US antiwar activist and founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1997 for her work in raising public awareness of the horrific effects of landmines in the aftermath of conflict and helping to forge an international agreement signed by over 100 countries to outlaw landmines.
ICBL was launched in 1992 by six nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with Williams as coordinator. Since then she has overseen its growth to include over 1000 NGOs worldwide and has worked in close cooperation with United Nations (UN) bodies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. At a diplomatic conference in Oslo in 1997, the ICBL reached its goal when an international treaty was formulated banning antipersonnel landmines. Williams was invited by UN Commissioner for Children, Graca Machel, to serve as technical adviser to the UN Study of the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.
Born in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA, Williams achieved a BA from the University of Vermont (1972), a master's degree in teaching Spanish from Brattleboro, Vermont (1976), and a master's degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, DC, (1984).
In her early career, Williams worked as a teacher of English in Mexico, the UK, and Washington, DC. From 1984 to 1986 she was coordinator of the Nicaragua-Honduras Education Project, leading fact-finding delegations. From 1986 to 1992 she was deputy director of Medical Aid for El Salvador, based in Los Angeles before coordinating ICBL.
Williams has spoken worldwide on the landmine problem in forums including the United Nations, the European Parliament, and the Organization of African Unity (OAU; later African Union). She has written newspaper and journal articles and co-authored a study based on a two-year research project describing the socioeconomic effects of landmine contamination in four afflicted countries. Her publications include After the Guns Fall Silent: The Enduring Legacy of Landmines (1995) (with Shawn Roberts), ‘Landmines and Measures to Eliminate them’ in International Review of the Red Cross (July-August 1995) and ‘The Protection of Children Against Landmines and Unexploded Ordinances’ in Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: Report of the Expert Group of the Secretary General, Ms Graca Machel, A/51/306 (26 August 1996).