Felice D. Gaer, a human rights activist, has dedicated herself to championing the rights of people around the world. Gaer graduated from Wellesley in 1968 with an honors degree in political science. By 1973, she had received her M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University, as well as a certificate from the Russian Institute, now the Harriman Institute.
In 1974, Gaer joined the Ford Foundation as a program officer in the International Division, responsible for Soviet and Eastern European studies and affairs. Through this position, she was involved in many of the discussions that revolved around Eastern Europe at the time, such as disarmament, international policy, and research. She left the Ford Foundation in 1982 to become the executive director of the International League for Human Rights, the oldest American-based international human rights organization. As the executive director, she helped to free numerous political prisoners in several countries.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Gaer joined the United Nations Association of the USA as the executive director of European programs. She traveled throughout the Eastern European region to investigate human rights abuses and to direct programs that assessed the challenges facing Eastern and Central Europe in the post-Cold War period.
Gaer became the director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee in 1993, a position she still holds. Between 1993 and 1999, she was appointed as a public member of nine U.S. delegations to UN human rights negotiations, including the World Conference on Human Rights (1993) and the World Conference on Women (1995). In 1999, she was elected to serve as the first American member of the Committee Against Torture. This Committee reviews governmental reports on their compliance with the Convention Against Torture treaty.
In 2001, Gaer was appointed to serve on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, advising the president and Congress on U.S. human rights policy. Throughout her career, Felice Gaer has advocated many aspects of human rights, specifically focusing on the rights of religious freedom, the rights of women, and the prohibition of torture.
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