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South African Ambassador to Speak on Crises in Darfur, Congo

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October 4, 2006 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

Barbara Masekela, South Africa's ambassador to the United States and for many years a key political activist in the fight to end apartheid in South Africa, will give the keynote speech at a dinner Oct. 5 that precedes an Oct. 6 symposium at Northwestern University that will shine a spotlight on the humanitarian crises in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Leading academic, governmental and non-governmental representatives, human rights advocates and corporate representatives will gather at the symposium to evaluate the response of the international community to the crises and urge action to alleviate the suffering.

The Symposium on the Humanitarian Crises in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the fifth annual transatlantic dialogue, is co-presented by the Bluhm Legal Clinic's Center on International Human Rights at the School of Law with the Northwestern University Journal of International Human Rights and the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.

Masekela will deliver her dinner address at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the School of Law, 357 E. Chicago Ave. (Editor's note: Ambassador Masekela's talk is open to the press, but not to the public.)

Other distinguished leaders who will participate in the symposium include Christoph Harnisch, delegate general for Africa, International Committee of the Red Cross; Mark Bowden, chief of policy, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; and David Scheffer, the new director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law and the former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues who led the U.S. delegation in U.N. talks establishing the International Criminal Court.   Bowden will open the conference Friday, Oct. 6, with his talk at 9 a.m., and Harnisch will deliver the luncheon address (Editor's note: Harnisch's address is open to the press, but not to the public.)

Note that the symposium is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and from 1:45 to 5:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, at Northwestern's Wieboldt Hall, 339 E. Chicago Ave.

Symposium participants will address gross human rights abuses against civilians with perspectives on two of the biggest news stories out of Africa, the continuing genocide in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo's ongoing struggle to recover from its bloody civil war, to integrate warring militias and to hold peaceful elections.

“Why has the international community failed to intervene effectively in humanitarian crises in Africa?” Scheffer asks. “What can be done in the future to goad that community to redress grievous wrongs in a timely fashion? Those are the main questions that will be addressed.”

Participants will offer their perspectives on those questions, with recommendations on humanitarian, security and judicial issues. There will be a call for concrete action to redress the human rights abuses, with analyses of the roles of the United Nations, the African Union, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, humanitarian organizations, governments, national courts and the International Criminal Court.

Keynote speaker Masekela spent many years in exile in the United States during the liberation struggle in South Africa against apartheid rule. During that time, she was an assistant professor of English literature at Staten Island Community College. After the release of former South African President Nelson Mandela, she joined his office as chief of staff. In 1995, Mandela appointed her ambassador to the Republic of France as well as ambassador to UNESCO. South African President Thabo Mbeki appointed Masekela ambassador to the United States in 2003.   

The symposium is organized by the Center on International Human Rights, by Scheffer, its director and the Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law, and Stephen Sawyer, clinical assistant professor and general counsel of the center. The event is being offered in partnership with Columbia University's Human Rights Institute, the University of Notre Dame's Center for Civil and Human Rights and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. It also enjoys the support of major U.S.-based law firms with an international practice.

For the symposium program, go to: http://www.law.northwestern.edu/news/fall06/humanrightssymposium.html

Topics: Campus Life