November 20, 2023
Interviewed by Beth Akiyama & Blog Written by Ian Sloan

Throughout this interview, UNA-NCA’s 2023 Emerging Leader Award recipient Amanda Strayer covered various topics on her work before and during her current tenure as a Supervising Staff Attorney for Accountability at Human Rights First, where she advocates for the effective use of targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses around the world. She is also an alumnus of Georgetown University Law Center from which she graduated with a Doctor of Law degree and a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies.
She was inspired to become a human rights advocate and eventually a leader in the field based on her longtime passion of wanting to address injustices and motivated by the personal experiences of her family members who had been refugees during World War II. During her prior work with Women for Women International, she focused on researching and documenting the experiences of marginalized women in conflict-affected countries, including through interviews with women in Afghanistan and Rwanda, and raising awareness for the many challenges they faced such as poverty, violence, displacement, and discrimination.

The human rights work of the United Nations is important to her as it recognizes the inherent dignity of every person and sets out a legal framework to hold states accountable for a wide range of human rights violations. In her own work on targeted human rights sanctions, the United Nations’ efforts to define conduct amounting to human rights violations have provided legal standards that are critical to persuading the United States and other governments to act in response to incidents of human rights abuse. Moreover, the comprehensive documentation, monitoring, and reviews of Member States done by the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms provide credible evidence of violations that advocates rely on to strengthen arguments that the United States and other countries should use foreign policy tools such as sanctions to deter future abuses and bring a measure of accountability. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, along with other human rights treaties, are invaluable guides in this work as they set down internationally agreed upon standards for the protection of human rights.

Throughout her life and career, she has been inspired and encouraged by numerous family members, friends, mentors, and colleagues. In particular, the human rights defenders and activists she has worked with around the world who have spent years fighting for accountability in some of the most difficult and challenging circumstances have inspired her with their persistence, commitment, and hope. Her advice for other young professionals committed to human rights is to understand that working in this field is hard and heartbreaking. The fellow advocates, however, that they will meet along the way will be among the bravest and kindest people. While much of the work can feel like a marathon effort to simply prevent further backsliding, she highlighted there is a community of people that will work alongside young professionals who want to support their growth and skills in the field.

She is most proud of her work at Human Rights First. She helps to coordinate the targeted human rights and anti-corruption sanctions coalition, a growing network of more than 300 NGOs that advocate for the improved use of Magnitsky-style sanctions in response to human rights abuses and corruption around the world. This includes partnering with civil society groups to prepare and submit formal recommendations to the United States and other governments that call for the use of sanctions against individuals and entities involved in such abuses. One example she expanded upon was the Global Magnitsky sanctions program created by the United States as the government has often relied on the information and recommendations provided by civil society groups through the coalition since the program’s 2017 foundation.

Approximately one-third of all U.S. Global Magnitsky sanctions have a basis in recommendations from civil society groups. The coalition has also increasingly played a role in assessing the impact of Magnitsky-style sanctions and evaluating the gaps in their use in a landmark report last year. She highlighted the report urged the U.S. and other governments to use these tools without fear or favor and to improve the identification of human rights abuses impacting particularly marginalized groups, such as women, children, LGBTQIA+ persons, and Indigenous persons. She thinks that by enhancing their focus on sanctioning abuses perpetrated against marginalized survivor groups, the U.S. and other governments could fully demonstrate their commitment to the foundational principle of international human rights law: that every person and survivor of abuse matters and deserves recognition and justice.

For anyone who wants to learn more about Amanda Strayer, feel free to view her LinkedIn profile in which you will see highlights such as her Georgetown University Law Center interview or contact her via email. For learning more details about and how to support Human Rights First, visit the website, Twitter, and Instagram.

Need to Know


More >

Upcoming Events

More >