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Moderator:It's obviously a great honor to be able to introduce both Aryeh Neier and Ian Buruma for a celebration of Aryeh's new book that came out just last month on Princeton University Press on the history of International human rights movement. Ian, many of whom in this audience is a well known person. Ian is the Luce professor of democracy, human rights in journalism at Bard college finishing a fellowship as well at the Cullman center of the New York Public Library where he is writing a book called Life In Ruins about the immediate aftermath of World War II in Asia and Europe. And of course, he's the author of numerous books. I will not take the time to go through all of them but it's a great pleasure to have him as [IB] with Aryeh tonight. Aryeh himself, what can words say, has been president of the Open Society Foundations since 1993, served for 12 years before that as the executive director of Human Rights Watch of which he was a founder now some 35 or so years ago in 1978. He had worked for 15 years before that at the American Civil Liberties Union and it's a great pleasure to be able to be here and celebrate his new book. One very small personal note I should say, I had the honor and the responsibility, I guess, of reading Aryeh's book in draft form over my Christmas holiday in 2010. And as many of you would probably understand, the responsibility of having to provide some interpretive exegetical critique of a book on the history of human rights by Aryeh is a task not for the faint hearted. And it reminded me constantly, of course, of that scene in Annie Hall where Marshall McLuhan pops out of the wings to tell that Columbia professor how he knows nothing, absolutely nothing about his work. Aryeh was far more gracious in my limited commentary and critique and Ian will speak now for roughly 45 to 50 minutes. We will then open it up to questions subsequently. Aryeh Neier:Okay. And I suggested that I should start by giving you a precis of the book. So I will try to boil down I think about 125,000 words into about 15 minutes. It is intended as a history of the international human rights movement and I think there is some controversy as to when the human rights movement developed and how it developed. And I stake out a particular position on that subject. And I suggest that what we know today as the international human rights movement is of a fairly recent origin that essentially, it developed in the 1970s, that it certainly had precursors. There were important precursors in terms of efforts to protect rights. For example, the religious dissenters in 17th century England were very preoccupied with rights that they were not concerned with rights across national boundaries and they were primarily concerned with their own rights. I think that something more analogous to the contemporary human rights movement emerged in the second half of the 18th century in England with the effort to end slavery. And because slavery was international, inherently, that movement was concerned with matters that went across borders, that is slaves were transported from one place to another. And also, a number of the people who are concerned with the effort to end slavery were not focused on their own rights. They were focused on the rights of others. And the altruistic character of the anti-slavery movements seems to me, to make up the most important precursor of the contemporary international human rights movement. There were various efforts in subsequent periods to protect rights internationally. A number of efforts during the 19th century concerned with particular abuses, for example in the 1870s, what were referred to as the Bulgarian Horrors in which Gladstone in England led a protest against the Ottoman Turks for their oppression of the Bulgarians. But I suggest that that was in part because it was Muslims persecuting Christians. And therefore, it had a particular resonance in England. In fact, I think that many historians agree that it propelled Gladstone into the position of Prime Minister replacing his long-time rival Disraeli who had not spoken out forcefully against what we call the Bulgarian Horrors. Anyway, bringing it up to the 1970s, I think the critical factor that helped to establish an international human rights movement was the Cold War context in which it emerged because I think the Cold War had the effect of magnifying the importance of certain developments during that period. Starting in the 1960s, there had been a number of persons in the Soviet Union who organized protests dealing with rights. There were a handful but the international press and the public at large paid a great deal of attention to them because they were challenging the power of the Soviet State at a somewhat earlier period. I think the conflict between east and west had sometimes been portrayed in economic terms rather than in terms of concern about political repression. If you look at today's New York Times, on the second page of the arts section, there is that famous photograph of Richard Nixon debating Khrushchev in front of the kitchen and the triumph of the west was meant to be exemplified by Nixon's ability to point to the labor saving devices in the kitchen. So, that was considered to be the nature of the Cold War contest. But that shifted and I think it shifted principally under the influence of some of the philosophers of the period and some of the novelist of the period ranging, you know, from the early post World War II period, George Orwell but to much later Alexander Solzhenitsyn. But anyway, there was this attention to the Soviet decent disproportionate attention given the relative handful of people but it achieved importance because of the immense attention that was paid to it. But the United States in particular, which had tried to exemplify liberty and standing up to the Soviets was itself vulnerable. And its vulnerability was its support of repressive regimes in different parts of the world in Latin America, in Asia, in Africa. The United States supported a variety of anti-communist regimes. And another part of the human rights movement particularly crystallized around the Pinochet coup on September 11, 1973 and the support of the Pinochet by the Nixon administration during that period. Another development during that period was the effort on college campuses in the United States to impose sanctions on South Africa. That was probably the first effort in which substantial numbers and presence in this country were involved in an international human rights issue and always in the United States, what prompted involvement in human rights was the involvement of the United states. That is Americans