The non-profit human rights organization that works to prevent and remedy human rights violations
Fortify Rights investigates and documents abuses, provides customized technical support to human rights defenders, and presses for solutions. It is based in Southeast Asia and registered in Switzerland and the United States.
HEBREW UNION COLLEGE-JEWISH INSTITUTE OF RELIGION HEREBY CONFERS
THE 2018 ROGER E. JOSEPH PRIZE
Who, as a leading international human rights organization, embodies Judaism’s supreme values of protecting the sanctity of life and human freedom
Whose moral passion guides the investigation and documentation of human rights violations to challenge the conscience of the world
Whose commitment to propagating unprejudiced, trustworthy information to the general public, policymakers, and other stakeholders seeks the prevention and remedy of human rights violations
Whose compassionate advocacy confronts a world afflicted by ethnic, racial, and religious hatred, and provides vital support for the victims and defenders of human rights
And who fulfills the teaching of our tradition that “to save one life is to save an entire world.”
May 6, 2018
21 Iyar 5778
City of New York
The 2018 Roger E. Joseph Prize was presented to Fortify Rights at the Ordination Ceremonies of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on Sunday, May 6, 2018 at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York at Fifth Avenue at 65th Street, New York City. The Joseph Prize was accepted by Matthew Smith, Co-Founder and CEO, Fortify Rights.
Fortify Rights, based in Southeast Asia, works to ensure and defend human rights for all. This nonprofit organization investigates human rights violations, engages stakeholders, and strengthens initiatives led by human rights defenders, affected communities, and civil society. It believes in the influence of evidence-based research, the power of strategic truth-telling, and the importance of working closely with individuals, communities and movements pushing for change.
Fortify Rights has documented how the Myanmar Army, Air Force, Police Force, and armed civilians have carried out unprecedented, widespread, systematic, and brutally efficient mass killings and atrocities committed against the civilian men, women and children of the Rohingya population, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority living primarily in the Rakhine State in western Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country. This horrific persecution has resulted in a forced displacement of nearly 700,000 Rohingya since October 2016 - more than half of the entire population in of the northern Rakhine State. Thousands of Rohingya survivors of the attached continue to cross into Bangladesh, contributing to the fastest-growing outflow of refugees from a country since the Rwandan genocide. Fortify Rights’ mounting evidence points to the threat of a new genocide in our own time.
By independently documenting and exposing human rights violations while teaming with activists to advocate for change at local, national and international levels, Fortify Rights aims to fortify the human rights movement.
Founders of Fortify Rights
Matthew Smith is a founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights and a 2014 Echoing Green Global Fellow. He previously worked with Human Rights Watch (2011-2013), where he authored several reports on critical rights issues in Myanmar and China. Matthew also served as a project coordinator and senior consultant at EarthRights International (2005-2011). His work has exposed wartime abuses and forced displacement, crimes against humanity, “ethnic cleansing,” multi-billion dollar corruption, "development"-induced abuses, and other human rights violations. He has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and other outlets. Before moving to Southeast Asia in 2005, Matthew worked with Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights on Speak Truth to Power. He also worked as a community organizer in New York City and as an emergency-services caseworker in Mobile, Alabama. He has an M.A. from Columbia University and a B.A. from Le Moyne College.
Amy A. Smith
Amy A. Smith is a founder and executive director of Fortify Rights. Previously, Amy worked as a consultant focusing on regional migration and refugee protection issues with the Labor Migration and Trafficking Unit of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Office for Southeast Asia. Amy served as the Myanmar and Thailand researcher for the International Secretariat of Amnesty International and worked with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Malaysia and Thailand, facilitating research and programming with urban and camp-based refugees from Myanmar. For several years, she worked with the Chin Human Rights Organization and remains on its board of directors. Amy authored numerous reports and publications on human rights and humanitarian issues, including for Human Rights Watch, and has experience providing legal representation and expert testimony for asylum seekers in the U.S. Amy is a licensed U.S. attorney with a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law and a B.S. from Northeastern University.