News and Notes

Issue Date January 1994
Volume 5
Issue 1
Page Numbers 155-57
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Serb and Croat Intellectuals Meet for Roundtable Talks

Forty-one independent Croat and Serb intellectuals (including 14 from Belgrade) gathered in Zagreb, Croatia, on November 20-22 for an open roundtable discussion to examine possible solutions to the ongoing conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Organized by the Erasmus Guild, a private organization of Croat intellectuals founded in January 1993 to promote democracy, the roundtable was the first such meeting between citizens of Croatia and of Serbia since the war began in 1991.

Roundtable participants met for five sessions and concentrated their dialogue on three main topics of concern: interethnic relations, economics, and political strategies. All agreed that the most important thing was that such a meeting was able to take place at all, and that differences could be discussed in an open and tolerant environment. It is hoped that this roundtable will be the first of an ongoing Citizens’ Dialogue between Serbs and Croats, and it was agreed that the next meeting will be held as soon as possible in Belgrade. The Erasmus Guild is currently organizing a similar roundtable between Muslims and Croats.

RFK Award Recipients Discuss Democracy

On November 18, a conference entitled “Moving Toward Democracy: The Human Rights Challenge” was held in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the presentation of the tenth annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Established in 1984, the award honors individuals who have dedicated their lives, often at great personal risk, to the protection of human rights.

The day-long conference, cosponsored by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and American University’s Washington College of Law, featured three panels focusing respectively on national security laws and human rights, human [End Page 155] rights activism during periods of democratic transition, and human rights protection within the framework of civil society. Also featured were addresses by Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II and Attorney General Janet Reno.

Participating on the panels were such former RFK Human Rights Award winners as Adam Michnik and Zbigniew Bujak (Poland, 1986), Gibson Kamau Kuria (Kenya, 1988), Fang Lizhi (China, 1989), and Chakufwa Chihana (Malawi, 1992), as well as the 1993 awardee, Bambang Widjojanto. A lawyer and one of Indonesia’s leading human rights activists, Widjojanto was recognized for his courage and leadership in defending the rights of indigenous peoples in Irian Jaya, the Indonesian-controlled western half of New Guinea.

Conference on African Christianity and Democracy

On September 20-23, nearly 30 scholars and church representatives gathered at Leeds University for a conference on “The Christian Churches and Africa’s Democratization.” Cosponsored by the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds University and the School of Oriental and African Studies of London University, the conference explored church involvement in the political changes in Africa and gave clergymen the opportunity to compare experiences.

Among those attending were Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa; Bishop E. Kombo, who has presided over the political transition in Congo; and Lutheran Bishop R. Diggs, the former vice president of Liberia’s Interim Government. For more information about the proceedings of the conference, contact Paul Gifford, Department of the Study of Religions, SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh St., London WC1H OXG.

Review of UN Electoral Assistance Programs

An independent review team commissioned by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) recently issued a “Review of United Nations Electoral Assistance, 1992-1993.” The report’s findings are based on interviews with UNDP resident representatives, diplomats, government officials, and other observers in more than 25 countries that have participated in such programs.

Prepared by Larry Garber of the National Democratic Institute and Clark Gibson of Duke University, the report includes a summary of the evolution of UN election assistance programs, actual case studies from Romania, Kenya, Lesotho, Burundi, and Malawi, and an overall assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of UN electoral assistance programs. Those interested in receiving a copy of this review should direct their requests to Mr. Philip Reynolds at UNDP in New York; telephone: (212) 963-5866. [End Page 156]

Assistance to Oslobodjenje

On pp. 134-39 above, Kemal Kurspahić describes the ongoing challenges that he and his staff have faced in publishing Bosnia-Herzegovina’s independent daily newspaper Oslobodjenje under wartime conditions. Because revenues from advertising and sales have all but disappeared, Oslobodjenje has issued a plea to the international community for support and financial assistance.

Monetary donations may be sent to the Fund for the Renewal of Oslobodjenje, SIB; d.d. Ljubljana, Slovenia, account number: 50100-620-271-09-7085-90091. The newspaper also welcomes donations of equipment and technical help, as well as support for correspondents abroad. All questions regarding assistance can be made through Goran Jovanovié, executive director of Oslobodjenje‘s European edition, at Dunajska 5, Ljubljana; or phone: 386-61-314-337.

Conference Looks at Role of OAS in the Americas

On December 2-3, a group of 50 scholars, government officials, and organization representatives met in Washington, D.C., for a conference on “Advancing Democracy and Human Rights in the Americas: What Role for the OAS?” Sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue, this two-day gathering featured five discussion sessions, each focusing on a different aspect of the OAS mission, including democracy building, human rights monitoring, and the restoration of constitutional order.

Remarks were made at the conference by OAS secretary general João Baena Soares and the Dialogue’s cochairmen, Peter D. Bell and former UN secretary general Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. Among the presenters and moderators were Peter Hakim, Heraldo Muñoz, Abraham Lowenthal, Luigi Einaudi, Sergio Aguayo Quezada, Sonia Picado Sotela, and Robert Pastor.

New International Journal Focuses on Group Rights

The International Journal on Group Rights, a quarterly publication focusing on the legal, social, and political problems that often plague relations between ethnic and religious groups worldwide, recently introduced its first issue. The editor-in-chief is Professor Yonah Alexander of George Washington University, and Elie Wiesel is honorary chairman of the international advisory board. Regular features of the publication will include scholarly articles, editorial comments, book reviews, and a current issues section with relevant documents, case studies, and recent developments in the field of group rights. Subscription information may be obtained through Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Spuiboulevard 50, P.O. Box 17, 3300 AZ Dordrecht, The Netherlands; or phone: (0)78-334-911; or fax: (0)78-334-254. [End Page 157]


Copyright © 1994 National Endowment for Democracy and the Johns Hopkins University Press