On 6 December 2013 at the United Nations in Geneva, delegates attending a preparatory meeting for the Mine Ban Treaty’s 3rd Review Conference stood in silence at Mozambique’s request to mark Nelson Mandela’s death the night before. Many nations described Mandela’s contributions to freedom and democracy, while South Africa acknowledged the condolences received and said “we shared him with the world.” Less discussed, but also of significance is Mandela’s support for the ban on antipersonnel landmines, which was as much practical as it was inspirational. (more…)

My friend and colleague Jo Becker joined Human Rights Watch in 1997, the year before I came on board. We’ve been there ever since–with the occasional break–leading advocacy for the organization’s respective “thematic” divisions on children’s rights and arms.

Under Jo’s leadership, Human Rights Watch and other NGOs founded the International Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (now Child Soldiers International) in May 1998. Exactly two years later, the coalition’s efforts paid off when governments adopted a protocol to prohibit the use of child combatants in the UN General Assembly on 8 May 2000. The story of this remarkable achievement is told in Chapter One of her new book Campaigning for Justice: Human Rights Advocacy in Practice. (more…)

“Peace isn’t ‘Kumbaya’ or a dove and a rainbow,” as Jody Williams illustrates so clearly in her new book on life as “a grassroots activist to the core.”

It’s hard to believe that Jody has not published her auto-biography until now, 15 years after receiving the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Yet it’s not surprising given the intense pace at which she continues to advocate for peace and justice, both in the US and around the world. It can be hard for activists to find time to reflect and write about their own lives when there is so much to do, but recording how we work is just as necessary as doing it. (more…)

Lately I’ve been spending some time exploring and explaining the concept of humanitarian disarmament, including what it means in practice. This was spurred in part by a December 2011 decision by the New Zealand government to disband the longstanding position of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control and provide the portfolio responsibility to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Murray McCully. It also follows concerns over the lack of effective resourcing for disarmament work by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. But this work has not been restricted to New Zealand – I’m also working to bring together a ’summit’ later in the year for campaigners working internationally in humanitarian disarmament to discuss at our work and future collaboration. Hence this logo and variations on it, which you may be seeing more of…

Women have been appointed to head both the disarmament and mine action sections of the United Nations (UN). This is the first time that women have served as chief of either of these UN agencies. (more…)

I found out through Twitter today that Wangari Maathai has passed away in Nairobi, Kenya after a batter with ovarian cancer. In New Zealand, the death of a great person is compared to the falling of a tōtara tree. Wangari is a giant tōtara, a woman of great standing in Africa and around the world. (more…)

At an event tonight I asked New Zealand’s foreign minister Hon. Murray McCully when his ministry is going to embrace social media technology, when’s he going to get on Twitter? The US, UK, Australia and other countries are on board but New Zealand is conspicuously absent. (more…)

A new documentary film by Mary Wareham screened for the first time on August 1st, 2010. The 21-minute film entitled Cluster Bombs: Banned in New Zealand looks at the role of government and civil society in the process to create the convention. Made by Next Step Productions in cooperation with the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition, the film screened at an event held in Civic Square, Wellington to celebrate entry into force of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. (more…)

Last week I was stranded in Geneva, Switzerland for seven days following Iceland’s volcanic eruption. It was not a distressing experience: I had a comfortable hotel room, an office to go to, a conference to attend… Being restricted to watching CNN (the only English-language TV channel available) was about the worst inconvenience.  Yet as CNN bleated on about the costly impact of Eyjafjallajökull on European airlines, it completely overlooked an important story. (more…)

I am rarely in Geneva these days, but it seems like every time I set foot in the UN Palais des Nations, something really odd and unprecedented happens. Last time it was the Conference on Disarmament agreeing on an agenda for the first time in more than a decade. This time it was the ‘disco dancing’ contest by diplomats attending the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). (more…)

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