Smita Narula

  • Haub Distinguished Professor of International Law
Preston Hall 215
(914) 422-4389
Assistant: Contact Program Manager, Lorraine Rubich
Preston Hall, Environmental Law Suite


BA, MA, Brown University 
JD, Harvard University


For media inquiries, contact:

Rachael Silva
Assistant Dean for External Affairs
(914) 422-4354

Professor Smita Narula is the Elisabeth Haub School of Law’s inaugural Haub Distinguished Chair of International Law and Co-Director of the law school’s Global Center for Environmental Legal Studies. Professor Narula teaches International Environmental Law, International Human Rights Law, Environmental Justice, Human Rights and the Environment, and Property. She is author of dozens of widely-cited publications on human rights, food systems, and the environment, and has helped formulate policy, legal, and community-led responses to a range of social justice and ecological issues worldwide.

In 2021, Professor Narula was inducted as a Fellow into the American College of Environmental Lawyers. Prior to joining Haub Law School, she was Distinguished Lecturer and Interim Director of the Human Rights Program at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. Prior to Hunter, Professor Narula was an Associate Professor of Clinical Law at NYU School of Law where she taught the International Human Rights Clinic and served as Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. In these capacities, she helped found and grow the law school’s human rights program—a top-ranked program for international law in the United States.

In 2008 she was appointed legal advisor to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and served in this capacity for the duration of the Rapporteur’s six-year mandate. From 1997 to 2003, Professor Narula served as India researcher and Senior Researcher for South Asia at Human Rights Watch, and in 2000, she co-founded the International Dalit Solidarity Network, a transnational advocacy network that helps advance the right to equality for 260 million people affected by caste-based discrimination worldwide.

Professor Narula graduated with honors from Harvard Law School where she was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Human Rights Journal. Prior to law school, she earned a B.A. and M.A. with honors from Brown University and worked on HIV and public health issues at UNICEF and the United Nations Development Fund.




CLIMATE CHANGE LAW: AN INTRODUCTION (Karl Coplan, Shelby Green, Katrina Kuh, Smita Narula, Karl Rabago & Radina Valova, eds.) (Edward Elgar Publishing, forthcoming). 

Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s “Untouchables.” (Human Rights Watch, 1999).  Award-winning, and translated into Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, and Tamil. 

Journal Publications

The Right to Food: Progress and Pitfalls, Canadian Food Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2: Special Issue: Mapping the Global Food Landscape, pp. 41-51 (2015).

The Global Land Rush: Markets, Rights, and the Politics of Food, 49 Stanford Journal of International Law 101 (2013).

Reclaiming the Right to Food as a Normative Response to the Global Food Crisis, 13 Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal 403 (2010). 

Equal by Law, Unequal by Caste: The ‘Untouchable’ Condition in Critical Race Perspective, 26 Wisconsin International Law Journal 255 (2008).

The Right to Food: Holding Global Actors Accountable Under International Law, 44 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 691 (2006).

Book Review: The Wheel of Law: India’s Secularism in Comparative Constitutional Context, 4 International Journal of Constitutional Law 741 (2006).

Overlooked Danger: The Security and Rights Implications of Hindu Nationalism in India, 16 Harvard Human Rights Law Journal 41 (2003). 

Chapters in Edited Volumes

Human Rights and Climate Change, in CLIMATE LAW: AN INTRODUCTION (Katrina Kuh, Karl Coplan, Shelby Green, Smita Narula, Karl Rabago & Radina Valova) (Edward Elgar Publishing, forthcoming).  
Peasants’ Rights and Food Systems Governance, in PEASANTS’ RIGHTS: THE UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF PEASANTS AND OTHER PEOPLE WORKING IN RURAL AREAS IN PERSPECTIVE (Mariagrazia Alabrese, Adriana Bessa, Margherita Brunori, Pier Filippo Giuggioli, eds., Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, forthcoming) 

Achieving Zero Hunger Using a Rights-based Approach to Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture, in FULFILLING THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: ON A QUEST FOR A SUSTAINABLE WORLD (Narinder Kakar, Vesselin Popovski, & Nicholas Robinson, eds., Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2021). 

The Rights-Based Approach to Intellectual Property and Access to Medicine: Parameters and Pitfalls, in Balancing Wealth and Health: The Battle over Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines in Latin America (Rochelle Dreyfuss, César Rodríguez Garavito, eds., Oxford University Press, 2014). (Translated into Spanish, 2015).

International Financial Institutions, Transnational Corporations, and Duties of States, in Global Justice, State Duties: The Extra-Territorial Scope of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in International Law (Malcolm Langford, Wouter Vandenhole, Martin Scheinin, Willem van Genugten, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Law and Hindu Nationalist Movements, in The Cambridge Handbook of Law and Hinduism (Donald R. Davis, Jr., Jayanth Krishnan & Timothy Lubin, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2010).

The Story of Narmada Bachao Andolan: Human Rights in the Global Economy and the Struggle Against the World Bank, in Human Rights Advocacy Stories (Doug Ford, Deena Hurwitz and Margaret Satterthwaite, eds., Foundation Press, 2008).

Criminal Injustice: Impunity for Communal Violence in India, in Human Rights, Justice and Constitutional Empowerment (K. Chockalingam and C. Raj Kumar, eds., Oxford University Press, 2007). 

Discrimination on the Basis of Caste, in Discrimination Based on Work and Descent (published in Japanese) (Buraku Human Rights Research Institute, 2005). 

