Looking out at the world

For too many years, the West has largely ignored incidents of human-rights abuses in which the victims weren’t white, laments Dr. Mark Gibney of UNCA.

But changing perceptions about humanitarian intervention have given Gibney a new sense of encouragement.

Gibney, the Belk Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, says he’s now seeing signs that the West and the rest of the world are finally taking human rights — and the intervention necessary to protect them — seriously.

“Hypocrisy has finally hit home,” he declares.

Gibney will speak at UNCA on March 27, as part of the Great Decisions 2000 lecture series sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Western North Carolina. He’s one of eight speakers scheduled to examine various issues vital to U.S. global interests on successive Mondays in February and March

The professor credits nonprofit organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch with calling attention to human-rights problems.

“Too many of these civil wars … have lingered for a decade or more, with no attention by the West to see [them] ended,” says Gibney, adding. “It’s an attitude that’s hard to maintain anymore.”

Human rights abuses in Kosovo and Bosnia, for example, prompted Western intervention, whereas worse atrocities in Africa and Southeast Asia received little attention, Gibney notes.

His criticism extends to the media as well.

Gibney and his students studied how the New York Times covered human-rights issues in 1985 and 1995, comparing that coverage to reports from the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International. They found that the number of articles on human-rights issues had declined in the 10 years, even though the number of incidents had not. And incidents in Third-World countries received little attention.

“Editors seem to think human suffering doesn’t sell,” Gibney declares.

In the past couple of years, however, he’s seen signs that public opinion is shifting — to, at least, an outward concern about atrocities taking place across the globe.

“That’s why I’m a hopeful man,” Gibney remarks.

But he believes that much work remains to be done to find effective ways to undertake humanitarian intervention. For example, he feels the United Nations could have averted war by increasing its presence in Kosovo to put more pressure on the Serbs, instead of withdrawing forces when it did.

“I just don’t think we have it right yet,” says Gibney.

His March 27 lecture will close out the eight-week series, to be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays in UNCA’s Owen Conference Center.

Feb. 7: U.S. Interests in the World: Time for a Redefinition, presented by Dr. George Yates, associate professor of management at UNCA. Yates’ two decades of experience in corporate management includes extensive business in Europe and the Far East. The lecture, followed by a question-and-answer session, will address what new issues will grow in importance in the post-Cold War era, and what role the United States should play after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

Feb. 14: Russia: Report Card on Survival Dr. William R. Forstchen, assistant professor of history at Montreat College, will analyze the dynamics driving Russia’s political and economic systems and broader engagement with the world. Forstchen — a widely published novelist and historian — is perhaps best known as the co-author (with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich) of the novel 1945 (Baen Books, 1995).

Feb. 21: Indonesia in Aftershock, presented by Dr. Sarah-Ann Smith, director of the World Affairs Council of WNC, and an adjunct associate professor at UNCA. Smith will focus on the effects of the financial crisis that swept Southeast Asia beginning in 1997 — including the separatist movement in East Timor, which resulted in a UN-sponsored independence vote in 1999. A former foreign-service officer, Smith holds a Ph.D. from the American University in Washington, D.C., and has taught at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Baltimore.

Feb. 28: The Military: What Role in U.S. Foreign Policy? Dr. Larry Stern, chairman of the political science department and director of institutional research at Mars Hill College, will question whether, when and how the U.S. military should respond to threats against our interests — and to what extent the military should be reserved for fighting wars, rather than maintaining peace.

March 6: Middle East Realignments: New Directions for the Next Millennium?, presented by Dr. Thomas G. Sanders. With international realignments among Middle Eastern states coinciding with a newly elected government in Israel and a new king in Jordan, much of the unfinished business of past decades is being readdressed. Sanders, now retired, taught religious studies at Brown University and later was a scholar with the Universities Field Staff, a consortium of American universities. He teaches in UNCA’s College for Seniors program.

March 13: The Euro’s Challenge to the Dollar: King Kong vs. Godzilla? Dr. Jeff M. Konz, assistant professor of economics at UNCA, will describe the possible effects on international business transactions — and on the dollar’s role as the international currency of choice — when the euro is established as a full-fledged currency. Dr. Konz received his Ph.D. in economic development and international economics at UNC-Chapel Hill.

March 20: Africa: Prospects for the Future, presented by Dr. John C. Wood, a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at UNCA. Wood will discuss the idea that, as African nations attempt democratization (with civilian leaders replacing military regimes, and African conflicts being addressed and resolved by fellow Africans), American foreign policy in the region needs to be reassessed. Wood has taught at Emory University since 1997, following a career as a reporter and bureau chief for numerous newspapers. A 1980 graduate of Warren Wilson College, Wood received his M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology at Emory University.

March 27: Defining Humanitarian Intervention, presented by Dr. Mark Gibney, Belk Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at UNCA. As Gibney will discuss, an analysis of past humanitarian interventions holds lessons for the United States about the need for cooperation among military, political, diplomatic and humanitarian agencies in addressing future crises. Making these changes will present challenges for established organizations, both in the United States and around the world. Gibney has an extensive background as a teacher and administrator in the fields of human rights, constitutional law, ethics and public policy. He received a Fulbright fellowship to the Norwegian Institute for Human Rights in 1989.

Single-lecture tickets ($4) are available through the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement. Tickets for the entire series cost $25 per person, or $30 per couple, and include a copy of the series booklet. Students with valid ID and members of the World Affairs Council may attend at no charge.

The Great Decisions 2000 series is co-sponsored by UNCA, the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement, the United Nations Association — WNC, and the League of Women Voters of Asheville/Buncombe County.

To learn more abpit Great Decisions, call the Center for Creative Retirement at 251-6140.


Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.