Field Notes

Field Notes

Field Notes: May 2013


Inside PROOF

  • Friends and Colleagues
  • Countdown to Auction Time
  • Traveling with PROOF: London
  • Get That Classroom on Its Feet!

In the News

  • Sponsored by People Like You: A Light in the Tunnel of Human Rights

                   Healing Old wounds
                   Good News from the Balkans
                   Sadly, No End to Pain in Darfur
                   Keeping Up the Pressure
                   Act Now to End Child Soldiers

Inside PROOF

Friends and Colleagues

April’s terrorist attacks delivered global conflict to our doorstep, forcing us to deal squarely with violence, disruption, and the world’s ideological rifts. While Boston was terrorized and locked down, PROOF Executive Director Leora Kahn was on a Fulbright in Israel, where rockets from Egypt landed in the Red Sea city of Eilat.

And not unrelatedly, an independent task force confirmed the widespread use of torture after 9/11 by agents of the US government.

But like spring’s promise, this issue of "Field Notes" is cautiously hopeful because, as you will see below, hope in our field is warranted. Thanks to a global wave of determined effort, we are making headway in the fight for universal human rights.

For a personal take on the complexities of working in the field, see our two recent blog posts from Ester Harrius, intern at PeaceWomen, and Gabriella Citroni, legal advisor with our partner organization TRIAL.

Click here to read our blog.


Countdown to Auction Time

Our Annual Benefit Auction is just four weeks away so waste no time. If you haven't bought tickets yet, do it today!

We have so many exciting photographs on offer, and expect a spanking good time to be had by all. Click here to check out our online gallery of photographs that will be up for bid on the night.

Have fun, bid on art, nourish your aesthetic side, and support PROOF—all for a $35.00 ticket ($40.00 at the door).

Join us on May 30 at the Highline loft in New York City. Click here to find out more information.

To buy tickets, click on the button below.

Traveling with PROOF: London

Even after a conflict ends, shattered social relations and old wounds can trigger hatred, revenge, and violence.

But alongside the atrocities are acts by “ordinary” heroes who risked their lives to save people their peers labeled as the enemy.

At the Media, War, and Conflict Conference in London on April 11 to 12, Leora Kahn presented a paper on the role of stories of memory and rescue in the aftermath of violence.

After a conflict ends, communities find solace in positive narratives, such as those of our “Picturing Moral Courage: the Rescuers” project. For example, the Kigali Memorial Museum is displaying our exhibit of Hutu rescuers in Rwandan high schools to promote reconciliation in that country.

Such efforts have helped create a striking turnaround story—the World Bank rates Rwanda as having one of the ten most improved economies in the world.

On a related note, Leora’s working paper “The Cambodian Rescuers: Retrieving Memories of Prosocial Behavior Under the Pol Pot Regime” was published last month by the Genocide Studies Program of Yale University. Click here to download the PDF.

The paper explores the issues that arise when defining who is a rescuer in the context of Cambodia's civil war.

We'll cover Leora’s work in Israel in our June issue.


 Host an Event

If you would like to host any type of event, please email us at or call us at 212-213-2788.

Donate to PROOF

From poker events to information nights, PROOF supporters have been finding fun ways to raise funds to support PROOF's projects.

Every dollar you donate helps bring our projects to life. We use your donations to hire translators, photographers, researchers, drivers, and many other types of help and expertise. We also need money to create our exhibitions and enable them to travel, including in areas where conflict persists.

Partner With PROOF

During the past year, we added three new partner organizations. We’re always interested in forming new partnerships. Email or call us to discuss possible avenues of collaboration with your organization.

Get That Classroom on Its Feet!

If you are teaching in the fields of human rights or peacebuilding, be sure to check out our ever-expanding Teachers' Resources page on the PROOF website. It's a good starting point for finding videos, tool kits, and other resources for students of all ages.

We've been expanding this new section of our site and will continue to add items as we bump into new ones we think would be helpful.  And if you have any to share, we’d love to hear from you.  Email us at

In the News

Sponsored by People Like You: A Light in the Tunnel of Human Rights

When the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it gave birth to the modern concept of human rights. That baby’s had a rough life—since then, we’ve seen no shortage of ugly headlines.

