Nobel Peace Laureates

“Landmines distinguish themselves because once they have been sown, once the soldier walks away from the weapon, the landmine cannot tell the difference between a soldier or a civilian - a woman, a child, a grandmother going out to collect firewood to make a family meal... The landmine is eternally prepared to take victims... It is the perfect soldier, the ‘eternal sentry.’”
- Jody Williams
Jody Williams was born in Vermont in 1950. She learned to hate injustice at an early age when she saw her fellow school children who ruthlessly picking on her brother who was deaf and suffered from schizophrenia. Like many teenagers of her generation, she also became dedicated to the cause of peace while protesting the war being waged in Vietnam.

After attending the University of Vermont in Burlington, Williams returned to Brattleboro, Vermont, where she earned a master's degree in teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language in 1976. She then taught in Mexico for two years. Teaching in Mexico was Jody’s first exposure to extreme poverty. From Mexico, she moved to Washington, DC. There, she worked two jobs and attended Johns Hopkins University, which led to a master's degree in international relations in 1984.

One day Williams was handed a leaflet on the street, about U.S. involvement in a civil war in El Salvador. This conflict seemed to her to be very similar to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and she soon began working passionately to stop the U.S.- backed war. For two years she led delegations to Central America as coordinator of the Nicaragua-Honduras Education Project. She also served as the deputy director of organization Medical Aid for El Salvador, developing humanitarian relief projects.

Jody Williams explains why she has joined in issuing the Global Call to Action.

Banning Land Mines

In late 1991, Bobby Muller, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, called Williams to see if she was interested in coordinating a new effort to ban landmines worldwide. She leapt at the opportunity to mobilize non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to press this worthwhile cause. Millions of these explosive devices remain buried in the ground in countries around the world long after the wars in which they were used have ended.

In October 1992, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) was formally launched. The ICBL called for an end to the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of mines. As the campaign's chief strategist, Williams wrote and spoke widely on the landmine problem and the need for a total ban. Her audiences included the United Nations, the European Parliament, and the Organization of African Unity.

Together with Shawn Roberts, she co-authored After the Guns Fall Silent: The Enduring Legacy of Landmines (VVAF, 1995). Their book detailed the more hidden costs of landmine use, such as the long-term effects of land mines. Besides the costs of treating landmine victims, the mines mean that people cannot travel or work safely. Land goes unused, causing unemployment and poverty.

"People have this idea that land-mined fields are set off with barbed wire like they are in World War II movies, but that is not how it is," Williams once told a reporter. "They put them where people go. They put them next to watering holes, along the banks of the river, in the fields. It is not realistic for people to stay out of those areas."

An International Ban

Working without an office or staff, and relying primarily on fax machines and e-mail to disseminate information, Williams convinced more than 1,000 NGOs from 60-plus countries to support the campaign. The ICBL got a tremendous boost when Princess Diana became a vocal landmine critic and visited landmine victims in Angola and Bosnia - two of the most heavily mined countries in the world - in the months before her death.

Their efforts got another boost in 1996, when a meeting hosted by the Canadian government agreed to draw up an international treaty banning landmines. In December 1997, the treaty was signed , with the support of 122 countries In little more than five years, Jody Williams and the ICBL had achieved their goal of raising public awareness about landmines and effecting a landmine ban. In recognition for their efforts, the Norwegian Nobel Committee named Williams and the ICBL as co-recipients of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

In conferring the award to Williams and the ICBL, Francis Sejersted, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said, "There are those among us who are unswerving in their faith that things can be done to make our world a better, safer, and more humane place and who also, even when the tasks appear overwhelming, have the courage to tackle them... You have helped to rouse public opinion all over the world against the use of an arms technology that strikes quite randomly at the most innocent and most defenseless."

To date, more than 156 countries have signed the landmine ban treaty.

While she no longer serves as the coordinator of the ICBL, Williams serves as its international ambassador. Recently, she has supported the ICBL’s efforts for a new Cluster Munitions Treaty by participating in diplomatic negotiating rounds. She was also the head of the United Nations High-Level Mission of the Human Rights Council to report on the situation of human rights in Darfur.

Jody Williams is also spearheading the Nobel Women’s Initiative. The Nobel Women's Initiative was established in 2006 by sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire. These six women -- representing North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa -- have decided to bring together their extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality.