The Justice Initiative is an operational program of the Open Society Foundations. Rather than giving grants, the Justice Initiative’s lawyers, advocates, and staff pursue legal work that supports the broader mission and values of Open Society.
The Open Society Foundations established the Justice Initiative in 2003 to provide expert legal support for its broader mission and values through strategic human rights litigation and other legal work.
Our lawyers have represented scores of individuals and groups before domestic and international courts and tribunals around the world. These cases seek not only to vindicate individual claims, but to set precedents to establish and strengthen the law’s protections.
Working with partners, we also document violations, propose and pilot solutions, engage policymakers, and draw on our global legal experience so that access to justice can be available to everyone.
The Open Society Justice Initiative uses litigation, advocacy, and legal empowerment to promote and defend justice and human rights. We work with partners around the world to ensure that law—too often an instrument of powerful people alone—is shaped and employed for the benefit of all.
Waikwa WanyoikeLitigation Director
Betsy AppleAdvocacy Director and Head, Rule of Law Division
James A. GoldstonExecutive Director
Robert VarenikDirector of Programs
Summer school in Human Rights Litigation
Our annual summer school at Central European University provides an opportunity for human rights professionals to explore the use of litigation to pursue positive and practical change before regional and UN human rights tribunals. Applications for our 2021 Summer School program are now closed. Please check back in 2021 for information on the 2022 Summer School program.Learn more
Aryeh Neier Fellowship Program
The Aryeh Neier Fellowship, named after the Open Society Foundations’ first president, is a full-time, two-year program that offers lawyers and other advocates the opportunity to gain practical experience in international human rights advocacy, embedding them as an integral part of the global Justice Initiative team. Fellowships are available in New York, Berlin, and London. More information on how to apply coming soon.
2nd Africa Human Rights Litigation Course
In 2019, the Justice Initiative delivered its inaugural African human rights litigation course in Ghana. The course encouraged practicing lawyers to approach human rights litigation strategically, while viewing it as one step in the process of achieving social change. The curriculum covered a range of human rights tribunals within the African regional human rights system. In 2021, we hope to bring the course back to a new location in Nairobi, Kenya. More information on how to apply coming soon.
Litigation Fellowship Program
The Justice Initiative Litigation Fellowship program is a full-time, two-year program that offers junior lawyers the opportunity to gain practical experience in international, regional, and national human rights strategic litigation across a broad range of thematic areas and geographies, embedding them as an integral part of the Justice Initiative’s litigation team. Additionally, the fellowship offers a realistic and intensive experience of work as a human rights lawyer through casework, training on human rights litigation, and other core activities. The next program will run from January 2022 to December 2024, and the selection process for the next cohort will begin in mid-2021. More information on how to apply coming soon.
Jobs and Internships
As part of the Open Society Foundations, our diverse and inclusive staff is passionate about cultivating a more democratic, equitable world.Open positions