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Cultural Diplomacy and Human Rights

Education for Prevention: Case Study from Rwanda

By Aleksandar Brisevac, The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. 

Between May 27 and June 1 2013, the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin held a Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy and Human Rights “Towards a Global Human Rights Culture: The Need for a Collective Alliance in the Protection & Promotion of Human Rights”.

The conference provided the platform for activists, experts, academics and world leaders involved in the field of Human Rights to come together, create alliances, and better coordinate their activities, thus promoting better implementation and enforcement of Human Rights in a more effective nature.

One of the speakers at the Symposium was  Dr. James Smith, Special Representative at Aegis Trust. Mister Smith gave a lecture on the topic of “Education for Prevention: Case Study from Rwanda”.

“As a warning from history, what happened in Europe in 1930’ and 1940’, young people come from all over the United Kingdom, particularly around the Midlands to take part in the discussions see the museums, here you see the meeting with the holocaust survivor, but as a warning from history (sorry the film will come out in a minute), but as a warning from history, um, it raise a lot of question to us, when in 1994, the genocide in Rwanda took place in full view of the international community and the media. This time we saw it, real time, it was a lot of confusion about what was going on that it was portrayed as this yet another one African conflict. And we all know and rehearsed about the failure of States, the media, international community, United Nations.., and, but,  what we wanted to do is to start a relatively small organization and start to unpick what those questions meant  to us as individuals, perhaps were in a government , to the media, how can we start to learn some of the details of what went on, so that we don’t have empty slogans about never again will this happen, actually what do you mean by that, what does it actually take to prevent a genocide, and what do we mean by prevention even?  As a medical doctor I was interested particularly in how public health physicians apply this idea of different stages of prevention from primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Secondary prevention is when there is actually a crisis like a heart attack happening in a myocardial infarction and the patient needs an urgent management, and I say management not treatment, not even diagnosis, he needs managing. And you know so often we get hung up about is it or is it not genocide, when somebody comes in to the emergency department with chest, central chest pain we don’t, off course we want to know as soon as possible is this a myocardial infarction, does make it difference, but actually what really matters is how you manage a patient, keep somebody alive in a crisis first, and let the diagnosis happen sometimes later.  And I think the same can be applied to genocide, we understand this is an emergency crisis, its genocidal in nature, there are mass atrocities possibly happening, how do we manage that from a humanitarian aspect, from a security aspect protecting civilians, as well as from a political traditional conflict prevention aspect, so these are some of the ideas as a secondary prevention.

Tertiary prevention in public health and we can also apply this to genocide and mass atrocities, is when  after the event and after the crisis to recognize that there is ongoing suffering, there is ongoing consequences of this crisis, and if we failed at the time to identify it in a timely way, we fail to protect and prevent, at least after the event we can do whatever we can  to help rebuild, help to provide support, but psychological and material support for the survivors and their communities, and we can look to see how whole cycle of violence can be, that often occurs, and can perhaps be mitigated in some way. But what was of particular interest is about primary prevention, real early prevention, when the warning signs are there, the early signs of stages one, two and three of Gregory Stanton’s and four of Gregory Stanton’s steps toward the genocide, eight stages of genocide…”

For more of Dr. James Smith’s Lecture please take your time to watch the video recording.

Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy


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