Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights

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Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights[1]
Founded 1968
Founder Ethel Kennedy
Type Operating public charity
(IRS exemption status): 501(c)(3)[2]
Focus Human Rights
  • Washington, D.C.
Area served
Method Awards, Advocacy, Partnerships, Education
Key people

Kerry Kennedy, President
Lynn Delaney, Executive Director
Robert F. Smith, Chairman of the Board
Santiago Canton, Director, RFK Partners for Human Rights

John Heffernan, Director, RFK Speak Truth To Power
Mission "Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is dedicated to realizing Robert F. Kennedy's vision of a more just and peaceful world."[3]

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (formerly the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, or RFK Center[4]) is a human rights advocacy organization, a nonprofit charitable organization that works to realize Robert Kennedy's dream of a peaceful and just world by advancing human rights. It works to support recipients of the RFK Human Rights Award, supports investigative journalists and authors through the RFK Book and Journalism Awards, and educates the public and empowers students to create change in the classroom. It is based in Washington, D.C.


After the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, his family and friends founded a living memorial. As that effort grew, more projects came to honor his memory. Originally known as the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, today the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is dedicated to advancing human rights through litigation, advocacy, and education.[5]

Human Rights Advocacy[edit]

Established by Kerry Kennedy in 1987, RFK Human Rights consists of three core programs: Partners for Human Rights, which works to create lasting change through litigation, advocacy, and training; Speak Truth To Power, a human rights education program; and RFK Compass, a sustainable investing initiative.[6]

Human Rights Award[edit]

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award was created by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 1984 to honor individuals around the world who show courage and have made a significant contribution to human rights in their country.

In addition to receiving a financial award, laureates can partner with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights on projects to advance their human rights work, benefiting from the resources and technologies at the foundation's disposal. Some have achieved their goals, some are in exile from their home country. The majority continue to live in their home country and work with the support of the center to establish the human rights they are working for. Since 1984, awards have been given to 43 individuals & organizations, from 25 different countries. The 2009 award was presented by President Barack Obama.[7] In 2009, the RFK Center began a partnership with the California International Law Center (CILC) at the University of California, Davis School of Law focusing on the crisis in Darfur.[8]


Book Award[edit]

The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award was founded in 1980, with the proceeds from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s best-selling biography, Robert Kennedy and His Times. Each year, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights presents an award to the book which "most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy's purposes - his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity." The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award has been recognized as one of the most prestigious honors an author can receive.[10]

Award winners[edit]

Journalism Award[edit]

The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award was established in 1968 by a group of reporters covering Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign and "honors those who report on issues that reflect Robert F. Kennedy's concerns including human rights, social justice and the power of individual action in the United States and around the world." Entries include insights into the causes, conditions and remedies of injustice and critical analysis of relevant public policies, programs, attitudes and private endeavors.

Led by a committee of six independent journalists, the Awards are judged by more than fifty journalists each year. It has become the largest program of its kind and one of few in which the winners are determined solely by their peers. Previous winners include World News anchor Diane Sawyer.[11]

In 2012 May Ying Welsh, Hassan Mahfood, and John Blair from Al Jazeera English won the U.S. Journalism for 2012 Grand Prize for their documentary Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark.[12]

Speak Truth To Power[edit]

Speak Truth To Power is the global human rights initiative founded by Kerry Kennedy and Nan Richardson, bringing people face-to-face with courageous human rights heroes. This multifaceted project presents inspiring stories of 51 women and men from over 40 countries who have stood up to oppression at great personal risk in the non-violent pursuit of human rights including demilitarization, children of war, environmental activism, and religious self-determination.[13]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]