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Gay Johnson McDougall

International human rights leader and Agnes Scott alumna Gay Johnson McDougall '69x, H'10 will speak at Agnes Scott's College's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. in Gaines Chapel, Presser Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

McDougall served as the first United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues from 2005 through 2011. She was executive director of the international NGO Global Rights from 1994 through 2006. 

Among her many other international roles, from 1997- 2001 she served as an Independent Expert on the UN treaty body that oversees compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; she played a leadership role in the UN Third World Conference against Racism; and she was Special Rapporteur on the issue of systematic rape and sexual slavery practices in armed conflict for the UN Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (1995-1999). 

She was one of five international members of the South African governmental body established through the multi-party negotiations to set policy and administer the country’s first democratic, non-racial elections in 1994, resulting in the election of President Nelson Mandela and the transition from apartheid. For 14 years prior to that appointment she had served as Director of the Southern Africa Project of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In that capacity she worked with South African lawyers to secure the release of thousands of political prisoners from jail. 

Among her recent academic roles have been the Mulligan Distinguished Visiting Professor in International Law at Fordham Law School (2013); and the Robert Drinan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. (2011-2012). 

In 1999 she was a recipient of the coveted MacArthur “Genius” Award. She has also received the Butcher Medal of the American Society of International Law for outstanding contributions to human rights law and the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. 

She received a J.D. from Yale Law School and an LL.M. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has Honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), the School of Law of the City University of New York and Agnes Scott College.