didn't protest against abuses in other countries. They protested against the role of Americans in facilitating abuses in other countries. So, after the Soweto riots of 1976 and the murder of Steve Biko shortly after the Soweto riots. The movement for disinvestment in South Africa took off in the United States. Somewhat later on, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were the principal opponents of disinvestment and sanctions on South Africa but the movement in this country was strong enough so that congressional legislation imposing sanctions on South Africa was adopted over Ronald Reagan's veto. Anyway, so, the human rights movement on the one hand was denouncing Soviet abuses because of the attention to Soviet dissenters and thereafter, dissenters in Czeckoslovakia and Poland. And then, it was announcing the United States in particular for its support of repressive regimes in different parts of the world. And I think that mainstream of the human rights movement was quite clear in opposing both kinds of abuses of human rights,both the Soviet block abuses and the abuses by anti-communist dictatorships in various countries that were supported by the United States. And I think the human rights movement ended up playing a very significant part in the efforts that it made in that period in the 1980s, between 1983 and 1990. Virtually, every dictatorship in Latin America was overturned and replaced by a democratic or a more or less democratic government. The only exception in fact was Cuba, but Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Central American countries all had dictatorships replaced by something more democratic and something significantly less abusive of rights than the regimes that had existed previously. Something of the same sort happened in east Asia, that is the Philippine dictatorship of Marcos came to an end in 1986. The Korean military dictatorship in 1987, Taiwan underwent democratic change during that period. And then, of course, somewhat later on, South Africa had the transition from the apartheid state to a state in which all members of the population participated in self-government. And of course, in 1989, the communist dictatorships of eastern Europe collapsed. Of course, the human rights movement was not the sole factor in those transitions. Probably, in a lot of cases, it wasn't the dominant factor. But it was a factor in the transitions that took place in different parts of the world during that period and its ability to challenge those on both sides of the Cold War divide who engaged in repressive activities provided the human rights movement with a standing, a status. It wasn't...there were, of course, those who only denounced leftist regimes and those who only denounced rightist regimes. But the mainstream of the human rights movement was opposed both to right-wing repression and to left-wing repression. Subsequently, in the period since the fall of the dictatorships in Latin America and East Asia and after the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, I don't think the human rights movement has been able to play quite so significant a role geopolitically as it played during that earlier period, really at its infancy. But it has maintained a very significant role and I think there are 3 issues that it has focused on which have allowed to play a very significant role. One is that it extended the concept of human rights from the ordinary civilian practices of government to armed conflict. So, it took on the role of trying to secure compliance with an older branch of law, international humanitarian law which regulates conduct in armed conflict. And since probably the most severe human rights abuses are committed during armed conflict, the role of the human rights movement in documenting abuses in conflict and trying to mitigate those abuses has been immensely important. I think a second issue which has then of central significance to the human rights movement during this period has been securing accountability for past abuses of human rights. And so, you have had truth commissions in about 40 countries. We've seen more than 60 heads of state and head of government prosecuted for either human rights abuses or corruption or combination of the two. In the last 20 years or so, we have seen the development of a number of international criminal tribunals such as the one, the special court for Sierra Leone which convicted Charles Taylor the other day and the development of the International Criminal Court. And then, I think the third issue which has been of immense importance in terms of the significance of the human rights movement is the post 9/11 effort to restrict rights and the resistance of the human rights movement to the kinds of restrictions on rights that had been proposed after 9/11. certainly, many restrictions of rights have taken place. My own tendency in looking at that situation is to see the glass as half full rather than half empty, that is one could have anticipated so much worse than has actually taken place. And I think extensive resistance whether in courts, whether in the legislative branches, whether in the constant denunciations of various kinds of abuses has actually significantly mitigated the impact of various repressive tendencies that emerged in the wake of 9/11. So, obviously, those are not the sum total of the role of the activities of the human rights movement. But I think that it has sustained itself sustained its significance and is an ongoing force and a force to be reckoned with for a long time to come. So, that's my precis. [applause] Ian Buruma:It's difficult to add very much. Reading your book, a few questions did arise. And first of all, I'd like to take you back into history and look at some of the historical roots of the human rights movements. You wrote very interestingly about the role of natural law. Aryeh Neier:Yes. Ian Buruma:And I was wondering would it also...would it be accurate to say as well as natural law, Christianity played a large role and specifically the missionary task of Christianity as seen as by missionaries which in some ways went together also with colonialism and I'm thinking of Christians in India, British India wishing to abolish sati and other such things. How important do you think that factor is, the missionary element of Christianity? Aryeh Neier:It's not a factor that I tried to deal with in the book. Ian Buruma:I understand. Aryeh Neier:And in part, I suppose I felt I was somewhat out of my depth in trying to deal with it. I would say that yes, there is that missionary aspect which played an important role, but, you know, Christianity is not the only religion that has had a missionary aspect. Islam