Amnesty International

Amnesty International (AI) is an international grassroots movement of 2.2 million people across the world speaking out and acting up in defense of human rights. We investigate and report on human rights violations, and we educate and mobilize the public until we make a difference. 

Through AI's research and action, laws have been changed, death sentences commuted, torturers brought to justice and prisoners of conscience have been released.

Founded in 1965, Amnesty International of the USA (AIUSA) is the largest AI section, with 360,000 members, almost half a million on-line activists, and more than a thousand community and student activist groups.

AIUSA's Organizing Unit works with our five regional offices on all priority human rights campaigns, developing strategies to increase, diversify and engage the membership. The Director's Intern will have an opportunity to focus his/her learning on the following:

  • Building partnerships with communities and domestic civil rights organizations to advance AIUSA priority human rights campaigns;
  • Identifying cities and districts to target through political advocacy and political mapping;
  • Building networks that inspire leaders to take on hard issues;
  • Implementing new recruitment strategies to grow the network of activists connected to our work; and
  • Organizing and strategic analytical skills to organize events and projects.

The Director's Intern will have the opportunity to participate in organizational meetings and community events on a regular basis. Throughout the internship s/he will also participate in a variety of discussions on topics such as policy development, community organizing, and social entrepreneurship. 

The ideal candidate must have a strong work ethic and thrive in a fast-paced environment. Candidates must have strong oral and written communication, presentation, and problem solving skills. They must be well organized, be able to work independently, and have a command of Microsoft Office, particularly Excel, and PowerPoint. The ideal candidate has a background or interest in service, issue advocacy, community organizing, or politics and campaign planning and be excited to learn from opportunities and constructive feedback.

2017 Intern Reflection: 

Never before have I worked so intimately with the US government in human rights issues.  Having worked at local NGOs in my past summers and semesters, I am usually the little guy—shouting from the outside, trying to make a dent.  This summer, I organized meetings with congresspeople and senators, culminating in seven new co-sponsors of H Res 128 against human rights violations in Ethiopia.  (For us, that’s a big deal.)  I learned to navigate this unique space between human rights advocacy and government relations.  Sometimes, this required compromise.  For example, we were not allowed to advocate for the cessation of US funds to the Ethiopian government as I wished to do. Instead, we had to call for accountability and an investigation.  At the same time, however, I still engaged in rallies by Amnesty International.  Once, I held up a Trump head the size of my body outside of the White House, calling for the release of Taner Kiliç. 

What I mean to say is that my summer at Amnesty International is one like no other.  From lobby meetings to rallies, Amnesty’s position near Capitol Hill creates a large range of opportunities to try to effect change.  I learned so much about Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Sudan that I would not have learned had I stayed cooped up at Harvard.  I wrote issue briefs, brought Ethiopian torture survivors to meet with congresspeople, created a human rights education curriculum, and prepared questions for a hearing with the US ambassador to Ethiopia.  My wonderful supervisor, Adotei Akwei, also allowed us to attend hearings as we wished.  I remember skipping my last three hours at work one day to attend a Senate hearing on the Indian Health Service just because I wanted to do so.  It’s very much an office job, to be sure, but compared to my friends on the Hill, we were given almost no busy work. Throughout my internship, I gained a newfound respect for people like Adotei.  And while I can’t say I’m any more hopeful about the future of human rights, I did gain a much bigger understanding of the US government and the human rights system. 

(To potential applicants: do feel free to reach out to me with any questions.  I’m happy to talk about my experience.) 

Michelle Liang '19 

2016 Intern Reflection: 

On the first day of my internship at Amnesty International, I was greeted by my boss, who I expected would give me a quick tour of the office before putting me to work making coffee or watering plants. I was right about the first part: I was quickly welcomed into a human rights community that takes it upon itself to defend the dignity of those whom the American government (conveniently headquartered about four blocks away) at times disregards. However, I could not have been more wrong about the nature of the work I would be doing.  Immediately after introducing me to the office, my boss sat me down and explained the very important work I would be doing. Rather than getting coffee and watering plants, I would be leading the Nigerian advocacy team by coordinating meetings on Capitol Hill, meeting with the offices of U.S Congressmen and Congresswomen to discuss human rights abuses on the part of the Nigerian state. I would also be a part of an advocacy conference to have Ethiopian survivors of torture share their stories with members of the U.S government in order to support a Senate Resolution for human rights in Ethiopia. I would even be developing policy recommendations and collaborating on the Defending Freedoms project to match U.S. representatives to prisoners of conscience.  It was democracy at work.

Having the opportunity to work with the Government Relations team at Amnesty has allowed me to immerse myself quite well in the culture of Washington D.C.  Walking into the office to hear talk of sit-ins, Supreme-Court decisions, and international statecraft is not only enlightening and enjoyable for a political nerd such as myself, it creates an atmosphere that perfectly complements the activism and resolve that Amnesty represents. Working under my supervisor’s guidance is also a treat in that he is often as much a mentor as he is a boss. As he told my co-intern and me on the very first day at the office, we were to treat the internship not only as work but also as “networking central.” That meant having the flexibility to attend Congressional hearings on U.S foreign policy and religious freedom and generally being able to meet and interact directly with some of the foremost authorities on human rights lobbying in the area. This internship is much more than an internship—it is a chance to work alongside the members of Amnesty as an equal and to truly learn if the D.C lifestyle is all it’s cracked up to be.

Jorge Ledesma ‘19

2015 Intern Reflection:

 Interning at Amnesty International this summer has been an amazing experience. I split my time working under AIUSA's Managing Director of Government Relations and AIUSA's Senior Campaigner for Individuals at Risk (IAR).  At the office I was able to explore a breadth of current human rights issues through drafting memos, a Congressional letter to President Obama, testimony for the House of Representatives' Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and managing the Defending Freedoms Project.  I worked on topics ranging from security sector impunity in Nigeria, the militarization of foreign aid to Africa to solitary confinement and the case of Albert Woodfox in the United States. Moreover, attending both meetings with Congressional staff, the State Department and Amnesty organized rallies and actions make this internship a unique opportunity to experience processes of government while also learning about mobilizing people and grassroots change.  

This internship gave me an incredible opportunity to interact with individuals dedicating their lives to fighting against human rights abuses and participate in meaningful work that does impact individuals and cases both in the United States and abroad.  The office environment is relaxed and friendly and staff members take do take an interest in interns. Moreover, even though Amnesty International is the largest international human rights organization in the world, it still shines light on individual cases. One of the most significant things I will take away from this internship is a continued commitment to advocating for human rights injustices both at home and abroad, and a more substantive understanding of how to achieve social change.  It has only strengthened my commitment and highlighted the need for people to believe that change is possible.

Kayla Chen '16



Washington, D.C.
International, Advocacy/Policy, Research