HRI is an independent capacity building organization, founded in Chicago in 1976 and later housed at Harvard Law School. HRI was originally known as "Internet: the International Human Rights Documentation Network," identifying as an international network of human rights organizations and a clearinghouse of human rights documentation. In the 1990s, with the development of technology and the onset of globalization, HRI recognized the need to incorporate the electronic internet into its work.
In keeping with HRI''s solidarity-building and networking, the incorporation of web technology has furthered HRI''s activities in human rights education efforts, its databases and documentation collections and its ability to bring together the successful strategies and other lessons of various, and sometimes remote, human rights organizations.
Since 1990, HRI has been headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. From Ottawa, HRI communicates with thousands of organizations and individuals around the world working for the advancement of human rights.