What does security mean in China?


What does security mean to you? That’s the question we’re asking bloggers from different regions of the world in the run-up to our TEDxHagueAcademySalon on Secure Societies.

In China, security is about the freedom from fears that are woven into the fabric of daily life, says blogger Wenjing Fan.

By Wenjing Fan

What is happiness? There might be millions of definitions, though all of them have a premise which is a sense of security. Security means not having not having to endure fear. Security means being able to get home safely when you travel. Security means not ending up in an intensive care unit for telling the truth. Security means not having your emotions exploited by anyone else.

On 1 March, China became shrouded in the darkness of fear and panic. A gang of masked assailants carried out a series of knife attacks in Kunming railway station, killing at least 29 people and leaving more than 140 injured. Just a week later, a Malaysia Airlines plane went missing with 227 passengers on board, including 153 Chinese and 38 Malaysians. Two were children. Only when you experience a period of loss can you truly understand the meaning of happiness and security.

With the dramatic economic growth of the past thirty years, China has helped millions of people out of poverty. Whether you are from a rural area or a big city, you can now easily enjoy better food, more clothes and more entertainment than before.

But there is still a long way to go before Chinese people are able to feel a sense of security at the bottom of their hearts. Obviously, it is not simply good food, expensive clothes or more modern high-rises that can solve the problem.

Insecurity day to day

For a women living in China, security can also merely be about everyday matters.

When you wake up in the morning, security means easily being able to find a bottle of pure milk without any chemical additives.

When you send your kids to kindergarten, security means being able to trust their teachers totally instead of worrying whether your children will suffer teasing or violence.

When you work in a company, security means not having to worry about how to get round all the rules on top of finishing your tasks.

When you walk down the street or travel by public transportation, security means being able go out without a mask and rely on the timetable.

When you get back home at the weekend, security means that when you’re sitting with your family, no one will suddenly inform you that you have to move out to make way for public construction works.

Security depends on material goods but at the same time even more on a sound system. It is meaningless to argue whether human beings are born good or evil. If everyone in society lives within a sound system, then the behavior of others becomes predictable and security is guaranteed.


What does security mean if you're living in the world's most dangerous country? Read Dima Nicolas' blog on everyday life in Syria, as the conflict enters its fourth year.

What does security mean from the perspective of a young African woman? Read Rosebell Kagumire’s blog on the day-to-day struggle against discrimination.

Read about Freeweibo: beating the Chinese internet censor

Image: ANP Photo

Hopes in dangerous Syria


What does security mean to you? That’s the question we’re asking bloggers from different regions of the world in the run-up to our TEDxHagueAcademySalon on Secure Societies.

On the third anniversary of the Syrian conflict, Dima Nicolas describes how everyday life goes on in the world’s most insecure society: living with pain, surviving on hope.

By Dima Nicolas

Image: #WithSyria (YouTube)


“Syria is absolutely the most dangerous country to live in.”

When I hear this as the result of studies, as a person living inside Syria, I am shocked - not because the studies are surprising or untrue, but it is a feeling inside that puts everything you live in front of you and makes you ask yourself: within all those circumstances, how can I still be alive in this country? How many times did death miss me by a hair’s breadth? How many times did a bombshell pass only seconds away? How many times did I escape being arrested or kidnapped or being prevented from entry?

Strangely enough, I feel very lucky. I feel that I belong to a rare section. And these feelings are mixed with a feeling of guilt.

Here in Syria you won’t find a family that haven’t seen their safety crushed in the light of various circumstances, from death and bombing to arrest and kidnappings and high prices. You will find them all feeling unsafe. You will find that whatever you do, you are targeted by one side or another.

Dangerous choices

If you want to revolt for freedom, justice or security, or to work in relief you shouldn’t let your guard down. Only Syrians will really understand the meaning of the expression “clean your mobile and your personal computer”. You could be arrested, and prison wardens have picked up the electronic culture. So the first thing they will ask you about after your arrest will be your Facebook account.

The war has led to dangerous choices. Security adepts will ask you: “Do you want safety or freedom?”

They differentiate between the two things, turning them into warriors on opposite sides, while the two are complementary. Having one of them doesn’t mean excluding the other.

In Syria you can be targeted for your religious background, and sometimes you are forced to hide it to avoid kidnapping. For example, you cannot say “I am Sunni” when you pass a Shia checkpoint, which are widespread in some areas, nor the other way around.

My friend was kidnapped and tortured just because he belonged to the Shia sect. And another one because he was Sunnite. While the citizens came back to their houses in the light of truces and compromises in Damascus and its surroundings. None of the negotiators brought up the dream of the migrants to return to their homes. The dream to return is far away and the migrants have to forget their homes.

