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…)


My long-time colleague and friend Tun Channereth, who received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), greeted the opening and delivered the campaign’s statement to a regional meeting on the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty that I attended in Bangkok, Thailand on 2-3 April 2009.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister  Kasit Piromya also spoke at the Bangkok Workshop opening and made a point of acknowledging the Cambodian delegation to before he left. This was in part because the day before he had been quoted as calling Cambodian’s Prime Minister Hun Sen a ‘thug.’ The minister claimed he had been mistranslated. (more…)

london25mar09The problem with taking photos is that you can’t take ‘em when you speak – that’s what happened at the London event to launch the Disarm DVD on 25 March 2009. It was fun evening though and thanks for Thomas for his photo!  About 60 guests attended the event at Portcullis House in the British parliament, which featured a panel comprised of Dogwoof’s Andy Whittaker member of parliament Frank Cook, former BBC journalist and parliamentarian Martin Bell, and Disarm director Mary Wareham. Co-director Brian Liu was unable to attend the London launch. (more…)

dsc_4582brimaryweblrWe released the DVD of our documentary feature film on landmines, Disarm, at at the beautiful Scandinavia House venue near the United Nations in New York Monday, 2 March. A massive snowfall the night before and throughout the day had us worried that the event would be a bust, but 150 people showed up to watch the film and listen to a panel discussion featuring diplomats, activists and the filmmakers. A full report on the event is available on Disarm’s website. The film can be purchased from Amazon, rented from Netflix, and purchased via digital download from IndiePix.

Next Step Productions is grateful to everyone involved in the production of the DVD (especially Disarm director Brian Liu, Guillaume Bernadeau, Amy O’Byrne, Nick Pimentel, Katy Wood, and our translators).  We are grateful to IndiePix for their taking Disarm on and for their phenomenal organising around the New York launch event – many thanks to  Bob Alexander, Danielle DiGiacomo, Ryan Harrington, Liz Ogilvie, and Matt Posorske. Finally, a big thanks to the speakers and participants at the New York event as well as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) for its support.

dsc_0016I stopped in Managua, Nicaragua this week to attend the first the first in a series of regional meetings planned in the lead-up to the Mine Ban Treaty’s Second Review Conference, which will take place in Cartagena, Colombia from 30 November-4 December 2009. Government representatives from 18 countries across the region attended the Managua Workshop as did campaigners from a dozen countries.  The campaign’s delegation included eight landmine survivors from Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Peru.

It was interesting to be back in Nicaragua; my first visit was eight years ago just after 9/11. The mine clearance work in the region is nearing completion. Nicaragua is the last country in Central America still complete its demining program. They are working hard to meet this goal by December, but it requires ongoing funding to complete. We had a disheartening discussion on $$$ with the U.S. embassy, as the U.S. demining programme had unilaterally decided that Nicaragua is “mine-impact free” and no longer requires support. Shame that the U.S. couldn’t have taken a joint decision together with other donors who are part of the Mine Ban Treaty as Nicaragua still requires continued support in order to be “mine-free.”

disarmdvdart-loWe’re preparing an event in New York to launch the DVD of Disarm. After completing the film in 2005 it screened at film festivals in the United States and around the world until Janson Media picked up the film’s broadcast distribution. Last year, independent film distributor IndiePix agreed to distribute the Disarm DVD, which we spent many, many months preparing. We’re very proud of the final product. The DVD is loaded with extras including 40 minutes of deleted scenes and director’s commentary. It includes subtitle French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

The DVD will be available from stores in Canada, the US and UK, online at Amazon and Netflix, and available via digital download. We’re asking all our friends and supporters to PLEASE buy the film, spread the word, and leave comments and ratings on the Disarm profile on Amazon and Netflix.

We’re working with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) on the 2 March event at Scandinavia House in New York, where we’ll will launch the DVD and commemorate the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty’s tenth anniversary. The speaker line-up includes Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, Colombian Ambassador Claudia Blum, Norwegian Ambassador Mona Juul, and Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch. It should be a great launch for Disarm’s long-awaited DVD!

I just found out that Palau joined the Mine Ban Treaty on 18 November 2007 (my birthday!), bringing the number of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty to 156. The announcement of the accession was made on the first day of the Eighth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Jordan. Palau’s close military ties with the United States, which has not joined the Mine Ban Treaty, complicated its ability to join the treaty. The announcement is really nice as I provided the Landmine Monitor update on Palau for this year’s report and have on several occassions met the diplomat who made the accession happen. Here’s a photo of Marvin T. Ngirutang that I took in Zagreb in 2005.

Today ICBL’s Landmine Monitor Report 2007 was released with events around the world. I provided the Pacific updates for this year’s report after the death of long-time landmine campaigner John Head. I handed the report over to David Hodge, principal of Auckland’s Rangitoto College (the largest high school in Australasia), at the conclusion of a day of activities on landmines and cluster bombs. The school’s media director Peter Harwood set up the launch to mark the conclusion of a school semester that had seen all 640 of the school’s Year 10 (Form 4) students learn about landmines as part of a national curriculum piece on social action. My film documentary film Disarm featured among the teaching resources. Landmine Monitor received some media attention here because, according to the South Korea update, New Zealand imported 1,000 Claymore mines in 2006. This mines are permitted under the Mine Ban Treaty if operated in command-detonated mode only. TV 3 also ran a piece on the launch event, but not until 8 December?

This afternoon I’m headed to John Head’s funeral. He passed away on Sunday, 4 February 2007. John worked to ban landmines with people in government, military and civil society both in NZ and overseas from the early days back in 1992 until ill health forced him to slow down a couple of months ago. John still had a telephone next to his bed though and would call me up about the newsletter, Landmine Monitor research, and to talk about cluster munitions. The award of the 2001 Queens Service Medal (QSM) was a fitting acknowledgment of his work. I had a lot of fun working on our last campaign event at parliament together – his perseverance made it happen. John is survived by Avril, his wife of 57 years, two children, and nine grandchildren.

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