Paul J.


Paul J. Nelson

Associate Dean, Associate Professor
3411 Posvar 
Curriculum vitae


  • PhD, International Development, University of Wisconsin, 1991

  • MA, History, Princeton University, 1980

  • BA, Wheaton College, 1978


Paul Nelson is Associate Dean at GSPIA, and was Director of the International Development Program before becoming Associate Dean in 2015.  Before joining the university in 1998 he worked for 13 years as policy analyst for several non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  He is the author of The World Bank and Non-Governmental Organizations: The Limits of Apolitical Development (St. Martin’s, 1995), and coauthor, with Ellen Dorsey, of New Rights Advocacy: Changing Strategies of Development and Human Rights NGOs (Georgetown University Press, 2008).  His other publications include articles, chapters and reports on NGOs, transparency in international organizations, the World Bank, the Millennium Development Goals, and human rights and development. He serves on the board of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (http://globalinitiative-escr.org). He earned his PhD. in Development Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1991). 

Teaching and Research Areas

Development policy, agriculture and rural development, non-governmental organizations, transparency in international organizations, religion and civil society, human rights and development.

  • Current project 2017: A book on the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights, provisionally titled: Human Rights are the Key: Making the Sustainable Development Goals Really Sustainable for Everyone.  Book under contract with University of Toronto Press. 

  • Papers on political voice of faith-based NGOs, and paper on Human Rights-based Approaches in the Development and Human Rights sectors. 

Select Publications and Funded Research

  • “Who Practices Rights-Based Development? A Progress Report on Work at the Nexus of Human Rights and Development.” World Development, 104, 97-107, April 2018.

  • “Citizens, Consumers, Workers, Activists: Civil society during and after water privatization struggles.”  Journal of Civil Society, Published online May 9, 2017. 

  • “Social Movements and the Expansion of Economic and Social Human Rights Advocacy among International NGOs,” in Closing the Rights Gap: From Human Rights to Social Transformation, LaDawn Haglund and Robyn Stryker, eds., University of California Press, 2015, 149-70.

  • “The human right to water and advocacy for urban water supply: after the privatization struggles,” in The Social Practice of Human Rights, ed. Joel R. Pruce, Palgrave MacMillan, 2015, 81-100. 

  • “Global Development Goals and Global Health: The Power and Problems of International Aid,” invited submission, Brown Journal of World Affairs, Vol. 21 Spring/Summer 2015, 149-162.

  • “Cooperation, Association and Solidarity in International Finance?  Forms of Pro-Social Investment in Microfinance,” chapter in Social and Solidarity Economy: Beyond the Fringe? Peter Utting, ed., London: Zed Books, 2015, 202-220.

  • "Religious Institutions and Voices in International Development," funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. 2008-2011.

  • Co-authored with Ellen Dorsey. New Rights Advocacy: Changing Strategies of Development and Human Rights NGOs. Georgetown University Press, 2008.

  • Co-authored with Ellen Dorsey. "New Rights Advocacy in a Global Public Domain," European Journal of International Relations 13 no. 2 (2007): 187-216.

  • Co-authored with Ellen Dorsey. "At the Nexus of Human Rights and Development: New Methods and Strategies of Global NGOs," World Development 31 no. 12 (2003): 2013-2026.

Consultancies, Public Service, and Awards/Honors

  • Member, Western PA Support Association for Oikocredit, 2006-2016 

  • Member, Board of Directors, Oikocredit USA, 2009-2015(http://oikocreditusa.org)

  • Member, Board of Directors, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 2010 to present

  • FLACSO (Facultad Latinoamericana de las Ciencias Sociales), Buenos Aires, 1997-99: For a project financed by the Ford Foundation, conducted research on the evolution of decision-making, governance, and civil society policy at the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.

Other Faculty and Academic Administration Positions

  • Program Director, International Development, 2007-2015

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
3601 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260