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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Development, Humanitarianism, and the Power of Ideas

schwartzatwood.jpgDuring the afternoon session of the 25th Annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum's Business Day, Dean and Professor Eric Schwartz of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, with Former Dean and Professor Brian Atwood, responded to critical issues of international relations in a discussion titled Development, Humanitarianism, and the Power of Ideas. The hour-long discussion was moderated by Tom Weber of MPR News, and featured the professors' responses to questions penned by a full house at Ted Mann Concert Hall, as well as viewers watching the Forum's live stream online.

The session represented the first time the Nobel Peace Prize Forum had hosted a panel that was guided entirely by the audience, whose interests ranged from the professors' thoughts on the ideas presented earlier by Muhammad Yunus, to issues of corruption in countries receiving foreign aid, to international responses to disasters, crises, and pressures, such as those related to the current tensions involving North Korea.
When asked what is necessary for development projects to be effective, Professor Atwood cited a theme that has become more and more apparent through research and evaluation: the countries receiving funds for development, especially post-crisis, must feel that they possess full ownership of the efforts; if the recipients do not feel like they have a "stake in the game," the relevant development projects will not maintain enough interest and, therefore, will eventually fall short of their intended outcome. Both Atwood and Dean Schwartz also strongly stated their disapproval of "tied aid," or development funding that can only be employed in compliance with specific conditions and stipulations. This, according to Atwood, was a significant obstacle to the aforementioned sense of ownership that makes for successful development projects.
Schwartz and Atwood also spent much of their time dispelling skepticism as to the efficacy of development programs, often referring to specific examples from their experiences in USAID and the State Department. There are significant accountability mechanisms in place that track the use of development funding, assured the dean, and, although there is room for improvement in this area, foreign development aid is an important tool in efforts of poverty alleviation, crisis resolution, and peacemaking. Both professors asserted that providing peacetime development monies is significantly more effective and efficient than recovery funding provided after disasters and other crises. According to Atwood, the distinction between humanitarian and development aid is an important one: humanitarian provisions help people, while development financing helps people to help themselves. The timeline for aid following international emergencies, such as wars or natural catastrophes like the 2011 tsunami that had severe ramifications in Japan and throughout the Pacific, follows a progression from humanitarian aid immediately after the crisis to later, preventative development aid, added Schwartz.
The final question of the discussion best captured the sentiment of the Forum: "How do we change the world?" Encouraged by the large number of students in attendance, Eric P. Schwartz stressed the significance of embracing educational opportunities and tempering them with worldly experience. The dean exhorted students to seek out and advocate for those issues for which they are most passionate. Professor Atwood highlighted the power of creative diplomacy in foreign affairs to secure and maintain international peace.
Written by Aidan Breen

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Martha Nussbaum on the Current Global Education Crisis

Nussbaum.jpgWorld-renowned intellectual Martha Nussbaum visited the University of Minnesota on March 7 to share her perspective on the current global education crisis, which she argues rivals the recent economic crisis in terms of long-term damaging effects. Nussbaum's newest book, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, explores the impact of the trend toward education for profitability on the future of democratic governance. The focus on highly applied skills has led to the creation of an education system directed at molding "useful machines rather than complete citizens."

Robust world citizenship requires the ability to think critically, to transcend local loyalties, and to imagine sympathetically the lives of others. Education with a view toward economic ends hinges on an approach that undermines all three capabilities necessary for world citizenship. The view that education should exist as a means to promote economic growth has become pervasive around the world, which has resulted in the systematic destruction of arts and humanities programs.
Nussbaum offers an alternative to education for economic profitability: education for human development. Education for human development directly addresses the major impediments to democratic citizenship on an individual level. Rather than deference to authority and local situation, education for human development encourages the growth of democratic values. Nussbaum articulated three core components of this alterative approach.
First, this paradigm of education develops the capacity for individuals to think critically about their own reasoning and the reasoning of others, which fosters deliberative dialogue across perceived categories of difference. The ability to imagine alternative arguments, in particular, facilitates social inclusion. Critical thinking underpins liberal education pedagogy, but is largely absent from technical training.
Second, the human development approach to education allows students to situate themselves in the global political and historical reality. Nussbaum pointed out that to know is not to guarantee democratic or inclusive behavior, but to remain ignorant is almost to guarantee anti-democratic and exclusionary behavior. An education focused on widening awareness and promoting democratic engagement would offer exposure to world history and alternative historical narratives, depth of knowledge in at least one unfamiliar tradition, and significant training in at least one foreign language.
Third, Nussbaum's proposal focuses on the growth of the narrative imagination and the cultivation of sympathy. The arts and humanities are uniquely situated to refine the ability to imagine walking in someone else's shoes. Such an approach to education can be catered to particular cultural or personal blind spots. Furthermore, the arts bring together individuals in a nonhierarchical way--something rarely done in society and something that is inherently democratic.
Education for profitability amplifies the weaknesses of democracy, including its susceptibility to greed, haste, groupthink, and selfishness, whereas education for human development, a project that insists on the criticalness of the art and humanities, develops the personal qualities necessary for a robust democratic society. Nussbaum's education for human development offers individuals within nations the chance "to overcome fear and suspicion in favor of democratic debates."
Nussbaum's talk was sponsored by the University of Minnesota's Imagine Fund for the Arts, Humanities, and Design.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Professor Karina Ansolabehere on Criminal Justice Reform in Mexico

karina1.jpgDuring a presentation to the undergraduate class "Law and (In)Justice in Latin America" on Tuesday, March 6, visiting professor Karina Ansolabehere characterized the Mexican criminal justice system as one bent on social control rather than accountability, rights-protections, social reconstruction, or even retribution for crimes committed. Despite a significant reform effort in 2008, which had been encouraged by both human rights activists and those involved in criminal law, the system remains highly inefficient and fails to provide rights protections.

