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…)

obama_nobelRight-wing bloggers blazed at the audible gasp that went up from the crowd when the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced (first in Norwegian, then English) that it had awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama.  In its press statement, the Committee described Obama as heralding a “new climate in international politics” in which  “multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position” with emphasis on “dialogue and negotiations” and the role played by the United Nations and other international institutions (tho not civil society). (more…)

dsc_0110My friend bought me a gift back from her mid-winter vacation in Fiji, a bottle of “Freedom Water” that promises the consumer the “power or right to act, speak, of think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” I guess the thought is carefree, but hardly applicable to Fiji right now.

According to my friend, Kiwis holidaymakers should no longer expect a warm welcome in Fiji (no matter what you pay). Locals expressed support for the interim government put in place by the military regime two and a half years ago, while local media reported fluff and nothing of substance.

Fiji was the subject of collective hand-wringing at the Pacific Forum leaders meeting in Cairns last week. Human Rights Watch called for stronger action to tackle Fiji’s ongoing abuses. Australia and New Zealand secured “agreement” for a free trade deal with Pacific nations barring Fiji, while they weakened the climate change goal in the final communique.

“Freedom Water” is bottled of Fijian company Aqua Pacific, which has been criticised by pro-military bloggers. We should probably all be wary of bottled water – it might taste good, but it ain’t helping the planet…

cdThis morning I had a “Forrest Gump” making history moment at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, where we were launching our new Banning Cluster Munitions report. Before our press conference got underway, Thomas Nash and I decided to pop upstairs to see if the notice that the Conference on Disarmament (CD) was open to ther public was true. We walked into the viewing gallery of the grand room just as the CD chair was concluding a statement outlining a possible programme of work for the CD diplomats to negotiate a new treaty on fissile materials, which would ban production of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium used to make nuclear bombs. (more…)

fijiOver the past month the situation in Fiji has deterioated dramatically. The past two years since the military took power in December 2006 were bad, but now the situation is untenable. According to my count, four people have died in or after being held in military and/or police custody and dozens more have been detained and assaulted.  It was not exactly a “bloodless” coup nor is the situation as “calm” now as some portray it. (more…)