After 25 years, EarthRights International co-founder Katie Redford is moving on from the organization to lead a new initiative, while still supporting EarthRights in an advisory capacity. She reflects on the past 25 years at EarthRights, and what’s next for the organization as we continue to grow. 

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but next year, EarthRights will celebrate our 25th Anniversary. In so many ways, those early days with three of us—Ka Hsaw Wa, Tyler Giannini, and myself—and one computer in a tiny office in Thailand seem like yesterday. But as we approach this milestone, and reflect on all of our accomplishments, the list is as long as the years, and we’re excited to look ahead to new opportunities. And I, too, am thinking about the next steps in my life’s work.

We started out determined to do what others said was “impossible” and we have proved the naysayers wrong time and again. Whether it was holding corporations accountable for human rights abuses, or building our one-of-a-kind Mitharsuu Leadership Center in Chiang Mai, we have defeated the odds. From last year’s historic Supreme Court victory that ruled that international organizations like the International Finance Corporation can be sued in U.S. courts and launching the Protect the Protest taskforce, to laying out a strategy to protect earth rights defenders worldwide and ushering in the 20th year of the EarthRights School, we are proud of our work in protecting frontline communities and holding corporations accountable for abusing people and the planet.

A quarter of a century into this adventure, we are now 70 people strong and counting. We have offices on three continents and a school where we give communities the tools they need to tackle corporate abuse head-on. We have the infrastructure to support our work and a world-class Board of Directors, Senior Leadership Team, and staff to bring our vision to life. In other words, EarthRights is stronger than ever.

Of course, the challenges we face as a movement are only growing larger and more complex. The climate crisis is real and urgent. Those in power are doing little to stop it as fossil fuel corporations continue their destructive business practices using increasingly aggressive and dangerous measures against anyone who stands in their way.

I feel strongly that the climate crisis is the most urgent threat to human rights and the environment facing us today. In fact, the corporations that are at the heart of the problem are the very same ones that I’ve been fighting my entire career. I am ready to continue that fight in a new way and pour all my energy into this challenge. The timing is right for me to take a step back from my beloved organization and begin my next adventure! I’m thrilled to be joining forces with my long-time friends and allies from the Rockefeller family.

In my new capacity, I will be leading the Equation Campaign, a new initiative launching in 2020 to aggressively and explicitly confront the industries undermining people and the planet, support movements and frontline communities, and help mobilize those who have traditionally been left out of the climate debate. This is where my attention needs to be and what I feel called to do right now. I look forward to applying the same bold, visionary strategies that EarthRights is known for as we tackle the climate crisis.

EarthRights is as ready as I am to make this leap! As part of the organization’s evolution, my partner and co-founder, Ka Hsaw Wa, will continue to lead EarthRights in his role as Executive Director, supported by Deputy Director Lara Johnson, our Senior Leadership Team, Board of Directors, and staff. I will, of course, still continue to provide leadership and support to EarthRights and our partners. We are currently finalizing the specifics of my future role as part of our five-year strategic planning process.

While this news is bittersweet, I would not be making this change if I didn’t think EarthRights was poised to thrive in this transition. I started this organization 25 years ago with my best friend from law school, Tyler Giannini, and the love of my life, Ka Hsaw Wa, and it has been a proud, powerful, and joyful journey to be part of this family and this organization as it has grown.

As we look ahead to our 25th anniversary in 2020, EarthRights is more committed than ever to unite with allies, partners, and supporters to prevent human and environmental abuses, protect communities and resources from exploitation, shine a light on corruption, and obtain justice for targets of abuse. I am too and will remain one of EarthRights’ greatest champions.

Thank you for all that you have done to support EarthRights. I also know you will continue to remain a strong partner in our work to build a healthier and more just and equitable world.

–Katie Redford