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Adotei Akwei ’84

Adotei Akwei ’84 is currently the Interim Chief Collaboration Officer at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the largest grassroots human rights organization in the world.

Before this, Akwei served as the Deputy Director for Advocacy and Government Relations for Amnesty International USA. He rejoined AIUSA in September 2010 after serving as the Senior Policy Advisor for CARE USA.

Prior to joining the Government Relations team in Washington DC, he served as the Regional Advocacy Advisor for CARE’s Asia Regional Management Unit. As an RAA, Adotei supported CARE Country Offices in Asia in the development and implementation of national-level advocacy strategies as well as with regional advocacy priorities. Before joining CARE, Adotei worked with Amnesty International USA for 11 years, first as the senior Advocacy Director for Africa and then later as Director of Campaigns.

Akwei was born in Ghana, where his father worked as a diplomat in the Foreign Service and later for the United Nations, which brought his family to New York.

In 1980 he enrolled at Purchase to study economics, at his father’s request. However, his interest in economics waned the more he was exposed to classes in international relations, African literature, and political science. Professors Connie Lobur, John Gitlitz, and Jean Herskovitz were all influential, but it was Professor Peter Schwab who significantly impacted Akwei’s life’s work.

He viewed the 1974 Vietnam War award-winning documentary film, Hearts and Minds, in Professor Schwab’s class, which inspired him to dedicate himself to fighting abuse.

Akwei earned a Master of Arts in Government and International Relations from William and Mary College. During his 30-plus year career in advocacy work, he testified before Congress, participated in human rights missions to Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia, and pursued advocacy work in Zimbabwe and Malawi.

He helped develop and implement campaigns that address issues affecting Africa and Asia, such as poverty, child soldiers, the conflict diamonds trade, HIV/AIDS, climate change, and the empowerment of women, to name just a few.

In 2000, he received the Washington Peacemaker Award from American University for work promoting human rights values to university students; in 2003, he earned fellowships at the National Endowment for Democracy and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.

He returned to Purchase in 2017 to deliver the Mary Edwards Lecture, “Breaking the Glass Ceiling and Human Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Critical Challenge of Women’s Rights.”

In 2020, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Purchase College.