certainly had a significant missionary aspect. So, I wouldn't put the missionary aspect itself as necessarily the most important factor of Christianity in providing a sort of intellectual and philosophical basis for the emergence of the human rights movement. I think probably, ideas about love thy neighbor are more significant as a contribution of Christianity that is, since I attached a great deal of significance to the altruistic character of the human rights movement, there is in Christianity, a significant altruistic factor and I think that probably was the most important contribution. Ian Buruma:Well, there's another aspect of it which may overlap with natural law a little bit more which is the belief that the norms and values that you wish to bring to the world are universal ones. Aryeh Neier:Yes. Ian Buruma:And that is fundamental to Christianity. Aryeh Neier:Yes, a lot. You can spend a long time debating the difference with let's say, between higher law and natural law and Christianity has this concept of higher law. But I don't think it was Christianity itself. Let me retreat for a moment because when I think of the people who were involved in the anti-slavery efforts of the 18th century, there's no question but that Quakers but not only Quakers, but, you know, somebody like William Wilberforce acting out of an evangelical Christianity played a very significant role with respect to the antislavery movement. Ian Buruma:Yes. The reason I asked the question is that as you know that one of the criticisms of international law as a normative exercise is that it does suggest or does...the recent supposition is that it is there to apply universal norms. Aryeh Neier:Yes. Ian Buruma:The criticism from a lot of the weaker countries and in the world, in the nonwestern countries is well, that's all very well to talk about these universal norms. What's [IB] who makes these norms? It's the powerful west and it's the same countries that used to colonize them. Aryeh Neier:Yeah, but it's also the powerful rulers of those countries who make the argument against universal norms, it's not coming from those who are the victims of the powerful rulers. So, you know, if Mahathir in Malaysia or, you know, the Suharto regime in Indonesia made the argument on behalf of Asian values and against universal norms or Lee Kuan Yew made that kind of argument, I'm not sure that would have come from let's say political prisoners in Indonesia. Ian Buruma:Yes. I hope you understand. I was speaking for the devil here. Aryeh Neier:No, absolutely. Ian Buruma:But at to what extent is that fact that the international criminal court for practical political reasons can really only go after figures from relatively minor countries? Make that argument harder in the sense that it's easier for the people who take that view to say, Oh, well, it's, you know, you'll never see an American in front of that court. And it's always people from-- Aryeh Neier:I would put it a little bit differently. You won't see an American in front of that court for quite a while. I do think that some of these institutions have to gain credibility over a period of time. In the case of the United States, you know, American exceptionalism has kept the United States out of many international human rights agreements and when the United States does become a party to them, it's very often very late and with as many exceptions and reservations as can be imagined. So, you know, it was 40 years after the genocide convention was adopted by the United Nations that the United States ratified it and then with all kinds of reservations which to a significant extent, nullify American ratification of the genocide convention. But eventually, the United States did feel they'd had to make the gesture of ratifying the genocide convention. Eventually, the United States did feel it had to make the gesture of ratifying the international covenant on civil and political rights. And I won't live to see it but I think that the international criminal court eventually will be ratified by the United States. Ian Buruma:But if it's ratified and here, the devil is on very thin ice, and you'll never see a Russian or...never. It's hard to imagine a Russian or a Chinese to appear in front of that court either. And so, power politics will always to some extent dictated that. Aryeh Neier:Yes, but you know, we came not quite close to having a Russian in front of it but there was a sort of possibility of it at the time of the Russia and Georgia war. And if I had been the prosecutor for the international criminal court, I think ultimately, I probably would not have indicted the Russians because when we're going to do so, one would want a more clear cut case than that. The statute for the international criminal court requires a certain level of gravity with respect to the abusers and one wouldn't want a debate over whether an indictment met the gravity test. But if there had been a significantly larger number of crimes committed on Georgian territory by the Russians during that war, I think it would have been possible for an indictment to take place. Ian Buruma:And Chechenia? Aryeh Neier:There, the problem is all of the crimes take place on Russian territory and Russia is not a party to the treaty for the international criminal court. Georgia is a party to the treaty and therefore, crimes committed by the Russian troops in Georgia would have been subject to the jurisdiction of the international criminal court. And part of the problem is that the most powerful countries, the United States, China, and Russia, have not ratified the treaty for the international criminal court. And so, it's only when they commit crimes on the territory of a country that has ratified the treaty that they become subject to its jurisdiction. Ian Buruma:Yes. What about...we talked about the international criminal court and you mentioned genocide. I think I read your book that you are quite sympathetic towards the right to protect and the right to intervene in cases of and I think genocide is the criteria you used. How...what should the criteria be? What are the sort of yardsticks that one can use for intervention? Aryeh Neier:Yeah. That's a, I think a very difficult question. It wasn't called the right to protect the moment that it took place. But the intervention in Kosovo was an exercise, not right but the responsibility to protect. There was an exercise of that. I think it was legitimate at that moment for NATO. In a sense, it was NATO that intervened to say that we have had the recent indication of what Slobodan Milosevic's forces will do in Croatia and Bosnia. Now, we have an apparent repetition of those kinds of crimes taking place in Kosovo. Therefore, the