LEWISBURG, Pa. — Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jody Williams started small when she set out to organize an international campaign to ban landmines. She built a strategy to wear down local, state, national and international officials through faxes and letters and by invoking peer pressure, until finally one country signed on and then another.
"Once I had two countries, I called it an international campaign," Williams said during a Bucknell Forum talk Tuesday night. "We had one employee: me. I was the coordinator, and I just gave everyone the same information. We pitted countries against each other, pressuring them to join because others were doing it, and it actually brought about change."
Williams appealed to world leaders and politicians as fellow human beings, she said, challenging them to answer tough questions, such as whether the short-term benefits of landmines outweighed the risks, until more than 1,300 nongovernmental organizations in more than 85 countries were involved with a common goal.
Global change Williams' talk, "An Individual's Impact on Social and Political Change," was part of the ongoing Bucknell Forum series, "Global Leadership: Questions for the 21st Century."
A former teacher, Williams became the 10th woman in history and the third American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 because of her work in creating a sweeping international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines. More recently, she has focused on stopping the genocide in Darfur and fighting for women's rights around the world.
The landmine campaign involved a cooperative effort with world governments, United Nations members and the International Committee of the Red Cross to develop the international treaty banning landmines. Williams continues to campaign against landmines and to push for the United Nations, the European Parliament and the Organization of African Unity to ban them. She co-authored a study, based on two years of field research in four countries, detailing the socio-economic consequences of landmine contamination.
Humanitarian relief In 2007, Williams was head of a high-level mission reporting to the Human Rights Council on human rights issues in Darfur.
Being an agent of change is not easy, said Williams, who in 2006 was among the six founders of The Nobel Women's Initiative, an effort to bring peace, justice and equality worldwide and to support women's rights. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Williams said she felt tremendous pressure to live up to previous successes in each new campaign she launched. Her new stature has, however, opened and provided access to world leaders for other initiatives.
"I have access I didn't have before," Williams said. "You have to learn to work with people in different sectors. The way we had most of our success is by refusing to let them hide behind a uniform."
Building awareness Before forming the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Williams worked for 11 years to build public awareness about U.S. policy in Central America. From 1986 to 1992, she developed and directed humanitarian relief projects as the deputy director of the Los Angeles-based Medical Aid for El Salvador. Among the projects was a network of hospitals in 20 U.S. cities that donated medical care to Salvadoran children wounded in the war in that country.
From 1984 to 1986, she was co-coordinator of the Nicaragua-Honduras Education Project, leading fact-finding delegations to the region. Previously, she taught English as a Second Language in Mexico, the United Kingdom and Washington, D.C.
Williams has a master's degree in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., a master's degree in Teaching Spanish and ESL from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vt., and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Vermont.
The Bucknell Forum is a national speaker series focused on major issues at the forefront of today's discourse. It features nationally renowned leaders, scholars and commentators who examine these issues from multi-disciplinary perspectives and a diversity of viewpoints and provide a model for civil discourse. A new Bucknell Forum series focusing on "Creativity: Beyond the Box," will launch this fall.
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