Hi! I'm Steven W. Hawkins, the new Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. Amnesty International is a grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million dues paying members campaigning for human rights worldwide. Amnesty International investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. I'm excited to be here today on International Human Rights Day and take your questions about our work protecting individuals wherever their human rights are under attack. Go ahead and ask me anything …


Thank you all for your questions! I am grateful for channels like Reddit that provide us a forum to discuss, dissent, and disagree. Freedom of expression is human right. Keep the conversation going and take action to protect our basic human rights like this one via amnestyusa.org.

Comments: 68 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

DrAgOn__HeAt11 karma

How often do you get confused for Stephen W. Hawking?

forgot_a_leter8 karma


SteveWHawkins13 karma

I cannot read this question without thinking of the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. He was able to stay positive about his own life and the future of his country from behind prison walls for 27 years. I draw my inspiration from him and other lesser known heroes.

SteveWHawkins6 karma

Through his actions, Mandela helped shape the human rights movement as a whole, so he was deeply influential to our work. In November 2006, Amnesty named Mandela an ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ in recognition of his work over many years of speaking out against human rights abuses around the world. Mandela once said: “To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” This is Human Rights Day, and you can help us change the lives of individuals and communities facing human rights abuses through Write For Rights, Amnesty International’s annual letter writing campaign. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world participate in Write for Rights. They send text messages, write letters, post Tweets, all demanding that the rights of individuals are upheld. Amnestyusa.org/writeforrights

prophecy6236 karma

How many people have you saved from being executed by the state?

SteveWHawkins14 karma

I worked on dozens of cases throughout the Deep South. Hard to put an exact number on those that I saved, but I remember vividly those who I could not. That is why I continue the work that I do.

gacharya5 karma

Since you're new to the job, what would you like to see happen in your first year? In other words, how will you know you've made progress in sharing your passion on human rights?

SteveWHawkins4 karma

I am keen to bring human rights home and be part of the discourse in how we organize for social change. Martin Luther King was on point when he said: "I think it is necessary to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights."

butwhysir5 karma

What would you say is your proudest discovery or achievement?

SteveWHawkins11 karma

I am most proud of my work in helping to abolish the death penalty for juveniles.

butwhysir2 karma

I didn't know that you had ever done that. Is it only in the USA though? Because here in Canada we haven't had a death penalty for a long time.

SteveWHawkins7 karma

The U.S. was one of a handful of countries that still allowed persons to be executed for crimes they committed as juveniles. It was not until 2004 that we were actually able to abolish the juvenile death penalty.

Foxes_MateForLife4 karma

Hi Steve, firstly thank you! for all the good you and Amnesty International are doing on a daily basis around the world.

I was just wandering, when did you decide you wanted to work in the non-profit sector and how did you get your first job?

edit: I misspelt your name, many apologies, thoroughly rude of me

SteveWHawkins4 karma

No worries on the spelling. My passion always has been to work in the nonprofit sector. I started my career working as an attorney trying to save the lives of persons under death sentence.

Foxes_MateForLife3 karma

Also, if it's not too cheeky to ask a second question, in your profesional opinion, would you say governments are getting more or less restrained with regards to extraordinary rendition and torture? and do you believe that the transparency movement has helped (or hindered) this in anyway?

SteveWHawkins3 karma

Sad to say that torture is still very much in vogue. Amnesty is launching a global campaign against torture in 2014 and more information will be available next spring. In the meantime, check out Esperanza Spaulding's video calling for the closure of Guantanamo: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/music-and-the-arts/why-did-esperanza-spalding-record-a-song-about-guantanamo/

Throssell19882 karma


Thanks for doing this AMA I have a couple of questions for you.

1) How much of an impact do you think Amnesty does around the world? It seems like no matter what we try and do, the world keeps fighting back.

2) How mch of an influence does amnesty truly have on the world? We hear daily about the dispiccable things we do to each other, is there a bright light at the end of the tunnel?

SteveWHawkins3 karma

The struggle for human rights is ongoing. Amnesty has helped release over 44,000 prisoners of conscience since its founding in 1961. This includes our current board chair, Ann Burroughs, who was imprisoned in South Africa for her work against Apartheid. People around the world coming together for the collective action that makes our grassroots victories possible is the bright light!

nos_esse_quasi_nanos2 karma

Thanks for doing what you do. What would you consider the most urgent yet under-reported issue that you are working on now? This is reddit; make it known.

SteveWHawkins10 karma

Unfortunately, there are many, but the one I am watching right now is the Central African Republic. We currently have a team there on the ground and what they are seeing and reporting is horrific. Today the team visited a children’s hospital and spoke to small children who saw their friends killed in the very first attacks. Some of these children has been struck in the head by a machete indicating that they were deliberately targeted. Learn more http://blog.amnestyusa.org/africa/what-its-like-on-the-ground-in-the-central-african-republic/

nos_esse_quasi_nanos2 karma

That's truly horrific. As someone whose family has taken in a few ex-child-soldiers from neighboring South Sudan, I've heard more than I would ever want to about the kind of horrors going on there. What options do you see or what actions would you like to see for ending the violence there?

SteveWHawkins9 karma

The disarmament initiative started by French troops on Monday is a much needed step to stop the violence between armed groups, but one which will be difficult to implement. They must work towards the goal of enabling people to return safely to their homes and to live there in security without fear of reprisal or attack. This can not happen without adequate protection and sufficient resources.

SteveWHawkins5 karma

Just got another update from our researchers on the ground in the Central African Republic. Take a look at our images from the field: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/central-african-republic-international-community-must-ensure-effective-protection-civilians-201

Melkotnia2 karma

What's amnesty's stance on internet freedom?

SteveWHawkins4 karma

Access to information is a human right and governments cannot censor people's access to information or block their ability to freely share information.

butwhysir2 karma

What would you say is the best thing about your job?

SteveWHawkins10 karma

I enjoy meeting young people around the country and world who are passionate about human rights. I am excited in my new gig to be able to connect activists across the globe, connecting for example LGBT activists here with those in Uganda.

Reagansmash19941 karma

Are you any relation to Stephen Hawkins?

How much physics is needed for human rights and how can I (seriously) get involved helping with the great work you do or any NGO's, Charities etc. that want to make the world a better place?

SteveWHawkins8 karma

LOL! Funny you ask. When I recently saw Bono in Dublin he asked how did I have time to write all those books on astrophysics and work on human rights. No relation, but I like to think that I am the astrophysicist for human rights!

Melkotnia1 karma

Also what does the W in SteveWHawkins stand for?

SteveWHawkins6 karma

Winning :-) I kid -- it's Wayne, but my staff thought that would be funny.