basis for intervening seems to me legitimate. That is, there were the actual crimes taking place at the moment of intervention. And what had happened in Bosnia in particular had indicated the extent to which the killing could take place, whether Bosnia qualified as genocide then it certainly qualified as crimes against humanity and I don't think it only has to be genocide which implies an intent to exterminate all or part of the population on racial, religious, or ethnic grounds, that crimes against humanity which don't involve that particular intent but are very large scale crimes, are enough of the basis for intervention. Ian Buruma:Do you think it might be better to not to talk about genocide at all anymore since it's so contested. You in your book I think-- Aryeh Neier:Yeah, but a small number of times, something actually does meet the standard of genocide. I think Rwanda clearly met the standard of genocide and genocide is the largest crime that we can identify and when something gets to that point, I think it's appropriate to use that term. Ian Buruma:But does Rwanda qualify because of the intent or because of sheer numbers? Because you talk about the gravity in the numbers. Aryeh Neier:I think it requires both. I think it requires both the intent and a very large scale. I think that where you have, let's say, an intent to kill people because of their race or religion and you kill people. I don't think it's appropriate to use a term such as genocide. The concept of extermination is also part of the definition of genocide. Ian Buruma:I think in the genocide convention, they don't talk about numbers, do they? It can't be against 10 people. Aryeh Neier:There is no...there is no attempt to quantify but there is the reference to exterminate in whole or in part and the idea of extermination implies substantial numbers. Ian Buruma:And on that...on a related topic, somebody told me the other day that you were partly responsible for the...for a certain number of Jews become neocons in the Skokie case. That is, 2 questions. First of all, is it true that the Skokie case, which everybody here probably would be aware of when you stood up for the right of Neo-Nazis to stage a demonstration in a largely Jewish suburb of Chicago that that was indeed, as well as the school in Brooklyn, I believe, a catalyst for some people to turn to the neocons who felt betrayed by this. Aryeh Neier:Look, I'm speaking out of interest so I can be discounted for what I say. But Skokie was quite peculiar, that is it aroused immense antagonism for a relatively brief period that is there were people who were horrified at the position that the American civil liberties union adopted that I adopted in defending freedom of speech for the neo-Nazis. That turned around and I would say that there is widespread agreement today which would extend to neocons that the ACLU did the right thing in Skokie that it was one of those events. It wasn't enormously important legally. It didn't set a great precedent. But wen Americans think about freedom of speech, often their attitude is, Well, if the Nazis could march in Skokie, I guess, so and so, can be accepted or tolerated. And neocons will take that position as well as anybody else. I think the issues that had a deeper impact in developing the neocon movement were often race issues in the United States and to a somewhat more limited extent, foreign policy issues, military issues And I think, you know, policy towards Israel was also a significant factor in developing the neocon movement in the United States. But there is a wider acceptance of freedom of speech for everyone in the United States that I think than at any time previously. And I think there are very few places in the world where the acceptance of freedom of speech is as great as in the United States. We haven't had in the post 9/11 period, we haven't had significant backsliding on freedom of speech that has been you know, one bad US supreme court decision [IB] humanitarian law project. But other than that, that's really exceptional. The commitment to freedom of speech has been very substantially maintained in the United States. And let's say the Bush administration did not attack freedom of speech. Ian Buruma:Times change though. Do you think would you still be so sanguine if let's say, a group naming itself a jihadi group were to announce that they were gonna stage a demonstration in the vicinity of downtown New York. So-- Aryeh Neier:Well, that was the argument against the-- Ian Buruma:--start shouting for death to the infidels. Aryeh Neier:That was the argument against the mosque a couple of-- Ian Buruma:Yes, but that wasn't nearly as provocative as a group shouting death to the infidels. Aryeh Neier:I think that Americans have, to a quite surprising extent, surprising to me because when I started working on freedom of speech issues, half a century ago, public attitudes were very hostile to freedom of speech for left-wingers in particular. I do think that there has been a very substantial evolution of public opinion in the United States on freedom of speech issues and I think the significance of Skokie is that it contributed to that. When I used to speak on the Skokie case and at the time the case was going on, I spoke on it. It seemed to me every evening and sometimes, you know, 2 or 3 times a day. And one of the questions I would ask people was, How many of you have gotten into dinner table debates about Skokie? And almost every hand in the audience would go up. And I had the impression during that period that over time, the free speech argument got more and more support in the course of those dinner table arguments. It proved to be from a freedom of speech standpoint, probably, the single most valuable educational effort, certainly I was ever involved in. Ian Buruma:Shifting continent a little bit. In terms of human rights, why do you say in your book that you think China is moving in the right direction? Aryeh Neier:No. I'm ambivalent on China. I'd say that, you know, for every 3 steps forward, they are 2 steps backward in China. Ian Buruma:What's the one step forward? Aryeh Neier:I think...not something coming from the regime. What I would rather say is that within the citizenry in China, there seems to be a greater willingness to espouse rights then there has been in the past. I'm really very much an admirer of a lot of Chinese journalists. It seems to me that they are constantly engaged in struggles to expand the range of issues they cover and to go into greater depth in the issues that they cover. I have attended meetings of Chinese editors in which they talk about having to remain at their desks until 11 o'clock at night because they have to argue with