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John Prendergast

International Affairs Expert


John Prendergast is a human rights activist and best-selling author who has worked for peace in Africa for thirty years. He is the Founding Director of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity. He is also the Co-Founder of The Sentry, a new investigative initiative focused on dismantling the networks financing conflict and atrocities. John has worked for the Clinton White House, the State Department, two members of Congress, the National Intelligence Council, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and the U.S. Institute of Peace.  He has been a Big Brother for over 25 years, as well as a youth counselor and a basketball coach.

John is the author or co-author of ten books.  His latest book, Unlikely Brothers, is a dual memoir co-authored with his first little brother in the Big Brother program. His previous two books were co-authored with Don Cheadle: Not On Our Watch, a New York Times bestseller and NAACP non-fiction book of the year, and The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes. He is also beginning a book project on the Congo with Ryan Gosling and New Yorker writer Kelefa Sanneh.

John is a board member and serves as Strategic Advisor to Not On Our Watch, the organization founded by George Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and Brad Pitt.

John appears in the Warner Brothers' motion picture The Good Lie, starring Reese Witherspoon. He is a primary subject of the book by Jane Bussman, A Journey to the Dark Heart of Nameless Unspeakable Evil.

During his time in government, John was part of the facilitation team behind the successful two-year mediation led by Anthony Lake which ended the 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the deadliest war in the world at the time. He was also part of peace processes for Burundi (led by Nelson Mandela), Sudan (led by Lazaro Sumbeiywo) and Congo.

Under the Enough Project umbrella, John has helped create a number of initiatives and campaigns.  With George Clooney, he co-founded the Satellite Sentinel Project, which aims to prevent conflict and human rights abuses through satellite imagery. With Tracy McGrady and other NBA stars, John launched the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program to fund schools in Darfurian refugee camps and create partnerships with schools in the United States. Through the Enough Project, he conceived the Raise Hope for Congo Campaign, highlighting the issue of conflict minerals that fuel the war there and supporting a more comprehensive peace process, and its companion Conflict-Free Campus Initiative. He also helped direct the Sudan Now campaign, which supported the holding of a peaceful referendum for South Sudan.

John has been awarded six honorary doctorates. He is or has been a visiting professor at Stanford University, Yale Law School, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, American University, Kean University, American University in Cairo, the University of San Diego, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, Albright College, St. Mary's College, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Eckerd College.

John has appeared in four episodes of 60 Minutes, for which the team won an Emmy Award, and helped create African characters and stories for two episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, one focusing on the recruitment of child soldiers and the other on rape as a war strategy. John has also traveled to Africa with NBC’s Dateline, ABC’s Nightline, The PBS NewsHour, CNN’s Inside Africa, Newsweek/The Daily Beast, and the New York Times Magazine.

He has appeared in several documentaries including: Blood in the Mobile, Sand and Sorrow, Darfur Now, 3 Points, and War Child, as well as two forthcoming documentaries on Congo. He also co-produced with Martin Sheen and Melissa Fitzgerald the documentary After Kony: Staging Hope, which focuses on Northern Uganda. John partnered with Downtown Records and Mercer Street Records to create the compilation album Raise Hope for Congo, combating sexual violence against women and girls in Congo.

He has been profiled in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Men's Vogue, Time, Entertainment Weekly, GQ, Oprah Magazine, Capitol File, Arrive, Interview, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

John has received the following awards: The Huffington Post Game Changer Award; the United Nations Correspondents Association Global Citizen of the World Award; the Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award; the Princeton University Crystal Tiger Award; the U.S. Department of State Distinguished Service Award; the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution Award; Outstanding Literary Work for Not on Our Watch at the 39th NAACP Image Awards; 12th Annual Moste Lanterns Award; Global Action Humanitarian Award; American University School of International Services Alumnus of the Year; Southern California Mediation Association Randolph Lowry Lecturer Award; Dispute Resolution Services Louis M. Brown Conflict Prevention Award; Leon H. Sullivan Foundation Special Service Award; Temple University Alumni Fellow; Kean University Human Rights Institute Award; the State Department’s Superior Honor Award; and the Champion of Human Life Award from The Values Network.


How Our Consumer Habits Help Finance Death in Africa

Did you know your laptop is funding the war in the Congo, the deadliest global conflict since World War II? What we buy and how we buy has an impact even if we don't realize it, from the loss of human lives and wildlife to the eradication of cultures, forests and governance. In this presentation, John Prendergast uses everyday consumer items (car keys, diamond earrings, cell phones) to illustrate their connection to war and atrocity in Africa through supply chains where war is being funded. With state institutions hijacked by criminal networks and billions of dollars disappearing due to the corrupt partnership between African leaders and international enablers, including banks, electronic companies and foreign governments, a peaceful future requires transparency, accountability and consumer pressure on offending nations.

10 Building Blocks for Making a Difference in the World & in Your Neighborhood

John has followed two paths towards making a difference: locally through being a mentor and "Big Brother" to kids whose fathers are absent, and globally through his work for human rights in Africa. A dynamic presenter, John talks about how he stumbled onto both of these paths in his early 20s, and then provides the "ten ingredients" he has used to make a difference throughout these last three decades. In this inspiring talk, John intersperses personal stories of Africa, celebrities and life in general to show how change can happen.

Good News Stories from Africa: How Hollywood & the Media Get it Wrong

The standard image of Africa is a starving baby, a continent of helplessness and a population ensconced in victimhood. These impressions are reinforced by the media, especially big-budget motion pictures that portray Africans as helpless or inherently violent. However, the reality is far different. In this revelatory talk, John illustrates the differences between "Hollywood Africa" and the African continent as it truly exists today, peeling back the veil of mystery and showing a vibrant, growing society filled with culture and promise.

The Holocaust, Modern Genocides & the Anti-Atrocities Movement

Genocide has evolved over time since the Holocaust. But the variables going into genocide have remained the same: targeting people on the basis of their identity. The biggest symbol of hope on the horizon regarding efforts to counter genocide is the growing people's movement to stop it from happening. In this motivating presentation, John talks about the power of social movements and how they have been used – and will continue to be used – as the major force in the prevention of genocide and other social atrocities.

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