Today, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) announced the appointment of Paul O’Brien as its new Executive Director, following an extensive global search that led the Board of Directors to unanimously pick O’Brien to assume the leadership of AIUSA. O’Brien, who officially joins AIUSA on April 15, brings a wealth of experience in international leadership, coming to the organization after 14 years at Oxfam America where he oversaw campaigning, policy, and advocacy.
O’Brien is joining AIUSA at a time of both great opportunity and unprecedented challenges to human rights in the U.S. and around the world. While the Biden administration has taken welcome steps to address human rights abuses and harmful policies affecting communities here and abroad, O’Brien and AIUSA will continue to advocate for a much bolder, transformational strategy that places human rights at the forefront of all domestic and foreign policies.
“I grew up overseas admiring Amnesty International as the voice of the human rights movement and have seen the organization as a beacon of hope for human rights activists ever since. I feel honored that my decades-long journey working to advance human rights has led me to Amnesty International USA and its incredible team of advocates,” said Paul O’Brien, incoming Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “More than ever, we will need the energy of Amnesty’s millions of supporters to make our full agenda for human rights a reality, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together.”
“I know Paul is the right leader for Amnesty International USA in this moment. He 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, Board Chair of Amnesty International USA. “We are excited about his vision of shared leadership and commitment to listening to and fostering diverse perspectives across the organization.”
As O’Brien takes the helm of AIUSA, he will focus on immediately expanding the organization’s impact in this new chapter for the organization, strengthening AIUSA’s ability to maximize its impact in the years and decades to come, and doubling down on the organization’s commitment to be a partner to communities who are confronting abuses and in the struggle to claim their human rights.
Hear directly from O’Brien in this video as he shares what guides him each day, his commitment to AIUSA’s mission and his vision for human rights work moving forward.
Paul O’Brien’s appointment as Executive Director of Amnesty International USA is celebrated by many prominent human rights and social justice leaders:
“Paul is an internationalist who knows we must all engage beyond borders to achieve justice and progress in this world. He understands that issues like universal health coverage, gender equality, and human rights are inextricably connected, and I’m thrilled his intersectional perspective will now lead Amnesty International USA moving forward,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.
“Paul has been a force for progress during his decade and a half with Oxfam America and we’re thrilled that a valued member of our Oxfam family will be joining the movement for human rights by leading Amnesty International USA,” said Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam America. “His commitment to global justice is relentless, as is his mission to hold those who abuse power accountable. I look forward to seeing his leadership at Amnesty grow and expand as we continue to make progress on challenges together.”
“After four years of an administration hellbent on undermining the health and rights of women and girls, and others discriminated against, in the U.S. and around the world, we are ready for a new chapter in the human rights movement that makes health and gender equality a priority,” said Serra Sippel, CEO, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). “Paul has long known that women’s rights are human rights and I am thrilled to see him take on this new role with Amnesty International USA.”
“We’re at a turning point for the rights of people migrating to seek safety and refuge across the world. We have seen American leaders demonizing immigrants and people of Muslim faith, detaining kids in cages, and letting people die at the U.S. border. Now is the time for a deep reset of how we approach immigration policies,” said Isra Chaker, Migration and Protection Campaign Lead, Oxfam America. “Paul and Amnesty International USA have made these issues a priority, starting with freeing people from detention, and I am thrilled that a close accomplice in this fight will be taking the helm of this powerful partner that is Amnesty.”
“Fighting injustice, engaging people of all backgrounds toward a common goal, and fostering candid conversations about race and privilege are just a few of Paul’s strengths,” said Gina Cummings, Vice President of Advocacy, Alliances & Policy for Oxfam America. “He understands that the best decisions are made by a diverse table of activists, which he has proved he can convene over our years working together as part of the Oxfam family.”
“Paul is a truly visionary leader who has an extraordinary track record of bringing his passion, ideas and energy to the challenges of our world. At a time of such turbulent change and an accelerated need for progress on human rights, he will be an extraordinary leader for Amnesty International USA,” said Nancy Lindborg, CEO & President of Packard Foundation.