Executive Education

Human Rights Litigation Summer School 2023

Summer School participants with staff from the Open Society Justice Initiative and Hertie School Executive Education.

When is it time to go to court and when is it better to opt for a strong advocacy strategy in order to successfully defend human rights and facilitate a change in society and in people’s way of thinking? How can advocacy and strategic litigation be combined in the most effective way? What role do lawyers play in safeguarding human rights and advancing fundamental values?

These were some of the questions at the heart of the passionate and inspiring debates among participants at this year’s edition of the Open Society Justice Initiative’s summer school on Strategic Human Rights Litigation with a focus on climate change and digital technology.

Who took part in the programme?

21 lawyers and human rights advocates from various nations and jurisdictions gathered at the Hertie School for an intensive five-day training with the Open Society Justice Initiative's leading advocacy and campaigning experts and renowned litigators. The participants came from 13 countries: Indonesia, Colombia, Mexico, United States, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Zambia, India, Italy, France, Netherlands and Poland.

The Hertie School's Executive Education team was honoured to host this inspiring delegation of human rights defenders, whose respective fields cover a wide range of battlegrounds – from LGBTQI+ rights to environmental issues and children's rights, as well as indigenous rights, gender-based violence and the fight for inclusion of people with disabilities.

What did participants learn?

The participants learned how to effectively bring cases before national, regional, and international courts while developing mechanisms for practical change and how to address the human rights challenges that emerge in the realms of climate change and digital technology, including the digitisation of the state and access to services.

Besides deepening their knowledge of litigation and advocacy strategies and tools, participants prepared presented cases from their own professional life to the group. Topics included "Mandatory digitisation of rural employment schemes", "Transparency and accountability for the use of technologies by states", "Preserving confidentiality on the Data Market", "Digital identity in the absence of law", "Biometric mass surveillance in France", "Utilisation of technology in elections", "Protection of climate change induced migrants", "Integration of climate impact assessments in environmental decision-making" or "Holding corporations accountable for climate anxiety".

There were also expert sessions on various relevant topics, panel discussions and a public event with prominent litigators. Social activities such as a cheerful welcome dinner and a boat tour allowed summer school participants to get to know each other better, dedicate themselves to the culinary pleasures of Berlin and enjoy the city in full summer swing.

All participants displayed exceptional commitment and enthusiasm throughout the summer school. "Your passion for human rights advocacy is truly inspiring, and we have no doubt that you will continue to make a significant impact in your respective fields," says our Executive Education team.

Thank you to all faculty members, guest speakers and staff who contributed to the success of this summer school.

More information on the Human Rights Litigation Summer Schools can be found here.

Public Event

As part of the summer school, the Hertie School and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) hosted a public event on "The promise and pitfalls of strategic litigation and critical lawyering".

After opening remarks from Executive Education's dean Prof. Dr. Andrea Römmele, Prof. Dr. Susanne Baer held the keynote address, emphasising the transformative power of critical lawyering in shaping a more just and inclusive society. The subsequent panel discussion with a Q&A, moderated by OSJI's director James Goldston, featured a distinguished lineup of experts: Dr. Roda Verheyen, Marta Pardavi and Waikwa Wanyoike. Their diverse perspectives and valuable insights added depth and richness to the discourse, providing a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities inherent in strategic litigation.

Our guests also enjoyed opportunities to network with human rights practitioners, litigators and other experts, as well as those interested in the field at a vibrant reception.

More information on this public event can be found here.

Fruitful panel discussion in which the guests and participants of the summer school actively participated with questions and comments.
From the left: Marta Pardavi, Waikwa Wanyoike, Prof. Dr. Susanne Baer, Dr. Roda Verheyen, James A. Goldston and Prof. Andrea Römmele



The Open Society Foundations (OSF) conduct in-depth research into thematic and geographically-specific areas of work to better inform democratic change. As part of this analysis, The Open Society Foundations identify the individuals and partner organisations best suited to creating a positive impact in society as well as the tools to do so. These tools include grant making, advocacy, litigation, educational initiatives, publications and conferences.

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