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Paul O'Brien, Incoming Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, in Discussion with SFC President Miguel Martinez-Saenz

Apr 22 | Thu |


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St. Francis College is pleased to welcome Paul O'Brien, J.D., incoming Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the nation's largest grassroots human rights organization, as the latest guest in the inaugural season of the SFC Human Rights Lecture Series.

O'Brien will join Miguel Martinez-Saenz, Ph.D., president of St. Francis College, in a conversation focused on O'Brien's 2020 book, "Power Switch: How We Can Reverse Extreme Inequality," in which he argues that international activism can counteract the extreme and growing inequities of wealth and power that threaten to undermine human rights across the globe.

"Paul O'Brien is a necessary voice and leader in the enduring movement to establish and safeguard the human rights of every person in our country and around the globe," said President Martinez-Saenz. "His book is critical to an understanding of the forces – often unseen – that threaten full equality of all people. I'm grateful that he is spending time with our students and with the broader community."

Officially joining AIUSA on April 15, 2021, O'Brien comes to the organization after 14 years at Oxfam America, where, as Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, he oversaw campaigning, policy and advocacy. Prior that that, O'Brien lived in Afghanistan for five years, where he worked in the office of the president and the Ministry of Finance as an advisor on aid coordination, development planning and policy reform. He has also served as CARE International's Afghanistan Advocacy Coordinator and Africa Policy Advisor.

"[O'Brien] is someone who believes in the promise of what the U.S. can be but understands how deeply its government has failed to live up to its international obligations when it comes to human rights in recent years," said Reza Fakhari, Ph.D., SFC Vice President for Internationalization and Strategic Initiatives, who is the Board Chair of AIUSA, in a March 3 statement about O'Brien's appointment as Executive Director.

"The opportunity to engage in dialogue with O'Brien is invaluable when the pandemic, coupled with other economic and political forces, threatens human rights like no other time in modern history," added Dr. Fakhari. "O'Brien predicted the Biden-Harris victory and the new administration's transformative governing agenda to come. As the new head of Amnesty International USA, he sees fierce urgency in the current political moment to demand bold progress on all aspects of human rights for everyone."

Debuting in spring 2021, the SFC Human Rights Lecture Series enlists leaders from a range of professions to address topics related to the pursuit of economic, social and political equality and justice for people around the world. The series is part of a signature human rights program that SFC, under Dr. Fakhari's leadership, is developing in partnership with Amnesty International USA. The program will include new courses as well as human rights activism and advocacy that will allow students to earn a minor certificate in human rights.

Guests in the SFC Human Rights Lecture Series so far this year have been Luna Corbetta, J.D., Principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), who delivered a talk entitled "Global Citizenship: The Future of Work, Family and Society," and Aniket Shah, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment and Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Finance and International Development at Columbia University as well as International Treasurer of Amnesty International, whose presentation was entitled "Human Rights, Sustainability and Global Finance: The Needed Convergence."

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