traditional human rights fact-finding methods to document violations of women's human rights.

We offer monitoring tools and resources to help bring human rights violations to light and to hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

The Advocates for Human Rights represents refugees and immigrants, advocates for legal reform, and works to help better integrate our newest residents into communities.

Legal Services
The Advocates is the largest provider in the Upper Midwest of free legal services to low-income asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants. Thanks to our powerhouse of volunteer and staff attorneys, paralegals, and law students, we provide free legal services to more than 500 people each year. Supported by expert staff, our volunteer attorneys mentors, medical and psychological professionals, and interpreters work with our clients. We also serve people clients through legal advice clinics and the Minnesota Detention Project.
We assist those who:

are afraid to return to their home country;
are seeking asylum;
are a detained immigrant;
are trafficked for either labor or sex;
have suffered from unjustified detention, or mistreatment while in detention

Legal Reform
The Advocates works for immigration policies that reflect human rights principles. We:

Provide cutting-edge research, reports, and information about immigration issues;
Advocate against the U.S. detention system;
Monitor immigration-related legislation in the United States and in our home state of Minnesota;
Report on United States' compliance with human rights obligations, including due process, freedom from arbitrary detention, respect for the unity of the family, protection of refugees, and protection of workers;
Advance and utilize impact litigation to reform immigration law; and
Submit complaints and reports to international bodies, including the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detetion.
Immigrant Integration
The Advocates works to combat anti-immigrant sentiment. We provide information and make presentations to community organizations, faith-based groups, immigrants, students, and the general public about immigration to the United States, counter myths about immigration, and to support welcoming communities. We recently published a groundbreaking report Moving from Exclusion to Belonging: Immigrant Rights in Minnesota Today.

Policy Reports
In addition to Moving from Exclusion to Belonging: Immigrant Rights in Minnesota Today, many other reports are available on our website's "Publications" section, in which reports are organized by topic.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

The Advocates for Human Rights is at the forefront of developing educational tools that help people learn about and apply international human rights standards in their families, schools, workplaces, and communities. We believe that education is one of the best ways to ensure long-term improvements in respect for human rights everywhere.

For Educators
Find free curricula, lesson plans, toolkits, and a wealth of materials on various human rights issues. Teachers can also access professional development resources.

For Students
Access interactive, youth-friendly resources on human rights, including online video games, take action ideas, thought-provoking films, and more.

For Advocates
Discover resources, tools, and trainings that help individuals and organizations learn about human rights issues and apply a human rights approach to their own social justice work.

For Attorneys
Take advantage of a variety of opportunities to earn CLEs.

The Advocates for Human Rights works to create public policy that respects, protects, and fulfills human rights obligations in our home community and around the world. Our advocacy priorities are protecting the human rights of asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants; protecting the human rights of women and girls; supporting the work of human rights defenders; and working to abolish the death penalty.

Three of our many current campaigns focus on:

Central American Refugees
Thousands of people—mostly children who traveled alone and mothers with children—fled their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras for safety in the United States. They traveled one of the world's most dangerous migrant routes, where the risk of rape, robbery, beatings, and being trafficked for sex is common. The dangers confronting them do not end when the reach the U.S. border; the U.S. response endangers their human rights.

President's Executive Action on Immigration
President Obama announced on November 20, 2014, executive actions to address problems in our immigration system including an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. Learn more about the subject and how you can take action.

Driver's Licenses for All Minnesotans 2015
Minnesota values safe roads where all drivers are licensed and insured. Safe Roads MN, of which The Advocates for Human Rights is a member, is working to achieve the goal of allowing everyone, regardless of a person's immigration status, to apply for a driver's license.

Population(s) Served

The Sankhu-Palubari Community School (SPCS) in Nepal provides a free education — from pre-K through grade 10 — to the neediest children in this rural Kathmandu Valley area. Founded by The Advocates for Human Rights and operated in partnership with Educate the Children-Nepal and the local community, the school gives a genuine alternative to child labor and a brighter future.

Beginning its first year with 50 students, SPCS now has more than 340 students enrolled. In 2014, the third class of students that began kindergarten at the school graduated from 12th grade. All graduates have continued on to study at a university in Nepal.

The SPCS curriculum includes Nepali, English, grammar, math, science, and social studies. Extracurricular opportunities include poetry, art, music, Nepali dance, speech, and sports. Students also learn the fundamental principles of human rights through “Alfulai Chinau,” a human rights curriculum developed especially for the school. The school also provides a daily meal, health checks, and immunizations for all students.

The Need
An estimated 2.6 million Nepali children between the ages of 5 and 14 are child laborers. Children work in in dangerous conditions in brickyards, carpet factories, and quarries, or in agricultural and domestic work. Nepali children are also vulnerable to being trafficked to India.