A non-governmental organization, Renace, has collected extensive documentation of the pitfalls of the criminal justice system in Mexico. Renace estimates that only 15% of crimes are reported to authorities, as 80% of the population distrusts the criminal justice system. About 90% of the time, cases are built solely on confessions rather than diverse sources of evidence, in a system in which there is no protection against coerced confessions. 95% of the time, the accused individual is found guilty, a startling high percentage. Around half of those incarcerated are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of any crime. Access to adequate legal counsel continues to be a pervasive problem.
As such, reform was seen as necessary from both a criminal law approach and a human rights perspective. The criminal justice system disproportionately convicts the poor, suffers from an overall lack of professionalism, and is extremely inefficient. Moreover, the institutional structure of the system, particularly with regard to arrest quotas for the police and prosecutorial reliance on confessions, encourages overly harsh treatment and even torture of those arrested. Torture occurs throughout the criminal justice system in Mexico, and following the militarization of the fight against drug cartels, the use of torture increased dramatically.
The 2008 reform actually had two sides: one that addressed some of the shortcomings of the criminal justice system and one that created a state of exception for organized crime. The danger of this state of exception becomes apparent when considering the loose definition of organized crime. Any time a group of three or more people engages in any criminal activity, it counts as organized crime. This means that whether the three people involved had conspired to engage in drug trafficking or to paint graffiti, both count as organized crime. Positive reforms have encouraged the switch from a private, written inquisitorial procedure to one that is more transparent and offers more substantial rights guarantees. The reform implementation process was anticipated to extend into 2016, but it appears reform efforts have stagnated on the federal level, as political will has all but disappeared.
The limited reforms that were actually implemented have not addressed the institutional factors that have rendered the Mexican criminal justice system both ineffective and criminal in and of itself. Those innocent of any crime appear more likely to be arrested, tortured, and imprisoned than those actively participating in organized crime. Legal recourse for those who have been subject to unfair trials or mistreatment in the criminal justice system remains elusive.
Written by Whitney Taylor.

Can We Afford to Forgive Atrocities?

In Guatemala next month, the former dictator EfraĆ­n Rios Montt will become the first head of state ever tried on genocide charges in a domestic court. Not all such efforts to prosecute crimes against humanity have proceeded peacefully. Still, the quest to bring war criminals and vicious leaders to justice in international or domestic courts is part of a global trend toward greater accountability for human rights violations. But do trials help secure peace after war, civil conflict and repression? Does the threat of prosecution make dictators more reluctant to step down? Would it be better for democracy if survivors could forgive perpetrators and move on? Continue reading...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Director Frey Offers Human Rights Workshop in Monterrey, Mexico

barbmex.jpgOn March 4th and 5th, Professor Barbara Frey directed a training program with Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los Derechos Humanos (CADHAC) in Monterrey, a city located in the Nuevo Leon region of Mexico. During the workshop, titled "Towards Human Rights Advocacy," Frey discussed tactics and strategies for peace in the defense of human rights. This workshop signaled the commencement of a program of activities undertaken by CADHAC for 2013, as the organization celebrates its 20th year of human rights work, an accomplishment that brings both excitement and frustration.


In the past two decades, CADHAC has made great strides in human rights in Mexico through its constant and dedicated work, but despite this, the human rights situation has continued to worsen throughout the country, especially in the last five years. CADHAC hopes that the contributions of leading human rights activists such as Barbara Frey will bring new perspectives and insights to its efforts, as CADHAC pushes forward in its demand for human rights.

Monday, March 4, 2013

3rd Annual He(art) Show is Now Accepting Submissions

heart.jpgThe 3rd Annual He(art) Show will be held on April 19, 2013 at The Friction Collective in Minneapolis. The show will feature work from all art media and will include performances by local bands, as well as guest speakers and activists that are working to eliminate LGBTQ discrimination. Proceeds from the show this year will benefit the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition. All submissions are due by March 19. Continue reading to see more information about how to submit artwork or volunteer at this year's He(art) Show.

To submit work, please email Ashley Monk (monkx021@umn.edu) with:
-Image of the work you're submitting. Please include: Title, Dimensions, Medium, Suggested Price or Not For Sale (If you are submitting new work/work in progress, please send examples of past work)
-Brief artist statement and brief bio (1 paragraph or less for each please!)
For inquiries about becoming a donor, sponsor, or partner, please contact Ashley Probst (probs024@umn.edu)
For more information about the He(art) Show, click here.
The He(art) Show is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program and World Without Genocide (formerly STAND).