NYU Law launches Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights

NYU School of Law is pleased to announce the launch of the Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights, a research center that will promote scholarship, education, and advocacy on human rights issues in the United States and abroad. Human rights have long been a core focus at the Law School, and with this major initiative NYU Law is further demonstrating its dedication to training the next generation of human rights leaders.

Headshot Robert Bernstein
Robert L. Bernstein

As founding chair emeritus of Human Rights Watch, director and chair emeritus of Human Rights in China, and founder and chairman of Advancing Human Rights, Robert L. Bernstein has built a singular and inspirational legacy of human rights advocacy. Honoring and extending his work and vision, the Institute will seek to deepen engagement between scholars and those beyond academia—practitioners, lawmakers, diplomats, nongovernmental organizations, and international institutions—on a wide variety of human rights issues, from Internet freedom and poverty to refugee rights and armed conflict.

“Robert Bernstein has been a lifelong champion of fundamental freedoms and we are enormously grateful for his passion and generosity,” said NYU Law Dean Trevor Morrison. “The Bernstein Institute will build on our tradition of approaching the world’s most pressing human rights issues with the highest standards of intellectual rigor.”

Margaret Satterthwaite '99

Professor of Clinical Law Margaret Satterthwaite ’99, who is a faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and director of the Global Justice Clinic, will serve as the faculty director of the Institute.

“NYU Law has an admirable history of dedication to human rights and one of the world’s foremost faculties in this area of law,” said Bernstein. “As an institution known for the preeminence of its scholarship, instruction, and clinical programs, the Law School can effect change now and prepare human rights leaders to combat human suffering for decades to come.”

The Bernstein Institute will launch new human rights ventures and bring together a range of current programs at the Law School. New initiatives will include:

  • The China and International Human Rights Law Research Program. Growing out of an expanded partnership between the Law School and Human Rights in China, a prominent organization led by executive director Sharon Hom ’80, this program will give NYU Law students an opportunity to learn and practice the skills necessary to engage in effective international human rights advocacy relating to China before the United Nations and related organizations.
  • Judicial Training Program. Cases presenting important human rights questions arise in US courts each year. Through the Bernstein Institute, the Law School will offer a training program for judges that will present the latest legal developments and issues in human rights and humanitarian law.
  • Graduate Fellows Program. Through the generous support of Strive Masiyiwa, a friend of the Bernstein family, the Institute will launch the human rights careers of graduating students by supporting fellowship projects at leading organizations, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Human Rights First, and NYU Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights. These Masiyiwa-Bernstein fellowships add to a range of other human rights fellowships administered by the Law School’s Public Interest Law Center, including an existing Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights hosted by Human Rights in China.
  • Conference. Each year, the Institute will bring together top practitioners and scholars in the field for a conference on a chosen theme. The theme for the inaugural conference, to be held in April 2015, will be inequality and discrimination.

Additionally, the Bernstein Institute will serve as a coordinating hub for existing human rights work at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (which includes the Global Justice Clinic), the US-Asia Law Institute, and NYU Stern's Center for Business and Human Rights, co-directed by Michael Posner, former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, and Sarah Labowitz. The Institute will also support other human rights initiatives at the Law School and University.

“I’m honored to serve as faculty director of the Bernstein Institute,” said Satterthwaite. “By bringing multiple programs under the Institute’s umbrella, we can bolster collaboration and sharpen the focus and effectiveness of human rights work within the Law School and around the University.”

“The Center for Business and Human Rights works to challenge and empower companies to create positive change in society, and I’m excited about the opportunity to raise the profile of our efforts through our affiliation with the Bernstein Institute,” said Posner, who is professor of business and society at Stern.

To guide its strategic direction, the Bernstein Institute is assembling an advisory board of leaders in human rights, law, government, foreign policy, and business. Current members include Robert Bernstein and additional members of the Bernstein family; Sara Bloomfield, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Scott Greathead, partner at Wiggin and Dana; Sharon Hom; Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of Econet Wireless Group; Toni Morrison, author and Nobel laureate; Trevor Norwitz, partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Professor Posner; Mona Sutphen, former White House deputy chief of staff for policy in the Obama administration; Gregory Wallance, special counsel at Kaye Scholer; and members of the NYU Law faculty, including Dean Morrison, Professor Satterthwaite, Professor Jerome Cohen, and Assistant Dean for Public Service Deirdre von Dornum. 

Posted January 30, 2015