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Global Career Week: Careers in Human Rights and International Development
12:00pm - 1:15pm ET


Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, regardless of nationality, sex, racial background, religion, or any other characteristics. Career paths in this field can take many forms – you could work on issues like the right to food or a healthy environment; the right to education and decent work; or the right to liberty and freedom of expression, among many others.

International development is a similarly varied sector, with initiatives taking place around the world to help communities and countries reach their vision of a better future. As part of its 2030 Agenda, the United Nations has set out seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, covering a huge range of issues. Working in international development could mean working to end extreme poverty; achieve gender equality; conserve environmental resources; or build stronger, fairer institutions.

As a result, people working in international development and human rights are drawn from a wide range of disciplines and professional backgrounds, including academia, law, NGOs, and the private sector. Join us in-person on Monday, October 17 to learn more about how to pursue a career in human rights and international development from our expert panel.

This event is run in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies in Global Human Rights and the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society. Please note that our Global Career Week events are in-person only and intended for Penn students.


Elizabeth Kassinis has more than twenty-five years of experience in conflict resolution and international development, with a particular interest in issues of migration. She is currently executive manager of Caritas Cyprus, responsible for the strategy, operations, and partnerships of a grassroots humanitarian organization that supports vulnerable populations, including migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Her tenure with Caritas Cyprus coincided with the island becoming the largest recipient of asylum seekers per capita in the European Union. Previously, she served in various positions within the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Cyprus from 1998 to 2015, where she was responsible for over $100 million in programming. She has a master’s degree from Tufts University’s Fletcher School and received her bachelor’s degree in government from Cornell University.

Ignacio Saiz is an international human rights advocate who has done pioneering work at the intersections of human rights and economic justice. Currently working as a senior advisor to the UN's human rights office (OHCHR), Saiz served for twelve years as the executive director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights, an international NGO which works to harness the power of human rights to inspire more just and sustainable economies. Prior to joining CESR, he was director of policy at Amnesty International, overseeing eight global thematic teams and leading the organization's emerging work on economic and social rights. Saiz has also worked as an independent consultant for international organizations on issues ranging from post-conflict accountability to sexuality and human rights. He holds an LLM from the University of Essex.

Shari Spiegel is chief of the Policy Analysis & Development Branch in the Financing for Sustainable Development Office of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations (UN-DESA). Spiegel has extensive private sector experience, including as a principal at New Holland Capital and as the director of fixed-income emerging markets at Lazard Asset Management. From 2002 to 2007, she served as the Executive Director of IPD, a think tank at Columbia University founded by Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, while teaching at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Spiegel is author and co-author of several books and articles, and has an MA in economics from Princeton University and a BA in economics and applied mathematics from Northwestern University.

Cynthia Totten is a lawyer with two decades of experience in human and civil rights work. She currently serves as a deputy executive director of Just Detention International (JDI), a human rights and public health nonprofit that seeks to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention. Totten leads JDI’s national training and technical assistance program, supporting the work of state and tribal sexual assault coalitions, victim advocates, corrections officials, and funding administrators to ensure that incarcerated survivors of sexual abuse have meaningful access to crisis services in accordance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. Additionally, she works with corrections agencies on adopting policies that keep prisoners safe from sexual abuse. Totten also advocates to bring basic international human rights standards into U.S. prisons and jails, and contributes to JDI’s federal policy and international programs. She serves on the board of directors for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, a nonprofit that advances human rights through grassroots collaborations around the globe. Early on in her career, Totten served as a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow at Human Rights Watch, focusing on the issue of sexual abuse of women in California prisons.


LaShawn R. Jefferson is Perry World House’s senior executive director. She brings to Perry World House over two decades of legal and policy advocacy, strategic planning and communications, and research and writing on women’s international human rights through civil society organizations and philanthropy. She joined Perry World House after almost seven years at the Ford Foundation, where she worked to advance women’s human rights globally and in the US through field-building and investments in the areas of rights advocacy, strategic communications and engagement, intersectional leadership and analysis, research, and capacity-building. For fourteen years, she also held several leadership positions at Human Rights Watch, a global human rights organization, where she led their women’s rights research and advocacy work, providing strategic and intellectual guidance to the work on women’s international human rights, crafting and executing long-term advocacy strategies, and representing HRW at the highest level of national and international fora. She is the author of many reports on a variety of issues confronting women around the world, and has written op-eds and articles that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune. She received a BA from Connecticut College and an MA in international relations and Latin American studies from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

COVID-19 Guidelines

Perry World House is following the University of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 guidelines. In keeping with the University’s latest update on COVID-19 protocols, masks are optional for all visitors to Perry World House. PennOpen Pass and PennOpen Campus screenings are no longer required for entry to our events.

Please note that our current arrangements are subject to change as guidelines evolve, and other restrictions may be put in place. We will share an email ahead of each event with the latest information on how to take part. If you have any questions, please contact us at If you are not already on our mailing list for news and updates, you can sign up here.