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Legal Reform & Policy Advocacy

A Human Rights Agenda for Change

The Advocates was established in 1983 on the premise, as Margaret Mead famously stated, that “a small group of individuals can change the world”. The Advocates has thrived because of our belief that we all, regardless of occupation, age, sex, race, nationality, or religion, can take a role in changing the world. Throughout the years, The Advocates has developed deep substantive expertise while remaining responsive to the ever-changing needs for human rights advocacy on the local, national, and international level.


Our Work

Death Penalty

More than a decade ago, The Advocates adopted a formal commitment to oppose the death penalty worldwide.  In the United States, the capricious and arbitrary administration of the death penalty results in an enormous need for competent lawyers to assist death row inmates with their post-conviction appeals. The Advocates' Death Penalty Project was organized in 1991 to recruit Minnesota attorneys to respond to this need. The Project also provides education and advocacy on death penalty issues.

Legal Reform - Women's Rights

The Advocates for Human Rights works for the advancement of women's rights and the end of the worldwide problem of violence against women. The Advocates has provided leadership around the world on legal reform on violence against women. This includes consultation with local non-governmental organizations in drafting laws, assistance in lobbying for passage of those laws, and training for legal professionals in implementation of the laws. Advocates in countries around the world, including those in the U.S., have access to the best training materials and technical assistance resources to hold their governments accountable for protecting women's human rights through our Stop Violence Against Women website. The Women's Program works around the world, in the U.S., and in Minnesota.

U.S. Immigration Policy 

The Advocates has emerged as a strong voice in the struggle for immigration policies that reflect human rights principles, providing national leadership in the area of immigration detention and serving as a leading resource for factual information on immigration issues through our Energy of a Nation website. The Advocates for Human Rights monitors immigration-related legislation in Minnesota and the U.S. and regularly reports on U.S. compliance with human rights obligations.


Our Approach

Human Rights Advocacy & State Legislation

The Advocates actively partners with local civil society organizations to advocate for human rights issues, collaborate on advocacy efforts, and effect legislation to address human rights issues locally in Minnesota. Read about past and current state legislative sessions, guide to working with the Minnesota legislature, and other toolkits on immigration here

Human Rights Advocacy & Federal Legislation

The Advocates commits to monitoring, reporting, and tracking federal legislation that also impacts our partners through the states and at home in Minnesota. Read about our effots on immigration here. Read about past and current federal legislative sessions and other resources on immigration here

Human Rights Approach to Social Justice

The Advocates established the Discover Human RightsTM Institute in 2007 to contribute to the building of a U.S.-based human rights movement. Our groundbreaking Discover Human Rights training helps members of the social justice movement use the power of human rights to strengthen their work. We provide educational resources and tools to help people learn about and apply international human rights standards in their daily lives, their families, their workplaces, and their communities. We train teachers, students, and community educators about international human rights standards and encourage people to “get informed, get involved, and get others interested” in human rights.

International Advocacy

The Advocates holds Special Consultative Status with the United Nations and participates in numerous United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms. The Advocates recruits, trains, and integrates professional volunteers into our international advocacy work. The Advocates' United Nations advocacy includes: making oral and written statements to charter-based bodies such as the Human Rights Council; participating in UN review of compliance with human rights treaties through shadow reporting; and providing expert technical advice. The Advocates also participates in regional human rights mechanisms, such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.