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Georgette Gagnon

  • Mentor 2016
  • Alumni
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Director of human rights
United Nations Assistance Mission

    Georgette Gagnon is an international human rights lawyer and activist with extensive expertise implementing ground-breaking programs and initiatives that advance human rights and the rule of law in real-world settings.

    Gagnon has designed and implemented strategic initiatives on human rights, the rule of law, and political affairs for 20 years. She has led and managed large, diverse teams, conducted investigations, analysis, and reporting; formulated policy recommendations; and achieved positive change in policy and practice in conflict and post-conflict countries. She has deep experience in advocacy and engagement with governments, military actors, armed opposition groups, civil society, and the media, and she has held a number of senior positions in multilateral institutions and government, and nongovernmental organizations.

    Gagnon's most recent position was that of director of human rights for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Kabul, Afghanistan (2010-2015). In that capacity, Gagnon was a leader in the international community's efforts with the government and people of Afghanistan to protect civilians in the armed conflict and reduce civilian casualties, eliminate violence against women and girls, reform institutions and practices to end the torture and arbitrary detention of conflict-related detainees and facilitate an inclusive nation-wide Afghan civil society-led peace and reconciliation initiative (the Afghan People's Dialogue on Peace). In 2012, Gagnon was the director of human rights for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria in Damascus, where she served as a senior human rights advisor to then UN-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Kofi Annan.

    From 2004 to 2010, Gagnon worked with Human Rights Watch as the executive and deputy director of the Africa Division. From 2001 to 2003, she was director of human rights for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo.  Gagnon has served as a legal expert on human rights and the rule of law for the Canadian government on projects in China, India, and Sudan, and for the United States government in Sudan. She has also been a human rights officer with UN missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Rwanda.

    Prior to her international work, Gagnon practiced civil and criminal litigation with McCarthy T├ętrault in Toronto, Canada. She holds an LLM with distinction in international human rights law from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and an LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto.

    The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation appointed Georgette Gagnon a Trudeau mentor in 2016.