Director of AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights:
A Human Rights Champion for the 21st Century
and How She is Changing the World
Felice D. Gaer is director of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. The Institute conducts research and advocacy to strengthen international human rights protections and institutions worldwide.
In addition to her role at AJC, Gaer is Vice-Chair of the Committee Against Torture, the United Nations treaty-monitoring body that reviews government compliance with the Convention Against Torture, a treaty ratified by 153 countries. Nominated by the U.S. and elected by the ratifying states in 1999 and three times since, Gaer is the first American to serve as an independent expert on this official UN treaty body. Gaer is also currently Chair of the Leo Nevas Task Force on Human Rights of the United Nations Association of the USA. From 2001-2012, Ms. Gaer served five terms on the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal commission that advises the President and Secretary of State on U.S. policy to advance freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief around the world. She served three times as Chair, and three times as Vice-Chair, and in this capacity has travelled to more than 20 countries, including Saudi Arabia, China, Afghanistan and Russia, to examine religious freedom conditions. In 2012, she was appointed to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.
Gaer was appointed as Regents Professor at The University of California at Los Angeles in 2010. Her additional accolades include receiving the First Freedom Center’s National Religious Freedom Award in 2010; membership in the Council on Foreign Relations; serving on the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch/Europe and Central Asia and on the board of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation; past service on boards of the Eleanor Roosevelt Center and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute; and serving as the 1998 chair of the steering committee for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a coalition of more than 100 organizations.
In 2002 and again 2003 she was cited in The Forward’s annual “Forward Fifty” list of Jewish leaders. Calling her, “the American Jewish international human rights expert in residence,” the newspaper cited her unique “wealth of experience...in the field of human rights.”
Additionally, Ms. Gaer was a public member of nine U.S. delegations to UN human rights negotiations between 1993 and 1999, including the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Beijing World Conference on Women (1995), and the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights (1993).
Gaer is a frequent lecturer and author of more than 40 articles about human rights, the UN, non-governmental organizations, U.S. policy, and related issues. Her essay, “And Never the Twain Shall Meet? The Struggle to Establish Women’s Rights as International Human Rights,” appears in the American Bar Association's book, The International Human Rights of Women: Instruments of Change. She has been active in ensuring that women’s rights are addressed as human rights, and that violence against women, including rape, has been addressed effectively by UN human rights bodies.
Ms. Gaer is a graduate of Wellesley College, from which she received the Alumni Achievement Award in 1995. She also received advanced degrees from Columbia University.