Centers Of Excellence

The Promise Institute for Human Rights

The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law is the center of human rights education, research and advocacy at UCLA and around the region.

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The Future of Human Rights

The Promise Institute for Human Rights is the center of human rights education, research, and advocacy at UCLA. We empower students with enriching teaching and experiential opportunities in human rights law, engage with diverse frameworks and disciplines to generate new thinking on human rights, and advocate for change in coalition with academics, practitioners, and activists.

Who We Are

Areas of Focus

Drawing on the unique strengths and resources of UCLA and the creativity and dynamism of the city of Los Angeles, the Promise Institute makes a major contribution to improving the situation of human rights for people at home and around the world, through empowering a new generation of human rights lawyers and leaders, generating new thinking on human rights, and engaging our students and our research to drive real world positive impact.

Our research and advocacy focus on the following issues that are reshaping our world and that resonate deeply with our location in Los Angeles:

  • Race, Indigenous Peoples and human rights

    Thought Leadership – The Promise Institute supports the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, E. Tendayi Achiume. In Fall 2019, we convened an expert working group on Race, Human Rights, and New Information Technologies. Co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, the session brought together practitioners and scholars to identify areas in need of conceptual development to ensure racial equality in the application of new technologies. This convening informs the report of the UN Special Rapporteur delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council in July 2020.

    Activism and Litigation – The Promise Institute Faculty Director, E. Tendayi Achiume, and Promise Chair in Human Rights, Kimberlé Crenshaw, are leading voices against systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. Deputy Director, Cathy Sweetser, is involved in litigating cases related to the rights of unhoused people and detained people in Los Angeles as well as slavery and forced labor abroad, and our students will be involved with this work through our Human Rights Litigation Clinic, launching Fall 2020. Human Rights in the Americas Project Director, Joe Berra, is working with Indigenous community groups in Honduras to challenge the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

  • Human Rights and the Protection of the Environment

    Thought Leadership: On February 29, 2020, Promise Institute Executive Director Kate Mackintosh convened a group of scholars and practitioners to explore the potential of international criminal law to protect the environment and halt or mitigate climate change. Over the course of the day, the group discussed the possibilities of current international criminal law and how these might be best used. Reflecting on the limits of existing law, the group then went on to consider what the elements of an effective and plausible new crime might be. Read the outcome report of the meeting.

    Members of the group subsequently developed these ideas in an online symposium hosted by Opinio Juris. The work of the expert group is ongoing.

    Thought Leadership – Hundreds of people attended our 2020 annual symposium Human Rights and the Climate Crisis [link to that page].  The symposium, co-sponsored by the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, featured keynote speeches by Kumi Naidoo, former Secretary-General of Amnesty International and former Executive Director of Greenpeace and Bertha Zúñiga Cácares, General Coordinator of the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras.

  • Migration and Human Rights

    UN Rapporteurship – UN Special Rapporteur E. Tendayi Achiume is reconceptualizing the way we think about colonialism, race, and borders together with international law and critical race scholars.

    Student Opportunities – The Promise Institute provides funds to subsidize student travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to provide Know-Your-Rights trainings to asylum seekers impacted by the U.S.' Remain in Mexico Policy.

    Experiential Education – The Human Rights Litigation Clinic supports student research, advocacy, and litigation in support of immigration detainees held in local facilities.

    Thought Leadership – In 2020-21, the Promise Institute will convene "The Migration and Human Rights Big Think," bringing together activists and academics to radically reconceptualize how human rights can articulate and support the experience of contemporary migrants.

  • Technology and human rights

    Thought Leadership – In support of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, E. Tendayi Achiume, the Promise Institute convened an expert group meeting on Race, Technology and Borders.  Co-sponsored with the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, this convening brought together leading experts to think about how technology is utilized in discriminatory ways at existing borders and how technology can create new borders that have disparate impacts on the basis of race, citizenship, and nationality.  The convening will inform an upcoming report of the UN Special Rapporteur.

    Interdisciplinary Human Rights Research Support – the Promise Institute provided seed funding to Kamari Clarke, UCLA Professor of Anthropology, for a project on "Evidence and Justice in a Post-Truth World."  This project explores the ways that human rights documentation is inspiring the development of human rights technology applications; Professor Clarke recently received funding from the National Science Foundation to continue this work.

  • Accountability for human rights violations

    Experiential Education – The Human Rights Litigation Clinic has as a key focus accountability for corporations who commit human rights violations. In Spring 2020, we launched UCLA Law in the Hague, an externship program that allows students to work at an international court in the Hague, the Netherlands, while also studying a course on "International Courts in Practice."

    Distinguished Fellow in Residence – In Spring 2020, Richard Dicker, International Justice Project Director at Human Rights Watch, was a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at the Promise Institute.  During his time at UCLA Law, Richard taught a course on "Prospects for International Justice," and wrote a briefing paper on the Future of the International Criminal Court, informed by a convening of experts hosted by the Promise Institute.

    Thought Leadership – In Spring 2020, the Promise Institute and the American Society of International Law Task Force co-hosted a consultation on Policy Options on US engagement with the ICC.  In 2020-2021, the Promise Institute plans to continue its work on accountability throughout supply chains of U.S. corporations.



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