Caste Discrimination, in Caste, Race and Discrimination: Discourses in International Context (S. Thorat and Umakant, eds., New Delhi, Rawat Publications, 2004).

Human Rights Reports and Briefing Papers

The Price of Steel: Human Rights and Forced Evictions in the POSCO-India Project (International Human Rights Clinic [IHRC]/International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [ESCR-Net], 2013) (with Francesca Corbacho, Thea Gelbspan, Blake Hovander, and Dominic Renfrey).

Nourishing Change: Fulfilling the Right to Food in the United States (IHRC, 2013) (with Jessica Scholes, Mathew Simon, and Alyson Zureick).

Unheard Voices: The Human Rights Impact of Land Investments on Indigenous Communities in Gambella (Oakland Institute, 2013) (Project director & editor, Wendy Liu, Alex Sinha & Rikki Stern authors). 

Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights, and the Agrarian Crisis in India, (IHRC/Center for Human Rights and Global Justice [CHRGJ], 2011) (with Lauren DeMartini, Colin Gillespie, Jimmy Pan, and Sylwia Wewiora).

Under the Radar: Muslims Deported, Detained, and Denied on Unsubstantiated Terrorism Allegations, (IHRC/CHRGJ, 2011) (with Sameer Ahmed, Amna Akbar, Caroline Burrell, and Kibum Kim).

Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the ‘Homegrown Threat’ in the United States (IHRC/CHRGJ, 2011) (with Amna Akbar, Christine Chiu, and Times Wang) (translated into Arabic, Bangla, Farsi, Somali, and Urdu).

Foreign Land Deals and Human Rights: Case Studies on Agricultural and Biofuel Investment, (IHRC/CHRGJ, 2010) (with David K. Deng, Andrea Johansson, Lauren DeMartini, Colin Gillespie, Geoffrey Johnson, Sylwia Wewiora, and Ravi Mehta).

Rights Within Reach: Securing Equality and Human Rights in Nepal’s New Constitution (IHRC/CHRGJ, 2010) (with Monica Iyer, Beatrice Lindstrom, Nathalie Laureano, and Zoe Salzman) (translated into Nepali).

Recasting Justice: Securing Dalit Rights in Nepal’s New Constitution (IHRC/CHRGJ, 2008) (with Neville Dastoor, Tafadzwa Pasipanodya, and Jayne Huckerby) (translated into Nepali).

Americans on Hold: Profiling, Citizenship, and the “War on Terror.” (IHRC/CHRGJ, 2007) (with Jennifer Kim, Naseem Kourosh, Jayne Huckerby, and Kobi Leins). 

Hidden Apartheid: Caste Discrimination against India’s Untouchables: A Shadow Report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (CHRGJ & Human Rights Watch, 2007) (with Stephanie Barbour, Tiasha Palikovic, and Jeena Shah).  

Irreversible Consequences: Racial Profiling and Lethal Force in the “War on Terror” (IHRC/CHRGJ, 2006) (with Adrian Friedman, Vrinda Grover, and Jayne Huckerby).

The Missing Piece of the Puzzle: Caste Discrimination and the Conflict in Nepal (IHRC/CHRGJ, 2005) (with Rajeev Goyal and Puja Dhawan). 

Compounding Injustice: The Government’s Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat (Human Rights Watch, 2003). 

“We Have No Orders to Save You”: State Complicity and Participation in Violence in Gujarat. (Human Rights Watch, 2002).

Caste Discrimination: A Global Concern (Human Rights Watch, 2001).

Politics by Other Means: Attacks against Christians in India (Human Rights Watch, 1999).

Human Rights Developments in India & Human Rights Developments in Pakistan, in Human Rights Watch World Reports 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003.

Short Articles

Foreword: Benchmarking the Draft UN Principles and Guidelines on the Eradication of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent, India Report (National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, 2014)

“Untouchability”: The Economic Exclusion of Dalits in India (International Council on Human Rights Policy, 2001).

Entrenched Discrimination: The Case of India’s “Untouchables” (International Council on Human Rights Policy, 1999).

“Caste Discrimination,” in Seminar (Indian periodical) (Issue No. 508 entitled Exclusion: A Symposium on Caste, Race and the Dalit Question, Dec. 2001).

The Linkages Amongst Population, Development, Women & the HIV Epidemic (UNDP Working Paper: Presented at the Intl. Conference on Population & Development in Cairo, Sept. 1994).

Commentary & Opinion

“How to Talk about Food and Why it Matters,” UVM Food Feed (Blog), April 28, 2015. 

“The Advocate: Smita Narula,” Profiled and interviewed on food rights and food advocacy for the New York City Food Policy Center’s May 2015 newsletter.

“The Global Land Rush: Markets, Rights, and the Politics of Food,” MIT Displacement Research & Action Network (Blog), Dec. 5, 2014.

“The Right to Food: 10 years on, are we winning or losing the battle?” OXFAM, The Politics of Poverty (Blog interview), Oct. 17, 2014.    

“A Dream Deferred: The Right to Food in America,” Huffington Post, Oct. 30, 2013 (with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.). 

“High Tech, Low Pay: Let the Workers Behind Our Electronics Be Heard,” Huffington Post, Aug. 4, 2011 (with Niko Lusiani).

Stop Putting Americans on Hold,” Huffington Post, Apr. 27, 2010.

 “Restore India’s Secular Political Culture,” Op-Ed, Asian Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2003. 

“India’s Minorities Are Targets of Government-Abetted Violence,” Op-Ed, International Herald Tribune, Mar. 20, 2000.