the propaganda ministry about what is going to appear in the next morning's newspaper. But they do argue and my impression of the Chinese journalists is they don't go like that against the regime. They go...they look for byways. They don't want confrontations but they are trying very hard to expand coverage, you know. So, whether it's something like the poor construction in Szechuan which led to the collapse of the schools at the time of the earthquake or if you go back, you know, a number of years to the appearance of the SARS epidemic and the role of the press in China in [IB] the SARS epidemic and making it known and forcing the Chinese government to acknowledge the SARS epidemic and that way preventing it from becoming a worldwide plague. But there is that kind of effort by Chinese journalists. So, whether rights are protected is not only a function of the regime. It also is, to a very large extent, the question of the assertion of rights and my impression is that Chinese journalists in particular, are in the forefront of trying to assert rights. Some Chinese lawyers also play that role. So, we've had, you know, the drama in the last several days of the blind lawyer, Chen Guancheng, and he's not alone. There are a lot of...China doesn't have, compared to the United States, a very large number of lawyers. It's a very small profession compared to a country like the United States. But a significant number of Chinese lawyers do seem to try to play a role defending rights. Ian Buruma:Yes. That's true. I mean it's...the American conservatives have long argued and it's a question, a very questionable assertion but that capitalism brings, expands rights and brings more democracy. Could one, at least, if you narrow this argument down, say that more capitalism, more commercial competition in China has actually contributed to the positive effects of what you're just talking about. In other words, scandal sells. Aryeh Neier:I don't think so. Ian Buruma:Well, the scandal...the newspapers that often exposed scandals do so because they know it sells more copies. Aryeh Neier:My contacts with Chinese journalists and, you know, I had lunch the other day with 3 Chinese journalists, including a woman who's a very well known editor in China. And my sense of them is that they are determined to be good professionals. And this is, with expanding coverage and deepening coverage is as aspect of that desire for professionalism. And I feel the same way about the lawyers. I've attended training programs for legal aid lawyers in China and there's, you know, a very famous defense attorney named Mo Shaoping and watching him speak to 100 legal aid lawyers, to say that you could hear a pin drop, the wrapped tension, the determination to try to learn from him seem to me overwhelming and the legal aid lawyers, you know, aren't doing anything of commercial significance. They are paid, you know, trivial amounts of money and yet, they do seem, you know, they come to their position with no basis whatsoever. They've attended...they've studied law as undergraduates. They're sort of, they go into a legal aid office with no idea how to represent a criminal defendant. But when they had a chance to listen to somebody who knew how to represent a criminal defendant, there was a determination to learn. And that aspect of desire for professionalism has been immensely impressive to me. Interviewer:Uh-huh. How much time do you have for questions more? Male:Ten more minutes then, it's over. Ian Buruma:Do you see similar developments in countries like Egypt, similar figures coming up? Aryeh Neier:You know, I've traveled in Egypt a lot less than I have traveled in China and I've had much less exposure to the kinds of people I'm talking about in the Chinese context. So, the fact that I don't see it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. It may simply reflect the limits on what I have been able to observe in Egypt. I was, by accident, a witness to the first demonstration going towards Tahrir Square. And that was an enlightening experience because it was quite obvious to me watching that demonstration. I was staying at a hotel. We had a conference in a hotel with huge windows directly overlooking the paths that the demonstrators were going on. And it was very clear to me watching that demonstration that somebody had organized that demonstration with great care in advance even to a point where as the demonstrators approached a line of police directly below the hotel, the demonstrators lifted their hands like that to show that they weren't carrying any weapons. I mean that was an old sort of, you know, tactic from the civil rights movement and it went back in the United States to a man named A.J. Muste who was the principal anti-war figure in the United States long ago. So, somebody had sort of learned all those methods and people have been very well prepared. But I've had glimpses of things in Egypt. I don't have depth of knowledge. Ian Buruma:I must ask you one more question before we throw it open to other questions. Something that I already admire you greatly but made me admire you even more-- Aryeh Neier:Okay. Ian Buruma:--when I was told the other day that you were preparing an article about pornography and in order to prepare this article, you read the complete works of Balzac. Is this true-- Aryeh Neier:Not the complete work. Ian Buruma:--and why Balzac? Aryeh Neier:Not the complete work but by any means, I'm not prepared. Interviewer:Why Balzac? Aryeh Neier:There was a particular novel by Balzac which the french word that is used in the title is Tenebreuse and it maybe translated, you know, a Murky Affair or something like that. About half the book is given over to Balzac's analysis of the argot of the demi-monde and it's great stuff. So, I enjoyed reading it. And I don't know how I discovered that particular novel by Balzac but I had a good time. Ian Buruma:I'll take any questions. Right at the back. Question 1:How would you assess the critique of the human rights movement particularly in the former communist block as basically having failed to live up to its promise that human rights activists, as you noted, were somewhat artificially inflated in importance by the west as a result of Cold War politics. And after the collapse of communism, they failed to translate human rights principles into politics that many of the countries in the regions quickly spawned repressive regimes just as repressive as the ones that existed? Aryeh Neier:I don't just as repressive. Question 1:Well-- Aryeh Neier:I don't think...yeah. Question 1:And then, just one more point-- Aryeh Neier:Yeah. Question 1:--that the human rights activists today are fairly marginalized and are largely