Davis 2018

Photo: Damien Marti/SNIS

Sara L.M. Davis (known as Meg) is an anthropologist and human rights activist. Her first book, Song and Silence: Ethnic revival on China’s southwest borders (Columbia U Press, 2005) showed how young ethnic Buddhist monks used pop music and epic oral traditions to revive and reinvent their culture. Her forthcoming second book, The Uncounted: Politics of data in global health, looks at how lack of data on HIV among criminalized, hidden populations results in lack of funding for programs that could save their lives; but gathering that data can expose those populations to risk of arrest, violence and more. In 2017, a related article won the International Geneva Award.

In the 15 years between these two books, Meg was the first China researcher to work on the mainland for Human Rights Watch. She founded and was executive director of Asia Catalyst, which has strengthened the advocacy skills of hundreds of community-based groups in China and Southeast Asia. As the first senior human rights advisor for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, Meg led the process of putting minimum human rights standards into grant agreements, establishing a human rights complaints procedure, and funding programs to remove legal barriers to health services. She was part of the team that established the Global Fund Community, Rights and Gender department, working with key populations leaders to conceive and establish the CRG strategic initiative, which funds civil society groups to provide technical assistance to their peers and governments.

Since 2015, Meg has worked as a consultant for UN and NGOs, including human rights lawyer Allan Maleche and the Developing Country NGO Delegation to the Global Fund Board. She teaches a course for emergency program managers on sexual violence at the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (CERAH). Meg earned her Ph.D. at University of Pennsylvania and held postdocs at Yale and UCLA. She was a visiting scholar at NYU, Columbia University, and Fordham. Her publications include Journal of the International AIDS Society, International Journal for Human Rights, Health and Human Rights, and Modern China, as well as numerous NGO reports and op-eds in the South China Morning Post and International Herald Tribune. She is often an invited public speaker, and works in English, French, and Chinese (Mandarin). Meg lives in Geneva, Switzerland.