Elaine Pearson: Grappling with the intersections of academia, advocacy and activism


For the next four weeks, SSEAC Stories will be hosting a mini-series of podcasts exploring the role that research plays in understanding and advocating for human rights in Southeast Asia. To kick off the series, Dr Thushara Dibley is joined by Human Rights Watch Australia Director Elaine Pearson to discuss the interactions and tensions between academic research and investigation of human rights abuses conducted by human rights advocacy groups such as Human Rights Watch. Elaine Pearson gives an insight into some of the work conducted by Human Rights Watch across the region, highlighting the core role of research not just in understanding the problem, but in informing their advocacy approach to maximise impact. Together they reflect upon the different goals, methodological approaches, and challenges encountered by researchers, and delve into the ways that advocacy groups can break silos between academic research and real-world problems to progress human rights.

About Elaine Pearson:

Elaine Pearson is the Australia Director at Human Rights Watch, based in Sydney. She established Human Rights Watch’s Australia office in 2013 and works to influence Australian foreign and domestic policies in order to give them a human rights dimension. Pearson writes frequently for a range of publications and her articles have appeared in the Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, Foreign Policy and the Washington Post. From 2007 to 2012 she was the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division based in New York. She has conducted numerous human rights investigations in Australia and around the world.

Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Pearson worked for the United Nations and various non-governmental organizations in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kathmandu and London. She is an adjunct lecturer in law at the University of New South Wales, on the advisory committee of UNSW’s Australian Human Rights Institute and on the board of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. Pearson holds degrees in law and arts from Murdoch University and obtained her Master's degree in public policy at Princeton University's School of Public and International Affairs.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website: www.sydney.edu.au/sseac.

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