reliant on the support of the open society foundations and other outsiders to sustain their work. Aryeh Neier:I think that the critique has merit. There should have been a much higher level of engagement. But I don't think that, you know, it's appropriate to consider the regimes, you know, comparable to what existed previously. Even if you take something like the Putin regime in Russia where everything is organized to maintain his political power. Nevertheless, you don't have people being, you know, sent off long prison terms for speaking critically of the government. People can travel from one part of the country to the other. They can travel internationally. They can have associations with the west. That's an awful long way to go in a country like Russian in protecting human rights, and you know, clearly there have been murders of journalists, murders of human rights activists that have taken place in Russia. There are terrible abuses committed on an ongoing basis in a region like Chechnya. And yet, even with all the abuses that do exist in Russia, I don't think it should be acquainted with the abusiveness of the old Soviet regime. And to a certain extent, one has to say that the capacity to protect human rights, can't only emanate from outside. Outside, one can document the abuses. One can criticize the abuses. One can support those who try to defend human rights. But there has to be, from within the country, a significant movement to protect rights. In some respects, I would contrast China and Russia. China, seems to me far more repressive than Russia today. You couldn't have an episode like this Guancheng case in Russia. But you also sense in China, or I sense in China, a more widespread demand for rights than I sense in Russia today. And the fact that there is not a more powerful human rights movement within the country is a significant part of the reason that rights are not protected in Russia. Ian Buruma:Which is the reverse of what it used to be because before the fall of the communist regime, there was far more an activism in Russia than there was in China. Interviewee:Yes. There was far more activism. Look, one of the things that happened in the Soviet block countries and I think where we need to recognize this is that the west won the cold war, you know. The Reaganite kind of explanation for that seems to me somewhat silly. But I think a different explanation that I would offer or at least one factor in the explanation is that the United States in particular was very effective in getting across the view that political freedom and economic prosperity went hand in hand. And so, when you had various protests against the regime, I don't think you could have separated the concern for political freedom from the concern for economic prosperity. They will seem to some degree as one and the same thing. I think that was probably more true in eastern Europe than it was in Russia. And in eastern Europe, there was also, you know, an anticolonial element. It was not just denial of political freedom but it was denial of political freedom due to the power of the colonizer of eastern Europe, the Soviet Union. So, all these factors about economic prosperity, political freedom, and anti-colonial element that all were sort of tied together and help to bring about the protest against communism. Question 2:Human rights, there periodically been discussions about the idea of economic human rights and whether or not there should be something set up to advocate for that parallel to political human rights and I understand why, you know, human rights-- Aryeh Neier:And I'm considered an odd reaction on that front. Question 2:Alright. Well, I don't know the ins and outs but do you feel that...I understand why human rights want to keep its mission, and what I had to mention but do you think that it would be valuable and useful and productive to have a parallel economic rights movement that would set up in a similar way and be advocating in countries that people should have a basic level? Aryeh Neier:Yeah. You know, there are various groups that have organized around the idea of economic rights and I would say that today, most human rights organizations at least rhetorically embrace the idea of economic rights. They don't devote a great deal of their activity to it but they proclaim a commitment to have economic rights. Look, my own view of this is I espouse economic justice. I don't espouse economic rights. The difference between the two is that if I favor economic justice, I favor more equitable distribution of the benefits and resources of society. But I think that has to take place through a variety of tradeoffs and through the political process. My attitude towards rights is rights have to be very strong. They have to trump all other concerns so that I don't want tradeoffs on freedom of speech or the right not be tortured, you know, or something of that sort. That is, no matter how offensive what I have to say is, I think I should be able to say it. If the state has an overwhelming desire to get information from me, I don't think it ought to be able to torture me in order to get that information. So, taking that very strong stand on rights, I can't take that approach with respect to what I call economic rights because necessarily, there are questions of resources. There have to be debates as to how much one gets in terms of income or anything else and I don't think one can solve those problems through assertions about rights. So, I can advocate for let's say, a changed tax system so as to promote more economic justice. But I don't feel like I can deal with a subject like that by claiming that there are rights that are involved. I don't think it lends itself to the concept of rights. Question 2:Okay. I don't think it would be necessarily like on a tax system issue but more like, you know, basic access to not to go....to not starve, not have children that are hungry. They have access to clean water and so on and so forth. Aryeh Neier:No but-- Question 2:It could be parallel. Aryeh Neier:Let's take that example of access to clean water. Many people worldwide do not access to clean water. In order to give them clean water, vast resources would have to be deployed. If you take China, for example, you've had this, you know, immense improvement in some respects in terms of the standard of living that is a huge economic headway in China. But in China, that has been accompanied by a great deterioration in access to clean water. You know, the northern part of the country is to a significant extent, running out of water. The Yellow River is a dead river in China. In Beijing, they have to go deeper and deeper in terms of wells to try to get water for the