Program Officer, Civil and Political Rights (Asia)

New York, NY

Overview of AJWS

Inspired by the Jewish commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world. AJWS promotes civil and political rights; advances sexual health and rights; defends land, water and climate justice; and aids communities in the aftermath of disasters. AJWS pursues lasting change by supporting grassroots and global human rights organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and by mobilizing supporters in the U.S. to advocate for global justice. Working together, the AJWS community strives to build a more just and equitable world.

Founded in 1985, AJWS is the first and only American Jewish organization dedicated solely to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease in the developing world.  Since its founding, AJWS has supported more than a thousand grassroots social change organizations and has granted $360 million to support human rights. Today AJWS has a budget of more than $50M. There are over 100 U.S.-based employees located in five offices (New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.), and 24 country representatives in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.  The organization has more than 190,000 supporters across the U.S. and around the world.

Overview of the Department

AJWS’s programs division works to build civil society in select countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia by supporting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) that are advancing human rights. AJWS partners with organizations that work on three critical issues:

  • Civil and Political Rights: Political Participation, Free Expression and Assembly
    AJWS supports civil society organizations and activists who are empowering the most marginalized and vulnerable communities to learn about their rights; speak out about corruption, violence and abuse; use the ballot box as a vehicle for change; and organize to advance human rights at the local, national and global levels.
  • Natural Resource Rights: Defending the Right to Food, Land and Livelihoods
    AJWS supports organizations that advocate for the rights of rural, indigenous and poor communities who are displaced from their land or prevented from earning a living because of mining, dams and other development that threaten their way of life.   
  • Sexual Health and Rights: Advancing the Rights of Women, Girls and Sexual Minorities
    AJWS works to increase access to services and end discrimination, violence and abuse of women, girls, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and sex workers, so that they can access the full spectrum of opportunities in society and live in health, safety and dignity.

Overview of the Position

The Program Officer manages AJWS’ dynamic civil and political rights grantmaking in Asia with a specific focus on Burma (including the current Rohingya crisis) and Sri Lanka; coordinates capacity-building and programmatic opportunities for grantees; works with grantees to identify advocacy opportunities at the cross-national, regional and international levels to advance shared goals and engages in strategic learning and evaluation in order to assess and improve AJWS’s impact. This position collaborates closely with country consultants and the Senior Director of Civil and Political Rights (CPR) and Advocacy to develop and implement civil and political rights country strategies. The Program Officer seeks strategic opportunities for partnership and collaboration that leverage AJWS’s grantmaking and promote the work of grantees, develops initiatives that advance AJWS and grantees’ work, raises the visibility of AJWS’s civil and political rights with key stakeholders, and contributes to funder affinity groups and networks to deepen knowledge in the field. They also work as part of the programs division and with other AJWS departments, including development, communications, advocacy, and international education and Jewish engagement to ensure that AJWS’s resources support grantee partners’ rights-based initiatives.

The ideal candidate will have a proven record as a strategic grant maker and/or advocate in the field of civil and political rights, with experience working in Asia, and in-depth knowledge of the legal, political, social and economic contexts in the region. This person must be committed to social change, value the essential role of grassroots activists in devising and implementing a civil and political rights advocacy agenda, and support the notion that marginalized people must be key drivers of their own development and the realization of their human rights. They must also have a keen understanding of processes to build strategic partnerships between local activists and national as well as global activist networks.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Develop, implement, monitor and evaluate dynamic grantmaking strategies in Burma and Sri Lanka in collaboration with the Senior Director of Civil and Political Rights and Advocacy, staff and consultants;
  • Advance AJWS’s grantmaking CPR program by identifying new grantees, developing proposals, supporting grantees with technical assistance and access to opportunities (including for advocacy at the regional and international level), responding to crises and emergencies and refining grantmaking strategies based on learning and evaluation;
  • Identify and deepen relationships with collegial donors, civil society organizations, activists, policymakers and other allies;
  • Directly manage AJWS country consultants in Burma and Sri Lanka, and work closely with them to advance an in-country grants portfolio;
  • Manage the CPR team grantmaking budget and operational plans in Asia in conjunction with the Senior Director of Civil and Political Rights and Advocacy;
  • Identify emerging issues and trends in Burma and Sri Lanka, as well as across the region, and utilize findings to shape funding priorities and develop grantmaking strategies and advocacy initiatives;
  • Collaborate with grantmaking and advocacy colleagues to identify and analyze regional and global trends, refine grantmaking approaches, document lessons learned, and shape AJWS’s policies;
  • Partner with other members of the CPR team to establish and advance departmental priorities and build a shared departmental identity;
  • Organize and conduct up to three visits to Asia per year for exploratory research, site visits, partner meetings, and monitoring and evaluation;
  • Collaborate with members of the advocacy and international education and Jewish engagement departments to ensure a close integration of the priorities of AJWS’s grantees with AJWS’s advocacy and national action campaigns;
  • Partner with Strategic Learning, Research and Evaluation division to identify research projects that can document the learning emerging from AJWS’s grantmaking in order to inform the field;
  • Partner with development staff to manage donor relationships, write reports and fulfill other grant requirements.
  • Increase AJWS’s visibility and profile by presenting AJWS’s work to donors, collegial organizations, networks and policymakers, and by working closely with AJWS’s communications department.


  • BA/BS required; Master’s degree in relevant field (law, human rights, international development, conflict resolution) strongly preferred;
  • At least three to five years of working at a foundation, international development or human rights organization in the field of civil and political rights
  • Proven work experience in Asia, with experience in Burma and Sri Lanka strongly preferred;
  • Excellent analytical and writing skills; experience writing or reviewing grant proposals and developing a portfolio of grants to move forward a strategic vision;
  • Demonstrated experience in managing staff;
  • Excellent public speaking and presentation skills and experience managing donor relations;
  • Strategic planning or other organizational development skills strongly preferred;
  • Proficiency in reading, writing and speaking English required;
  • Working understanding of human rights norms and practices, global development theory and grassroots social movement building;
  • Proficiency monitoring and evaluating budgets;
  • Willingness to travel 6-9 weeks per year internationally and work occasional evenings and weekends;
  • Highly organized, with the proven ability to work independently, prioritize and complete multiple projects, meet deadlines and maintain consistent attention to detail; and
  • Ability to work in and with diverse communities.

Additional Considerations

People of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, trans and gender non-conforming people; women; and differently abled people are encouraged to apply. We also encourage applications from people of diverse religious, spiritual and cultural backgrounds.

Authorization to work in the US is required.

How to Apply

For immediate consideration please apply below.

Applications submitted without a personalized cover letter will not be considered.

We thank you for your interest in career opportunities with AJWS. Due to high volume, only those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted. No phone calls please.