But a groundswell of concerned people, NGOs, international bodies, and tenacious victims have unleashed a global tide of advocacy and pressure to end human rights abuses.

As a result, a shift in attitudes in almost every corner of the globe is extinguishing the tolerance of abuse and demanding justice for victims.

Healing Old Wounds

Though the fight is far from over, it’s heartening to see redress even for crimes committed long ago.

For example, the perpetrators accused of these long-neglected atrocities are now finding themselves in court:

  •  Hissène Habré—Senegal and the African Union are prosecuting the former Chadian dictator for crimes committed from 1982 to 1990.
  • Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier—the former Haitian president was questioned in court on allegations of human rights abuses committed from 1971 to 1986.
  • Efraín Ríos Montt—Guatemala’s former dictator went on trial for the genocide of Mayan people in the 1980s, the first head of state to be tried for genocide by a country's own justice system.

Montt’s story is still unfolding. On April 18, as proceedings were wrapping up, the trial was suspended—after hundreds of survivors had testified how soldiers had massacred and raped Mayan villagers. Appeals are underway. For an in-depth update of this evolving situation, click here to get more information from the Open Society Foundation.

Three steps forward, two back? Surely so. But empirical evidence shows that all kinds of evils—war death, family violence, racism, rape, and murder—are on the wane.

If you’d like to see some data, tune into Stefan Wolff’s TED talk: The Path to Ending Ethnic Conflicts.

A new book by Joshua Goldstein, Winning the War on War, credits successes in peacebuilding with the tireless efforts of international and humanitarian organizations as well as grassroots movements.

As more people make their voices heard, we are building a deterrent to bad behavior. We are delivering signals to the strongmen of the world that violence will no longer be tolerated anywhere, by anyone.

Good News from the Balkans

On April 19, Serbia and Kosovo signed an EU-brokerage agreement to normalize relations, giving them a fresh opportunity to protect human rights and address past abuses.

A lack of cooperation has impeded accountability for past abuses. Now both parties are committed to working together to account for past crimes against humanity. The fact that both countries seek to become EU member states should help motivate them to make their domestic rights records in sync with European standards.

Sadly, No End to Pain in Darfur

Troubled Darfur reminds us how elusive progress can be. In early April, a donor conference in Doha, Qatar, raised less than $1 billion from potential donor countries to finance development in Darfur.

That figure fell far short of the $ 5.7 billion goal. Donors are loath to give money to a regime that refuses to account for its use of development funds.

But the continuing conflict also contributes to pessimism: development has little chance of success amid the chaos that reigns in Darfur.

The Sudanese government still targets civilians, still uses the pernicious Janjaweed militia, and general lawlessness has fueled inter-communal violence. This year, more than 130,000 people have fled their homes, and thousands have died according to the UN.

The Sudanese government still targets civilians, still uses the pernicious Janjaweed militia, and general lawlessness has fueled inter-communal violence.

Keeping Up the Pressure

Gabriella Citroni from TRIAL.

Gabriella Citroni from TRIAL.

“ . . .indifference makes possible the perpetuation of abuses and impunity,” writes Gabriella Citroni in her blog post describing her work to ensure the prosecution of human rights abuses.

She advises us to stay aware of world events, have a sound consciousness, and think critically.

“It is too easy to blame the single perpetrator without also looking at the bigger picture and trying to understand complicities, root causes, and involvement of the international community, including our own countries.”

As we noted above, the latter phrase is timely: a 577-page report by Constitution Project concluded that the US tortured detainees after Sept. 11. The practice was widespread, brutal, and sanctioned at the highest levels of government.

Two former members of congress, Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat James R. Jones, led the elite task force that reviewed the data over two years and issued its findings on April 16. Click here to read the report.

Act Now to End Child Soldiers

According to UNICEF, armed groups in the Central African Republic have recruited thousands of children since conflict began there in December.  You can do your part by signing a petition to Help End Child Soldiers.

Photo: Peter Mantello

Photo: Peter Mantello