residents of Beijing. And so, the consequence of the immense economic headway in China is a disastrous impact on access to clean water. And, you know, probably there are very significant health consequences in China as a result of the denial of access to clean water now, one has to somewhere strike a balance, it seems to me, between getting people clean water and allowing the significant economic headway that has been made in China to take place because as a result of the economic headway, people have less clean water but they have more food. They have better housing. They have better clothing in China. That's what I mean by tradeoffs. How you resolve a question like that doesn't seem to me susceptible of...you can't resolve that question through assertions about rights. One economic benefit ends up being disastrous so far as another economic benefit is concerned. Question 2:Okay, I'll take this up with you later. Aryeh Neier:Yes? Question 3:Aryeh, you cited as one of the three main developments for the human rights movement a focus on enforcement and understanding of humanitarian law or the loss of war. Aryeh Neier:Yes. Question 3:And I wonder if you could reflect on the challenge for the human rights movement now during a period where we seem to have slipped into somewhat of a perpetual state of war. I mean as important as the laws of war are in protecting civilians and all that, the fact is that they permit an awful lot of brutality frankly, and things we would never tolerate during what we used to call peace time. But now, we seem to have drifted into somewhat of a perpetual state of war. And well, it's never been the province of the human rights movement to, you know, say when war starts and finishes. We seem to have a new challenge now in terms of which standards apply. Aryeh Neier:Yeah. I have...I'm not sure that I would agree historically that this question of, you know, perpetual war is a larger problem than in the past, you know. We did have in the post World War II era very substantial wars. We had the Korean War, we had the Vietnam War, we had the Iran-Iraq war and the, you know, the many millions of people who were killed in that war. We had a tremendous number of wars that took place in Africa, in South Asia, Southeast Asia. You think of the war for the independence of Bangladesh and the, you know, the vast number of killings and horrendous abuses that took place in that war. I think what you're actually pointing to is that we have a higher level of consciousness today of the victimization of civilians in a number of the conflicts that are underway. And that, to a significant extent today as was not the case previously. Our thinking about the wars that continued to take place such as the war in Afghanistan is very much shaped by our awareness of the civilian victims. The civilian victims weren't a big focus of public thinking let's say at the time of the Korean war. That concern with civilian victims is a much more recent phenomenon. And to some extent, I think it is a consequence of the focus of the human rights movement on what takes place in armed conflict. You know, one of the things I feel very good about in terms of human rights watch during my period is that it played a significant role in initiating concern with violations of the other laws of armed conflict and it has continued that focus. But, you know, I think a valuable innovation is the work that is being done by a tiny organization that I'm very fond of called Civic, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict which has been engaged in this effort to get armed forces to pay damages to the families of civilians who are killed in armed conflict. And I think there is something like that continues to raise consciousness within the militaries themselves about the need to protect civilians against armed conflict. So, there's a lot more to be done in this field than has been done until now. But I actually don't think that the situation is worse than it was previously. You know, I don't have figures to reel off. I think if one, you know, were to examine that the way, let's say Steven Pinker does in his book about the, you know, this long-term reduction in violence. You might come to somewhat surprising results. Question 3:One quick followup. I actually am more concerned not...I agree with you on all of that actually. My concern is more that what does it mean for us that, you know, if as, you know, now seems to be case, the US will be withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014. We're in a situation where it's still quite a serious possibility that even after that, the United States will think of itself and project itself as a nation at war because of the so called war on terrorism. And that's the concern I have about what does that mean for those of us in the human rights movement when we're looking at the questions of which laws apply? Aryeh Neier:At least, your job will not be done. You have to keep at it. So, you got a long way to go. One doesn't, you know, achieve permanent victories in efforts on behalf of human rights. There are always more and more challenges to be faced. But in general, I don't share the view that things have gotten worse. Interviewer:I think we have time for 2 more questions. So-- Question 4:I'm from Kyrgyzstan. What's your opinion about human rights issue in our country after 2 revolutions? Interviewer:Which country? Question 4:Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia. Ian Buruma:Kurdistan. Person:Kyrgyzstan. Ian Buruma:Oh, Kyrgyzstan. Question 4:Kyrgyzstan Central Asia. Aryeh Neier:Kyrgyzstan. Question 4:Yes. What do you think about the human rights issue now in our country because, you know that [IB] after our revolution. Aryeh Neier:Yeah. Question 4:Thank you. Aryeh Neier:Although I don't think there's a cause and effect relationship between the two. Look, I had thought of Kyrgyzstan as the country in Central Asia that was most promising and, you know, then was somewhat shocked or more than shocked by the violence in the south involving the Uzbek minority in the south of the country. So, clearly, there are significant human rights issues that have to be addressed in Kyrgyzstan as they have to be addressed elsewhere. But at the same time, it's a country that in its neighborhood looks relatively good from a human rights' standpoint. Ian Buruma:David. Here. We'll have one more. Question 5:I've done my devil's advocate role too many times with you repeated this evening but unlike Ian, I'm actually sincere about it. The...what I'd like you to do is take up the response [IB] which is to say there are no permanent victories. Aryeh Neier:[IB] Question 5:To take up the response, excuse me, that