Because Nepali public schools generally charge administrative fees and fees for books, exams, and uniforms, struggling families like those in the Sankhu-Palubari community cannot afford to educate their children. (When the school opened in 1999, more than 50 percent of the 10,000 of the community's residents were unemployed.) Uneducated and illiterate, children grow up to be impoverished adults, continuing the cycle of poverty.

Many students are members of Nepal’s most marginalized indigenous groups and lower castes — such as the Dalit — who might otherwise be forced to work. SPCS promotes equal access to education for low-income families, and welcomes children regardless of caste, ethnicity, or gender.

Another SPCS focus is supporting girl students so that they stay in school. Currently, more than 50 percent of students at SPCS are girls, a huge gain in the percentage in place when the school first opened. The school has made remarkable strides towards gender parity in a country where education of girls is often not valued equally with education of boys.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Death Penalty
The Advocates for Human Rights opposes the use of the death penalty throughout the world.

International Advocacy
As part of our International Justice program, we serve on the steering committee of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, an alliance of more than 150 NGOs, bar associations, local authorities, and unions from around the globe.

We chair the World Day Against the Death Penalty working group. (The World Day Against the Death penalty is held each year on October 10.)

We are active with the World Coalition’s advocacy and play a leadership role with the organization. We have presented at the World Coalition’s annual General Assembly on issues, including the death penalty as cruel, unusual and inhuman punishment; death penalty education; and reparations for exonerees.

We conduct international advocacy at the United Nations and African Commission. The Advocates makes submissions to U.N. human rights bodies on the death penalty, including reviews of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Malaysia, Japan, Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Jamaica, Malawi, and the United States. These reports highlight issues in these countries, such as:

Execution of juvenile offenders;
Death sentences for non-violent crimes, such as drug offenses;
Use of cruel and inhuman methods of execution, such as stoning;
Harsh death row conditions;
Discrimination; and
Lack of an adequate remedy for the wrongfully convicted.
The Advocates also participates in on-the-ground advocacy at the United Nations in Geneva during these reviews.

The Advocates educates about the death penalty. We have produced the Death Penalty Abolition Toolkit, consisting of an international fact sheet, U.S. fact sheet, quiz, take action guide, resource guide, glossary, and testimonials. Our staff and volunteers frequently make presentations and participate on panels about the death penalty.

Efforts in The Advocates' Home State of Minnesota
The past decade has seen several attempts to revive the death penalty in Minnesota, an abolitionist state since 1911. In the latest attempt, bills were introduced in the Minnesota legislature in 2003 and again in 2004. The Advocates and Minnesotans against the Death Penalty responded, and lined up witnesses to testify against the measure. Witnesses included religious leaders, murder victims’ family members, lawyers, and exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth. The bills failed to make it out of either legislative chamber. Since that time, there have been no viable attempts to reinstate the death penalty. The Advocates remains poised to oppose any efforts.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of clients served

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Immigrant Rights

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Cases have become more complex, take more resources, and take longer to resolve. In addition, a number of clients need help with several legal issues; we helped in 1121 legal matters.

Number of Facebook followers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Other - describing something else

Direction of Success


Context Notes

This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Number of external speaking requests for members of the organization

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Other - describing something else

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Number of overall donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success


Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our strategic plan, adopted in 2020, posits the following strategic goals:

1. Raising the profile of The Advocates for Human Rights and its priority issues

2. Maximizing volunteer effectiveness to strengthen The Advocates' capacity to respond to existing and emerging human rights priorities

3. Strengthening relationships with stakeholders to maximize the impact of our work

4. Expanding operational capacity

5. Assuring program quality

Our programmatic goals include:

1. Changing Systems and Conditions that Cause Human Rights Abuses
1.1.Hold Governments Accountable for Human Rights Abuses
1.2 Abolish the Death Penalty Worldwide

2. Improving Laws and Lives Throughout the World
2.1 Stop Violence Against Women and Girls
2.2. Protect LGBTQ+ Individuals from Violence and Discrimination
2.3 Fulfill the Right to Education

3. Representing Individual Victims of Human Rights Violations
3.1 Provide Access to Legal Representation to Asylum Seekers in the Upper Midwest
3.2 Build a Human Rights-based Approach to Human Trafficking
3.3. End Arbitrary Detention of Migrants and Asylum Seekers

4. Fighting Injustice
4.1 Advocate for Immigration Policy that Reflects International Human Rights Standards 
4.2 Incorporate International Human Rights Standards in all Legislation and Practices
4.3 Monitor Immigration and State District Court Practices

Achieve strategic goals by implementing the following:
1.1 Increase participation in conferences and events that can feature our resources, methodologies and work
1.2 Use publications, op-eds, letters to the editor, press conferences, new media, and technology
1.3 Increase cross-sector involvement with literary, arts, academic, technology, faith and other communities

2.1 Promote involvement of volunteers beyond the legal community
2.2 Improve capacity for recruiting, training, supporting and utilizing volunteers
2.3 Increase recognition of volunteer contributions

