Human Rights Watch announced today the appointment of Nic Dawes as its first deputy executive director. The step strengthens the rapidly growing organization as it confronts the considerable challenges before the human rights movement.
Dawes will report to Kenneth Roth, the Human Rights Watch executive director, and the organization’s board of directors. He will supervise the organization’s research, communications, advocacy, and development on a day-to-day basis. Among Dawes’s top priorities will be continuing the organization’s efforts to improve its management and to foster a staff culture that maximizes the organization’s potential to fulfill its mission. Dawes’s assumption of these responsibilities will enable Roth to focus on representing the organization before governments, the media, and donors. Working with the organization’s executive management team, Roth and Dawes will also partner in guiding the organization on matters of strategy and policy.
“I’m delighted to announce the promotion of Nic Dawes to run the day-to-day operations of Human Rights Watch,” Roth said. “During his three years at Human Rights Watch, he has proven himself a superb manager and a trusted partner. Together we will ensure that Human Rights Watch is well equipped to address new technology, climate change, inequality, the rise of autocratic populists, and mass atrocities.”
His priorities will include directing work to expand and upgrade the organization’s human resources, technology, and general counsel functions. He will work to help Human Rights Watch deepen its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity, and to address stress and resilience among staff members. He will also work to implement a more sophisticated budgeting system, refine guidelines for fact-finding and fact-checking, and adopt a program for monitoring and evaluating projects.
“Working with Ken and colleagues across the organization, I look forward to strengthening the systems, processes, and culture to ensure that Human Rights Watch functions within the broad human rights movement to advance human dignity, equality, and justice,” Dawes said.
Dawes came to Human Rights Watch in 2016 as deputy executive director for media after 10 years leading media companies. As chief content officer, he led the 800-member staff of India’s Hindustan Times through a digital transformation to focus on innovative storytelling. Before that he was editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, South Africa’s leading investigative newspaper. A long-time press freedom activist, Dawes chaired the South African National Editors’ Forum, where he worked to counter government efforts to limit independent media.
Dawes’s new appointment at Human Rights Watch reflects the complexities of running a large and growing global organization. Founded 41 years ago, Human Rights Watch now has a staff of nearly 500, comprising 82 nationalities based in 52 countries, with an annual budget of more than US$90 million.
“We have great confidence that the team of Ken and Nic is the right one to lead Human Rights Watch through the next stage of its evolution,” said Robert Kissane and Hassan Elmasry, co-chairs of the Human Rights Watch board of directors. “We believe the strengthening of the organization that they are undertaking will leave it well placed to meet the threats and opportunities for human rights that this difficult period presents.”