“The important thing is that the walls stay... Oh Lord let us return to our home...it is no problem that the house is stolen, the important thing is that it is still there.” The place you feel most secure in is your house. So how is it for the Syrians who were forced to let it go? On the other hand, with great effort you may forget your house, and your memories. But can your mother forget?

No choice but to keep hoping

All parents wake up in the morning asking themselves: will I send my children to school today? Schools have been targeted, students have fallen victim in different regions. Because life goes on, mothers chose to send their children to school, feeling that they are in a luxury position: other mothers don’t have schools in their area to send their children to.

During the war, you will ironically find that sometimes your security is to obtain your daily bread. You can escape from shelling and arrest, you could get used to displacement and you can do nothing but forget the pain. But you are helpless in the face of the rising prices, the lack of job opportunities, the siege of some areas, which makes food virtually non-available. Especially when there are life traders around who sell you a kilo of rice for more than fifty times its real price. 

Violation of your security is the arm that the fighting parties in Syria use to go on. And hope is the weapon that the Syrians use to continue their life. So while some find it strange that we study, work and play, that we need to follow sometimes futile events, and while some think that we got used to the war, we find that life goes on and we have no choice but to keep hoping.


Dima Nicolas on Facebook: Resound

What does security mean from the perspective of a young African woman? Read Rosebell Kagumire’s blog in this series on the day-to-day struggle against discrimination.

And Wenjing Fan's blog: What does security mean in China?


FreeWeibo: beating the Chinese internet censor


“Welcome to FreeWeibo.com. We ignore relevant laws, legislation and policy.”

This welcome message sets the tone of FreeWeibo.com, a service that republishes information that has been censored on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

FreeWeibo.com is run by GreatFire, an organisation bent on knocking holes in the ‘Great Firewall of China’ to allow Chinese people free access to internet. As well as FreeWeibo.com, Greatfire keeps an eye on what online information China is censoring, and runs Collateral Freedom, a scheme to sneak around censorship using channels China can’t afford to block.

GreatFire’s cofounder Charlie Smith (not his real name) will be appearing live onscreen at TEDxHagueAcademySalon – though for obvious reasons, his identity will be disguised. We spoke to him about the battle with Beijing in cyberspace.

Q: Why is it important for people to get access to the information on the kinds of sites you work with?

CS: Chinese deserve the truth. They need to know what their fellow citizens are really talking about. They need to know what their government does not want them to know about. Chinese are playing an increasingly important role in global affairs – they need to have all information at hand, like people in the rest of the world.

Q: You've had a few key successes - but how are you going to make a real impact?

CS: We successfully pressured Microsoft to make changes to Skype in China. We believe that our new concept, Collateral Freedom, will end all censorship in China, on and offline. We also know that this concept can be applied to other countries that practice online censorship. This is the real impact we are confident we can make.

Q: If you could talk directly to a Chinese censor, how would you explain that internet freedom contributes to China's security rather than threatens it? 

CS: That's a tough one. You can't really make change happen by speaking to a Chinese censor. He or she is just doing their job - nothing I could say would make them change how they go about their work. This conversation is best left to others who have higher access to the people who can make this kind of change happen.

I would say to a Chinese censor that with our collateral freedom approach, we are giving you one of two choices: either drop all censorship controls or prepare to deal with the economic fallout of trying to stop what we are doing. Today, the Chinese authorities know that money talks. They won't sacrifice their own economic gain in order to maintain their control on censorship.


Read Wenjing Fan's blog on everyday insecurity: What does security means in China?

Human Rights Tattoo: "meaning that sticks"


Ever thought of getting a tattoo? How about getting tattooed with a single letter from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – along with 6772 other people? You’d be part of an art project that asks you to reserve ‘One centimetre of your skin for human rights’. At TEDxHagueAcademySalon on 19 March there’s a chance to hear more about the project from the artist who conceived it, Sander van Bussel.

Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

The next person in line for a tattoo will be getting the first f in offence. That’s where the project has got up to so far. So far 1458 people have had a letter tattooed, and you can see the results on the Human Rights Tattoo website. They range from elaborate gothic calligraphy to simple sans serif. Some are boldly displayed on the hand, finger or neck, but many are discreetly tucked away on the back of the heel or behind the ear. There are even a few inside the lower lip. And the bearer of each tattoo explains their reasons for taking part.

In fact these personal statements on human rights are the most important element of the project, says Sander van Bussel, founder of social art collective Tilburg Cowboys. “The concept is the content,” as he puts it.

Meaning that sticks

Van Bussel was inspired by the death of Kenyan activist, filmmaker and radio journalist Steven Nyagah, better known as Nyash, who was shot in Nairobi’s sprawling Korogocho slum, allegedly for political reasons. Van Bussel had got to know Nyash when he was invited to participate in a project for Festival Mundial, an international arts festival in Tilburg. When Van Bussel later visited Nairobi, he tried to call Nyash but couldn’t get through to him. The following day Nyash was murdered.

