Two prominent human rights advocates will lead the international board of Human Rights Watch starting on October 28, 2016, when Robert Kissane, chairman of Community Counseling Services (CCS), joins Hassan Elmasry, managing partner at Independent Franchise Partners, as co-chair. Kissane will succeed Joel Motley as co-chair.
As chairman of CCS, Kissane heads one of the leading consulting and management firms specializing in capital and endowment campaigns and nonprofit consulting. Kissane, an American, has more than 30 years of international experience designing and directing innovative fundraising programs for leading health, educational, religious, cultural, human service, and environmental institutions. He joined the Human Rights Watch board in 2002.
“I grew up in a far more intolerant world yet my parents were outspoken about racism and civil rights, so I learned the value of human rights early on,” Kissane said. “Every day at work I see how human rights are fundamental to human development, to freedom of speech and religion, to education, to health care. And I’ve seen the impact that Human Rights Watch has in persuading governments to uphold our rights.”
Elmasry, who grew up in the United States and now lives in London, came to Human Rights Watch in 2004. “My family’s experience in America and our strong connections to the Middle East have taught me the value of living in a society where human rights are generally respected, and how difficult it is to live with dignity when they’re not,” Elmasry said. “I’ve seen firsthand the impact Human Rights Watch can have around the world. I’m thrilled to continue in a leadership role in support of the exceptional staff pursuing these efforts.”
Under the leadership of Motley and Elmasry, which started in October 2013, Human Rights Watch experienced significant growth, expanding its annual budget by $15 million and adding close to 50 staff positions around the world. Major advances in human rights during their tenure include securing justice for the atrocities of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, who was sentenced to life in prison for war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity by a Senegalese special court in May; the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force to stem the bloodshed in the Central African Republic; moves to limit child marriage in several countries; overturning homophobic laws and promoting marriage equality; and persuading governments to increase assistance and improve the lives of Syrian refugees by letting adults work and children go to school.
“Hassan and Bob bring the experience needed to help Human Rights Watch extend its reach and remain a principled voice for human rights in this challenging time,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. Roth also commended Motley for his impact on the organization: “Joel’s prominence in the human rights movement was essential to our development as we bolstered our ability to confront the most egregious human rights abuses and advocate on behalf of vulnerable people worldwide.”
Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, with a staff of more than 400 working on some 90 countries.