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Mission and History


The Handa Center equips a new generation of leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect and promote human rights and dignity for all. Reflecting a deep commitment to international justice and the rule of law, the Center collaborates with partners across Stanford University and beyond on innovative programs that foster critical inquiry in the classroom and in the world. The Center pursues its mission through a range of international programs including justice sector capacity-building initiatives, civil society outreach efforts, trial monitoring, expert consultancies, and archival resource development, with a focus on transitional justice initiatives and new technologies.


The WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice enhances Stanford’s human rights and international justice academic offerings and student opportunities. Housed in Stanford Global Studies at the School of Humanities and Sciences, the Handa Center integrates classroom curricula with faculty research, offers student internships, provides community-engaged learning opportunities, and facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration across campus.

The Handa Center was originally founded in 1999 as the War Crimes Studies Center at UC Berkeley. In 2014, Director David Cohen moved the Center to Stanford University with the generous support of Dr. Haruhisa Handa and his foundation, Worldwide Support for Development (WSD). The move enabled the newly re-named Handa Center to sustain its established international programs, while expanding the scope of opportunities for meaningful student engagement by integrating classroom curricula with faculty research, student internships, and community-engaged learning opportunities. 

In Fall 2016, the Handa Center launched Stanford’s first Minor 
in Human Rights, open 
to undergraduates in 
any major. This has been accompanied by new interdisciplinary curricula that enable students to apply a human rights lens to issues and regions of their choosing. Meanwhile, the Center remains engaged with several interdisciplinary, policy-oriented research and applied initiatives both domestically and internationally. The Center focuses on wide-ranging issues including human trafficking, trauma mental health, justice and reconciliation in post-conflict societies, and atrocities prevention and response.

Through its programs at Stanford and beyond, the Center is committed to increasing awareness of and raising the level of discourse around new developments in the fields of human rights and international law among a variety of stakeholders.