UC Hosts State Department Delegation
Date: Feb. 19, 2002
For Discussion On Foreign Policy
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photo by Andrew Higley
Archive: General News
In what was billed as the most important delegation of the year in the U.S. Department of State's International Visitor Program, a group of 21 representatives from some of the world's most conflict-ridden regions participated in a special human rights program at the College of Law on Feb. 15.
The college's Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights and the UC political science department co-hosted the program, "Evil and U.S. Foreign Policy: Genocide, Terrorism and Gross Violations of Human Rights."
Experts from UC offered analysis on U.S. human rights policy and U.S. foreign policy in light of the new war against terrorism. Howard Tolley from political science was the chief organizer and moderator for the program. He was joined on the panel by political science colleagues Richard Harknett, Laura Jenkins and Tom Moore.
Representing the Urban Morgan Institute was Director Bert Lockwood, who made a special trip back for the program from the United Kingdom, where he is a visiting faculty member this semester at the University of Essex.
He was joined by longtime Urban Morgan supporters Judge Nathaniel Jones from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who was the former U.S. representative to the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights.
UC's experts tried to put in academic perspective the rationale behind U.S. policy decisions, and then opened the floor to questions and comments from the delegation.
"I expect our distinguished visitors may be confused, as many U.S. citizens are, by the frequent switches in direction of U.S. policy," Tolley said.
Indeed, there was tremendous variety in the views expressed. There was consensus on the importance of human rights issues, but discussion on basic points such as the semantics of terms like "evil" or "gross violation of human rights." Viewpoints were clearly shaped by the difficulties experienced in the parts of the world represented.
The visitors are on a three-week U.S. tour. They hailed from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East. They included officials working in some of the most contentious situations in the world, such as Saber Hussain Nairab, human rights officer in the Gaza office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Norman Andrew Elliot, secretary for the Northern Ireland Parades Commission.
"This dialogue today is helpful," said Yi Kosal Vathanak, a human rights monitoring officer with the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association. "It is helpful for me, as a non-governmental official, to see what the academics have to say about these kinds of issues."
Vathanak said he was surprised to find out how much Americans seem to care about and value human rights, but that we still face struggles such as the racial unrest in Cincinnati.
"One committee member we met with this morning (from Cincinnati CAN) said that he thinks it will take 10 years to reform the police system in Cincinnati," Vathanak said. "That is the same way it is in my country."
But a point made throughout the day was that the freedom and openness of the United States often makes it easier to address the toughest human rights issues, both domestically and internationally.
Blackwell called the struggle for moral coherence a universal enterprise. "I would just suggest to you this is a struggle… this is not a perfect world, but in the American tradition, you can not have a free society without a moral basis."
The Cincinnati portion of the delegation's tour was hosted by the International Visitors Council of Cincinnati.
To view the program on streaming video via the web, see www.law.uc.edu/morgan/newsdir/evil020215/index.html.