In the wake of the Arab Spring and as nonviolent movements in Ukraine, Thailand, Brazil, and around the world capture the global public’s attention, on Wednesday, June 18th, two activists will be recognized for their courageous use of strategic nonviolent tactics to win human rights and justice, and two prominent scholars will be honored for their groundbreaking contributions to the field of civil resistance.
The James Lawson Awards are named after and presented in person by James Lawson, a leader in US Civil Rights movement who led the Nashville Lunch Counter sit-ins of 1960 and who Martin Luther King, Jr. called, “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.”
The four Lawson awardees are:
Yorm Bopha, a 30-year old leader of a land rights movement in Cambodia who has boldly struggled alongside her community against forced evictions by the Cambodian government. As a result of her nonviolent activism, she was arrested on trumped up charges in September 2012 and became an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience while imprisoned for 444 days. In the face of government retribution, her commitment to nonviolent struggle has not wavered.
Kumi Naidoo, a human rights activist from South Africa and the current International Executive Director of Greenpeace since 2009. Naidoo was an organizer and activist in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and as the international executive director of Greenpeace, has continued to personally commit daring acts of direct nonviolent action for environmental protection. In 2011 Kumi and another activist climbed aboard an oil rig floating off of the coast of Greenland while the crew attempted to repel them with water cannons. Kumi was calling on the Scottish oil company, Cairn, to stop drilling for oil and ensure that Cairn had a response plan for oil spills.
Howard Clark, a radical pacifist and full-time nonviolent activist and researcher who chaired War Resisters’ International (WRI). His work and that of his WRI colleagues supported activists around the world to take nonviolent action to advance just and sustainable peace. He passed away in November 2013, and his partner and children will be present to accept his award.
Jacques Sémelin, a professor of Political Science at Sciences-Po Paris (Center for International Research and Studies) and Senior Researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research, who has produced many seminal publications on the use of civil resistance against dictatorships and the political roots of mass violence. He is the world’s foremost scholar on understanding how civilian-based nonviolent action can be used to resist perpetrators of extreme human rights abuse and atrocities.
“These awardees show how ordinary people can fight oppression by organizing themselves and nonviolently mobilizing to win their rights,” said Hardy Merriman, Vice President of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which organizes the Lawson Awards. “Each of them has taught others, put pressure on power-holders, and revealed that civil resistance is a potent force that will continue to shape humanity’s future.”
The James Lawson Awards will begin at 12:30 p.m. on The Tufts University campus. The event will be live-streamed online and James Lawson Award winners, Fletcher Summer Institute participants, and experts in the field of nonviolent civil resistance who are presenting at the Fletcher Summer Institute will be available for interviews afterwards.
The awards ceremony will be held at the 9th annual Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict at Tufts University, in front of activists, scholars, and journalists participating in a week long institute on civil resistance. The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (a Washington, DC-based educational foundation) partners with the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University to put on this event.
A live video stream of the awards ceremony and the remarks of the four awardees will be available at the link below. Please join us on Wednesday, June 18 at 12:30pm EST to view the ceremony.