you just made that there are no permanent victories-- Aryeh Neier:Yeah. Question 5:--in human rights. And do talk, if you would, for a couple of minutes about where you think things are going rather than how they go up there. Aryeh Neier:I'm disappointed by a number of developments and I'm encouraged by a few other developments. And I'm very disappointed by developments in Europe. I think the rise of xenophobia and racism in Europe is a very serious setback for human rights. I think that the advent of the current government in Hungary is a particularly repugnant development. I don't know how things will be in the new, with the new leadership in France. I hope that some of the easy espousal of racism associated with Sarkozy will diminish in France. But the fact that, you know, Marin Le Pen was able to get about 18% of the vote in France is not encouraging. I think the end of the Berlusconi era in Italy was another...was a more favorable development and I hope that the tide of racism and xenophobia in Italy will diminish. The fact that these sort of racist movements have even emerged in, you know the Scandinavian countries in the Netherlands, the countries which we thought were the sort of paradise for human rights is quite despiriting. I think in the United States, I'm disappointed that the Obama administration has been so resolute about not looking backward to the abuses of the previous government and, you know, it has sort of held the line on human rights since coming into office. I don't know what will happen after the fall elections. On the other hand, if you look at some other parts of the world, I'm you know, encouraged by developments in West Africa that you now have several countries in West Africa that have rights respecting democratic governments in a territory where horrendous abuses of human rights took place not that long ago. I don't know what the outcome will be of the Arab revolutions. So, I'm very optimistic about developments in Tunisia. I'm not optimistic about developments in a lot of the other in the Arab region. So, I think one gets a sort of mixed picture as one sort of looks around the world at various developments. There are things that are going in the right direction and there are things that are going in the wrong direction. The problems in Europe I think are very serious because, you know, if the United States does not play a leadership role with respect to rights and I don't think it is likely that the United States will play a leadership role with respect to rights in the period ahead. One would have hoped that would emanate from Europe and that kind of hope doesn't seem realistic in the current context. So, if I look to where leadership has to come from, I actually think it has to come from the nongovernmental human rights movements that it has more of a role than individual governments or associations of states in protecting rights. Ian Buruma:Maybe they will come from the Germans and the Japanese. Aryeh Neier:One more question. Question 6:I know that you and OSI have been very involved in Romani-- Aryeh Neier:In? Question 6:Romani Rights. Aryeh Neier:Okay. Question 6:For a long time. Aryeh Neier:Roma. I see. Question 6:Roma Rights and Romani rights. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how you see the status of Roma rights today and how you see one being able to help the everyday Roma...I mean in eastern Europe most obviously but also here and in other places move forward in the status. Aryeh Neier:Again, there are contradictory developments so far as Roma Rights are concerned. That does seem to be, you know, a higher level of sort of an outspoken prejudice against the Roma today both in the eastern Europe and some countries of western Europe than in the past. And when I, you know, spoke of Berlusconi, I had in mind some of the attacks on Roma in Italy and Sarkozy was also unfortunate with respect to Roma. On the other hand, one does see the emergence of greater capacity within the Roma population itself and that probably translates into a greater ability to become advocates for their own rights. And I think in terms of, you know, the role of the Open Society Foundations, our role has on the one hand been to defend Roma Rights but I think it has been to a larger extent, a much larger extent, an effort to enhance capacity within the Roma communities themselves. And I think that is a successful effort and over the long term, will pay off in significant ways in enhancing the protection of Roma Rights. Ian Buruma:Thank you very much. Moderator:So, thank you, Ian, and thank you Aryeh for the very reflective and thoughtful and so much surprising point on Balzac. But I'd like to ask my close colleagues, Amy Yenkin and Ricardo Castro if they would come up for a second for their own sort of surprising and unpredictable presentation. Ricardo Castro:Hi. Good evening. My name is Ricardo Castro and this my colleague, Amy Yenkin. And we want to just take this opportunity to, on behalf of the staff of OSI to express our affection and appreciation for Aryeh's leadership of OSI. As you may know, Aryeh steps down from that position at the end of June. And so, we were looking for a sort of modest way that wouldn't embarrass Aryeh too terribly to express that affection and appreciation. And as you may know, we have a documentary photography program at OSI which Amy heads up. And we have an exhibition that's up currently and one of the featured series of photographs deals with Burma. And it is a series of portraits that were taken of different activists and civil society actors many of whom we have supported over the years. And on the hand of each person in the portrait appears the name of someone who when the photo was taken was in prison in Burma as a political prisoner. Happily, many of the people whose names were written on those hands today are now free, thanks to the reforms. Aryeh made a probably very casual comment to Amy about one of the images and that gave us an idea that perhaps we could give him that image. Amy Yenkin:Before I take out the image, I just want to say that in presenting the image, I feel that it symbolizes the values and principles that the foundation has embodied. So, therefore, it feels very fitting to be able to present it to Aryeh on behalf of the entire staff really in celebration of his life-long commitment to human rights. Ricardo Castro:And we have measured the print so it will fit his new office in our new office space. Aryeh Neier:Thank you. [applause] Aryeh Neier:That particular photo sort of gets me every time I pass it on the stairs. So, thank you very much. I am deeply appreciative. Ricardo Castro:We hope it will haunt you for years. Aryeh Neier:Okay, thank you.