Securing Civilian Life

As executive director of Crisis Action, Andrew Hudson LLM '06 works to protect human rights in conflict areas.

Andrew Hudson LLM ’06 developed a passion for international human rights at a strikingly young age. Before finishing undergraduate studies, he had already served as president of the United Nations Youth Association of Australia and as Australia’s first youth representative to the UN. Now, with more than two decades of international advocacy experience behind him, Hudson has taken on the role of executive director of Crisis Action, a non-profit organization that works to protect civilians from armed conflict around the world.

Andrew Hudson LLM '06The experience of growing up in Australia, Hudson says, was crucial in developing his outlook on the world. “It’s an isolated location. A lot of Australians are interested in the world, because we tend to be more of an outward looking country, especially compared to the United States,” he says.

To counteract that geographic isolation, Hudson’s parents took him out of primary school for a year in order to travel the world, visiting countries including Egypt, Thailand, and India. “Going to lots of developing countries, and seeing the way that other kids were different from me, was formative,” he says. “As soon as you have that global perspective, you become so aware of all the human rights violations that are out there, and that the world is an inequitable place.”

Christian Leathley LLM ’06, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills and an adjunct professor at the Law School, notes that his friend and classmate is extremely proud of his Australian origins despite being, like himself, partially of English descent. “He’s a stubborn [guy],” Leathley says, laughing, “but in a professional setting his stubbornness just confirms how committed he is to his work. He’s got a rigorous pragmatism to him, and a very clear view on the world.”

Hudson’s interest in international human rights led him to pursue a degree in law and politics at the University of Melbourne, where he helped found the Melbourne Journal of International Law. Then, as a recipient of the John Monash Scholarship, Australia’s most prestigious postgraduate scholarship, Hudson arrived at NYU Law to pursue his LLM degree. Hudson credits his clinical work with Professor Margaret Satterthwaite ’99 and his work as a research assistant for Professor Philip Alston as being particularly influential in shaping his understanding of human rights law and fieldwork.

Following his time at NYU, Hudson received the Arthur Helton Fellowship to work at Human Rights First, where he led that organization’s engagement with the UN, before joining Crisis Action, first as New York director, then as deputy executive director. In that role, he helped to lead the organization’s expansion into the Global South.

Crisis Action now has 10 offices around the globe, although, Hudson notes, the organization works to keep a low profile. “What’s unusual about our approach is that we work entirely behind the scenes, which is why most people have not heard about us—that’s on purpose,” Hudson says. Crisis Action works with a range of players including aid organizations, human rights organizations, business leaders, religious leaders, and governments to coordinate political responses to violent conflicts as they emerge.

“We work to harness the power of coalitions, because we think that conflict is often so difficult to stop that only a collective approach can have an impact,” Hudson says. “Sometimes we say we’re the orchestra conductor, because what we do is amplify the most powerful voices on a particular conflict.”

Currently, Crisis Action is working in conflict areas including Syria, Yemen, Burundi and South Sudan. “In the various trouble spots where Crisis Acton works, it’s a constant uphill battle fighting against very problematic forces,” says Alston. However, Alston adds, his former student’s temperament is perfectly suited for this kind of emotionally challenging work.  “Andrew has irrepressible optimism and a determination to try to do something regardless of how good the prospects are. When all around him might be a little intimidated and down at heart, Andrew is the one marshaling the troops.”

Looking ahead, Hudson hopes to continue improving Crisis Action’s reach outside of the West, and increasing the speed with which they can respond to global crises. “The warning signs are often very clear of an impending mass atrocity,” Hudson says. “I’d like us to be even more nimble in responding to emergencies as they break out.”

Posted February 1, 2016