3.1 Effectively communicate with stakeholders
3.2 Increase the recognition of all forms of support
3.3 Provide opportunities for increased engagement
3.4 Increase board member involvement

4.1 Ensure adequate staffing and a supportive environment for staff to perform and grow in their jobs
4.2 Strengthen administrative and operational systems and infrastructure to meet growing needs

5.1 Ensure consistent standards in program development, implementation and evaluation
5.2 Strengthen evaluation methods
5.3 better define what constitutes success

Achieve programmatic goals by:
1.1 Monitoring, documenting, and reporting human rights abuses to the UN through oral and written statements and participation in the UN's review of compliance with human rights treaties
1.2 Serving on the steering committee of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, an alliance of more than 150 organizations from around the globe

2.1 Documenting human rights violations, working to improve laws and policies with partner organizations, and providing up-to-date information on our website
2.2 Conducting fact-finding related to the human rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, advocating at international treaty bodies, raising awareness, providing training and education, and representing LGBTQ+ asylum seekers
2.3 Providing access to free year-round education to some of Nepal’s most marginalized children at The Advocates’ Sankhu-Palubari Community School

3.1 Providing free legal services to low-income people seeking asylum and connecting families released from U.S. immigration detention centers with free legal services through our National Asylum Help Line
3.2 Monitoring government compliance with international obligations, documenting violations, advocating for human rights-based public policy responses, and providing free legal assistance to victims
3.3 Providing free legal representation to people detained by ICE

4.1 Advocating for a more humane immigration policy informed by our legal services experience at the national and international level
4.2 Working with the state of Minnesota to protect human rights and advising local governments on human rights standards
4.3 Bringing a public eye to justice, monitoring immigration court proceedings and their impact on asylum seekers, and monitoring state district courts proceedings related to violence against women and girls

The Advocates for Human Rights leverages the expertise of its staff, an engaged and energized board, and hundreds of volunteers to deliver millions of dollars in human rights monitoring, documenting and reporting of violations, training, as well as policy and legal advocacy annually. Using a unique model of pro bono engagement that views volunteers as an essential part of the human rights movement, The Advocates engages hundreds of professionals each year in research, education, and advocacy around our priority issues.

The Advocates program staff is made up of experienced human rights practitioners with expertise in women's human rights, refugee and immigration law, human rights education, and international human rights law. The Advocates' professional staff hold advanced degrees in law, law and diplomacy, international politics, and education, in addition to years of field experience.

The Advocates' administrative staff has been recruited from the for-profit, non-profit, and academic sector and brings advanced skills to supporting the mission and programmatic efforts.

The Advocates has helped nearly 1000 victims of persecution to rebuild their lives, find work, and reunite with their families after being granted asylum, and provided essential legal advice to thousands more through innovative collaborative projects to ensure access to counsel. In 2015, The Advocates launched its National Asylum Help Line to assist women and children released from detention, serving hundreds of families in its first months of operation.

The Advocates has transformed legal systems' response to violence against women in over a dozen countries, impacting the lives of millions of women and creating models for future change. Through sustained partnerships with women's human rights defenders, careful monitoring and documentation of systemic failures to protect women, advocacy to adopt effective policies, and training of systems personnel and advocates to ensure effective implementation, The Advocates has helped reduce the prevalence of and impunity for violence against women.

Using international human rights mechanisms at the UN, The Advocates holds governments accountable for human rights violations. The Advocates' work has resulted in the restoration of essential legal protections for victims of domestic violence in Croatia, helped advocates fight against forced child marriage in Morocco, and given voice to on-the-ground human rights defenders at the international level. The Advocates' work with transitional justice mechanisms has helped create an accurate historical record of atrocities in Cambodia, Peru, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

Through its Nepal School Project, The Advocates has transformed lives of its students and the Sankhu-Palubari community in the Kathmandu Valley. Beginning its first year with 50 students, the Sankhu-Palubari Community School now has 375 students enrolled, more than half of whom are girls. In 2014, the third class of students that began kindergarten at the school graduated from 12th grade. All graduates have continued on to study at a university in Nepal.

The first cohorts of graduates now work as ICU nurses, hotel managers, engineers, and teachers, a future that they couldn't even imagine when they first started school.


The Advocates for Human Rights

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
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The Advocates for Human Rights

Board of directors
as of 11/12/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

James O'Neal

Aviva Breen

Hon. Diane Bratvold

Anne Lockner

Howard Myers, III

Dean Eyler

Julie Firestone

Chris Bercaw

Loan Huynh

Karen Evans

Kathy Lenzmeier

Kelly McLain

Mary Parker

James O'Neal

Peggy Grieve

Christine Almeida

Kerry Bundy

Jennifer Ives

Alison McElroy

Mary Kariuki Ries

Nancy Speer

David Vander Haar

Hiba Al Hasnawi

Bridget Chivimbiso Chigunwe

Edwige Mubonzi

Bindi Swammi

Dan Supalla

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/12/2020

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

No data


No data

Sexual orientation

No data


No data