NEW YORK - January 25 - Veteran human rights advocate Larry Cox has been named executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the organization's Board of Directors announced today. Cox, currently Senior Program Officer of the Ford Foundation's Human Rights Unit, will begin his new position on May 1st. Cox joins AIUSA following a period of expansion under the leadership of Dr. William F. Schulz, whose term expires this April.
"At this critical juncture in the human rights movement, Larry Cox will ably lead AIUSA as it takes on its broadest range of human rights concerns ever," said AIUSA Board Chair Rick Halperin. "As he continues the growth and progress that Bill Schulz set in motion, Cox will bring his keen insight and vast human rights experience to bear on galvanizing support for the protection of human rights."
Cox plans to advance the organization's critical work of asserting human rights as a basis for peace and security in the post-September 11 era -- particularly in the United States, which he cites for abdicating its role as a human rights leader. "Serious violations of human rights, including torture and disappearances, have not only been committed but justified by the very country--the United States--that has invaded other countries in the name of human rights and democracy. The assertion that the United States is above international law is a very dangerous one to make not only to the cause of human rights but also to the security of all Americans.
"Combating terrorism must include a willingness to address its root causes, including a failure to institute economic, social and cultural rights," said Cox. "Amnesty International is uniquely positioned to fight the twin challenges of terrorism and torture because of the strength of its committed activists who give a voice to the voiceless and speak truth to power. Leading AIUSA into a new era of human rights advocacy is both exciting and challenging and will only be viable if we continue our legacy of fighting on behalf of individual human beings."
During his 10-plus years at the Ford Foundation, Cox became the Senior Program Officer in the Human Rights Unit, which has the largest budget of the foundationís six programs. Among his many initiatives, Cox made the first-ever series of foundation grants in the areas of economic, social and cultural rights and played a leading role in creating a new U.S. Human Rights Fund aimed at raising $10 million to support and strengthen the U.S. human rights movement. He previously served as executive director of the Rainforest Foundation, where he developed and oversaw the organization's initiatives to protect the rainforest and the human rights of its indigenous populations, helping to win unprecedented victories for the Menkragnoti and Panara people of Brazil.
In assuming leadership of AIUSA, Cox's career will come full circle 30 years after joining the organization as its first press officer. Cox spent nine years at AIUSA, from 1976 to 1984, establishing the organization's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty before becoming its first communications director and first deputy director. He then spent five years as Deputy Secretary General at Amnesty International's London headquarters, from 1985 to1990.
By the end of Cox's first stint at AIUSA, the organization had a staff of 60 and operated on an annual budget of $8.7 million. During Schulz's tenure, which began in 1994, AIUSA entered a period of growth, with its full-time staff doubling from 80 to 160, its operating budget growing to $42 million, and its membership growing to 360,000.
Schulz, who announced several years ago that he would step down this spring, has also overseen an expansion of the organizationís work to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights, advocacy on behalf of those seeking asylum in the United States, a Denounce Torture Initiative, which focuses attention on the treatment of prisoners held by the U.S. in its "war on terror," among others.
"Larry Cox is one of the most respected leaders in the human rights movement," said Schulz. Though he brings more than 30 years experience in human rights work to his new position at Amnesty International USA, he has always been an innovator and a visionary, ready to prod and inspire human rights activists to think in new ways and act with new energy. He will bring that same sensibility to Amnesty. I could not be more pleased to have him as my successor."
Founded in London in 1961, Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 1.8 million members worldwide. Amnesty International undertakes research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights. AIUSA is the largest national section of Amnesty International.