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William G. O’Neill

Guest Speaker

    Professional affiliation

    Independent Expert, Human Rights, Haiti, United Nations

    Full Biography

    William G. O’Neill is currently the UN Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Haiti.

    O’Neill is a lawyer specializing in humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law, with a special focus on the establishment and maintenance of the rule of law in post-conflict situations. In this capacity, he was senior advisor on human rights in the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, chief of the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda, and led the Legal Department of the UN/OAS Mission in Haiti. He helped establish the Haitian National Police in 1995, advising on recruitment, testing and training the then new police force and worked closely with Haitian human rights organizations to help train their human rights monitors. He has also worked on judicial, police, and prison reform in Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Timor Leste, Nepal, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    O’Neill is a visiting professor of Human Rights Law at the Global Campus for Human Rights in Venice, Italy and at the Scuola Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy. He has created and delivered courses on human rights, rule of law and peacekeeping for a number of universities and peacekeeping training centers, and has taught senior military, police and humanitarian officials from dozens of countries.

    An architect of the United Nation’s rule of law strategy through his chairmanship of the organization’s Task Force on Developing Rule of Law Strategies for Peace Operations, O’Neill also directed a research team at the Social Science Research Council dedicated to providing the UN with independent analyses of conflicts around the world.  He has published widely on rule of law, human rights, and peacekeeping, including, Paper Laws, Steel Bayonets:  The Breakdown of the Rule of Law in Haiti (Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, 1990), Kosovo: An Unfinished Peace (Lynne Rynner Publishers, 2001) and Protecting Two Million Displaced: The Successes and Shortcomings of the African Union in Darfur  (Brookings Institution, 2005). Fluent in French and conversant in Haitian Creole, German, Spanish and Italian, O’Neill has advised European foreign ministries on human rights issues and has testified before both houses of the U.S. Congress.

    O’Neill’s undergraduate degree is from Haverford College, where he was a Thomas Watson Fellow; he has Masters degrees from Stanford University and the London School of Economics and a J.D. degree from New York University.