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John  Prendergast

John Prendergast

Human Rights & Anti-Genocide Activist

John Prendergast

Human Rights & Anti-Genocide Activist


World-renowned as a voice for human rights, New York Times bestselling author and former White House and National Security Council official John Prendergast has attracted Hollywood’s A-List to focus the world’s attention on genocide, corruption and the hope for peace in Africa. Working in countries such as the DR Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia for more than 35 years, John is the Founding Director of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity. He and George Clooney partnered to co-found the Sentry, an investigative initiative chasing the assets of African war criminals and their international collaborators. John serves as The Sentry’s Executive Director, with board members that that include Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Brad Pitt. His latest book, Congo Stories: Battling Five Centuries of Exploitation and Greed, co-authored with Congolese activist Fidel Bafilemba, features Ryan Gosling’s stunning photography of Congolese daily life. In addition to his work on the world stage, John has been a big brother in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program for 35 years to a number of boys, as well as a youth counselor and basketball coach.

With Congo Stories, John is the author or co-author of eleven books, most notably the New York Times bestseller, Not On Our Watch, co-authored with Don Cheadle. He also teamed with Cheadle for The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes. John also wrote about his experience in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in Unlikely Brothers, a dual memoir co-authored with his first “little brother.” John has appeared in several documentaries including: Merci Congo, When Elephants Fight, Blood in the Mobile, Sand and Sorrow, Darfur Now, 3 Points, Son of South Sudan, and War Child. He also co-produced, with Martin Sheen, 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 also appeared in the Warner Brothers' motion picture The Good Lie, starring Reese Witherspoon.

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 aimed to prevent conflict and human rights abuses through satellite imagery. With Tracy McGrady and other NBA stars, John founded 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 launched 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 co-founded the Sudan Now campaign, which supported the holding of a peaceful independence referendum for South Sudan in 2010.

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.  During his time in government, he 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 President Nelson Mandela), Sudan (led by Lazaro Sumbeiywo) and DR Congo. He is or has been a visiting professor at Stanford University, Yale Law School, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Claremont McKenna College, Kean University, American University, and 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, and Eckerd College. He has been awarded seven honorary doctorates.

John’s life and work have consistently attracted media attention. He has appeared in Emmy Award-winning episodes of 60 Minutes and helped create African characters and stories for two episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. 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 been profiled in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Men's Vogue, Time, Entertainment Weekly, GQ, Oprah Magazine, The Hill, Capitol File, Arrive, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Spectator Life, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In recognition of his work, John has received a long list of awards, including: Vital Voices Solidarity Award, 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.

Speaker Videos

John Prendergast on CNN

John Prendergast on Enough Project

How It Ends

2011 First Year Experience Annual Conference

Speech Topics

The Astonishing Story of Congo's Connections to America, & You

For five centuries, Americans and Europeans have benefited enormously from the exploitation of the people and natural resources of a country in the heart of Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In this illuminating talk, drawn from his latest book and brought to life by photos by Ryan Gosling, Prendergast captures this astonishing history. He also shares how the people of Congo are risking their lives fighting back, supported by human rights movements led by young people in the U.S. and Europe. Blending 500 years of history with the headlines of today, Prendergast demonstrates that because of these brave change-makers, the way the world deals with Congo is finally changing.

War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping War Profiteering by Following the Money

Perhaps more than any other factor, war has driven and shaped human history. Superficially, many wars seem to have had no clear rationale or identifiable cause. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and there is one common denominator: unchecked greed. War may be hell for the people, but it is very profitable and politically beneficial for a small group of opportunists. John Prendergast illustrates this by focusing on the region of the world that he has spent the better part of the last 35 years working on: East and Central Africa. Together, Sudan, South Sudan and Congo have become the deadliest global war zone since World War II. When combined with genocide in Rwanda, Darfur, and the Nuba Mountains, the death toll amounts to over ten million in the last three decades alone. Prendergast chronicles this tragic history and what it means to the future of these tragically war-torn nations.

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

John Prendergast has pursued two paths to making an impact: locally, as a mentor and "Big Brother" to kids with absent fathers, and globally, as a human rights in Africa. In this inspiring talk Prendergast tells how he stumbled onto both of these paths as a young adult. He also shares ten building blocks that have contributed to three decades of making a difference. Along the way, Prendergast intersperse personal and inspirational stories of driving change in Africa, along with his work with celebrities such as George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright and Don Cheadle.

From the Holocaust to Modern Genocides & the Anti-Atrocities Movement

From the Holocaust to Rwanda and Darfur, genocide has one tragic commonality: the targeting of people on the basis of identity. John Prendergast examines genocide and its impact on the Jewish, Rwandan, Darfuri and other targeted peoples. He looks at the similarities and differences between contemporary genocides and the Holocaust, and how genocidal tactics have evolved since the Holocaust. He also highlights the growing people's movement to fight the causes of genocide, ethnic cleansing and atrocities. Calling these movements the greatest hope to prevent and end the greatest of human tragedies, Prendergast explores how the world’s response has changed since the Holocaust—and what we all can do to prevent it from ever happening again.