Panelists Debate Human Rights, Conflict Resolution

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The sixth Peder Sather Symposium attracted several international academic and policy experts to the UC Berkeley campus yesterday to discuss human rights, terrorism and conflict resolution.

The symposium, titled "After 9.11: European and American Perspectives on Globalization, International Security, and Human Rights," featured speakers from Norway, Sweden and the United States.

Henrik Syse, senior research fellow of The International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway, said ensuring security must be balanced with maintaining human and civil rights.

"September 11 proved to us that terrorism is very real and brought home to every one of us our vulnerability," Syse said. "It's very obvious we need to make certain sacrifices."

We curtail our individual freedoms in the name of public safety every day, he said, citing speed limits as an example of how individuals consent to giving up their rights.

But Syse also discussed the difficulties in determining to what extent one must limit freedom.

"Our freedoms do have a risk attached to them," Syse said. "We know that, and we have to live with it."

He also said robbing people of human rights or trade out of fear is not the ideal course of action and that the question of poverty and inequality in the world needs to be examined.

Robson Research Professor of Government Ernst Haas described the relationships among suppressing terrorism, resolving conflict and protecting human rights and said it was impossible to develop foreign policy that would equally consider all three priorities.

"There is no free lunch," he said. "You've got to choose. You can't do all these things equally right."

Haas said conflict resolution is not dependent on the protection of human rights unless the conflict itself has something to do with human rights, citing several

examples of countries, such as Mozambique and Angola, which he said were able to resolve conflicts without addressing human rights.

"If you want to resolve conflict, you do not have to be concerned about human rights at the same time," he said. "Compromises never do justice or equal justice to these principles here."

But others said human rights must be considered an important factor in international relations policy.

The importance of nongovernmental organizations in documenting human rights violations was also addressed by Human Rights Center Director Eric Stover, who called on the organizations to monitor carefully the policies put forth by the United States and around the world.

"My hope for the future is that NGOs and others become even more like pit bulls than in the past because we need that vigilance," Stover said.

Stover also discussed the trend in the Bush administration to ignore the human rights abuses by some governments, such as China's crackdown on "free Tibet" activists Vladimir Putin's justification for invading Chechnya, and their detrimental effects on the people.

"There is a (tendency) of the Bush administration not to criticize other government's human rights abuses," Stover said. "They are using the cloak of 'they are terrorists' to go after legitimate democratic activists working in those countries."

The Peder Sather Symposium is a collaboration between UC Berkeley and the Norwegian Government held in honor of Sather, who made generous contributions to UC Berkeley in its early years.


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