John Edmundson, the President of AEDH, steps down


On 8th June at the General Assembly, John Edmundson announced his decision to step down from the presidency of Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme. He reflects on his experience as the head of the organisation.

AEDH : In the trimestral newsletter of December 2012, you said you wanted to “try finding a balance between several needs : renew the functioning, continue working with defenders of human rights in the field, turn AEDH into a long-lasting association”. What is your assessment today ?

My answer to that is tepid. We have certainly continued working with human rights defenders in the field : it is our "raison d’être". This year, we have collaborated with 59 associations in Latin America, Central Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Through this work, we have ensured a technical and financial support.

This change reflects not only the policy of AEDH but meets the needs of our collaborators on the field as well as the demands of our funders.

We have also worked for a better internal functioning with a collegial and consultative approach : essential for a small team. These are ongoing changes.

Are we going to live on ? Certainly, especially considering that this year was the first for a long time that has given us a positive balance sheet. We have improved our financial situation and therefore our vision for the nearest future. But let us not fool ourselves : fundraising is a long-term work, building networks and relations of trust. These last four years we have made several financial partners that we must perpetuate.

AEDH : What have been the strengths of your mandate, your main satisfaction ? 

The highlights will always be field missions. In 2014, during a visit to South Kivu (DRC), meeting defenders with the most basic facilities was overwhelming.

The courage and infallible hope of those women and those men who risk their lives daily for a better future, earns my most sincere admiration. We stay in those countries for very short visits, and then quickly back home. These people know nothing other than threats, brutality and death.

In Lyon, Brussels and London, I have had the privilege to work with many people that sahre this hope to make life better. Colleagues become friends and that is priceless.

Finally, each time we managed to obtain funding for a project, the satisfaction is huge because that ensured the continuity of AEDH and values the work of the team.

AEDH : The association has gone through a period of transition during your mandate. What are, according to you, the new challenges for the organisation ? 

The major challenges are the size of the team and the geographical concentration. An organisation cannot be static. The momentum requires a new boost !

With four employees, we have managed to engage numerous projects but we need the means to guarantee their implementation and their success. In the 2017-2020 strategy, we need to expand our team, to at least 7 employees.

On another note, our intervention areas are targeted. Indeed, it would be impossible to intervene efficiently in all continents. We must decide where to concentrate our efforts, maybe strengthening our work in Latin America, a region where we have been well established before. Central Africa is our “speciality”. Should we expand to the East, the North ?
In terms of rights, we have decided : the rights we defend will be those that we and our collaborators consider to be the most threatened in the local context.

AEDH : Your presidential mandate is coming to an end, how do you see your future involvement with AEDH ?

I can see it mostly the way it started : as a translator and occasional visitor on the field, if my health allows it. It will soon be 15 years since AEDH became an inspiration for me: it is an association that I will continue to support.

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