“We always did these really strange projects with Tilburg cowboys – temporary, often with a smile, light-hearted,” Van Bussel says. “But I felt I could do more. I could do better. Longer projects, spread around the world, with more meaning that really sticks. The idea of tattooing the declaration of human rights was an idea that came to my mind in a minute.”

Get tattooed?

The next opportunity to go under the needle for human rights is at Movies that Matter, the film festival on human rights in The Hague on 23 March. You can't reserve a place, so get there early to avoid disappointment.




What does security mean to African women?


What does security mean to you? That’s the question we’re asking bloggers from different regions of the world in the run-up to our TEDxHagueAcademySalon on Secure Societies.

Rosebell Kagumire is a Ugandan blogger and journalist focusing on peace and conflict issues. She argues that war crimes against women are rooted in a security struggle that women have to deal with day to day.

By Rosebell Kagumire 

When you mention African women and security, thoughts will likely dash to the many wars past and present in different parts of the continent. This is because of the mass crimes specifically against women, including the sexual violence that has been committed from Eastern Congo to Darfur, from Kenya during post-election violence to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and now Central African Republic.

But security is something that many young African women, far from the frontlines, have to deal with every day.  If we cannot protect women during what we believe are times of peace then it becomes much more difficult to see how women can be protected in times when most forms of social protection are eroded.


In my country, Uganda, for the last 30 years women who have predominantly lived outside the regions that have suffered war may have not envisaged a situation where they would be publicly attacked in broad daylight with no one to offer help.

But the past month has taught us that public attacks on women are not something saved for war times. Since the passing of the Anti-Pornography Law – which the public have understood to be an anti-miniskirt law – we have witnessed increased attacks on young women in various towns in Uganda.

Ironically a law that its moralist drafters say was to control pornography, which is ‘blamed for sexual crimes against women’, has instead increased attacks on women.

The last time Uganda was obsessed with policing morality was when President Idi Amin banned mini-skirts.  Certain Ugandan men are treating the new law as a legitimate tool to back their attacks on women’s bodies – mainly by undressing women publicly in the name of morality.  These men claim that they are offended by women showing their legs. They justify attacks by arguing that the minister in charge of the country’s ethics has told them they can take part in a decision regarding where women’s skirt hems should be.

So far ten women are reported to have been publically undressed and two were imprisoned on a court order because of their length of their skirts.

Colonial opression

Uganda isn’t the first country on the continent that has tried to control women’s dressing. There have been cases of violent public undressing of women in South Africa too. These attacks on women are often shrouded in talk of ‘African culture’. And when you ask what exactly ‘African culture’ is, you find it is just another colonial establishment.

In Uganda, a country with a corruption-ridden government that is running out of options, it is easier to focus the psyche of the populace on women’s bodies as a battleground. What a way to preoccupy the youth – most of them uneducated - in a country with a staggering 83 percent youth unemployment.

The current legislative and rhetorical attacks on women’s rights taking place in Uganda are not only deplorable but also a manifestation of colonial oppression easily resurrected under dictatorships and authoritarian regimes that oppress men and women differently.  

Navigating your security

For young African women, security challenges aren’t just about wars that are sometimes far away. For a young woman, security means trying hard to get a decent job in a corporate world that employs fewer women. It also means battling sexual harassment at work once you get such a job.

With such laws draped in misconceptions about what an African culture really is, being a young woman means navigating your security by spending time measuring the length of your clothes. This is done while you also deal with other emerging security challenges that the very same society faces, ranging from regions of conflict to urban crime.


More blogs in this series:

Dima Nicolas on surviving day to day in the world's mose insecure society: Hopes in dangerous Syria

Wenjing Fan on everyday insecurities: What does security mean in China?


Image: Ugandan women protest against the country's new Anti-Pornography Law (CCTV Africa / YouTube)


Andro Vos: technology and truth


Andro Vos is a man who believes in following your dream – a valuable mindset if you specialise in innovation. On his watch as a programme director, the world-renowned Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) has pioneered new technologies for crime scene investigation using techniques ranging from virtual reality to heart rate monitoring.

“Classic and conservative,” is the way Vos describes the typical methods for investigating a crime scene. It’s pretty subjective, he says – investigators rely on their senses. There might be finger prints, and biological or chemical traces. And nowadays also digital evidence, such as the information on a cell phone.

At a crime scene you’ve only got one shot at collecting the evidence before it has been disturbed and contaminated, Andro Vos explains. This also makes it tricky for crime scene investigators to train on the job. There’s no room for learning by your mistakes. One false move and you could destroy valuable evidence forever. (Article continues below video)

The Power of Forensics: Andro Vos at TEDxHagueAcademySalon 

Virtual crime scene

So what if you could keep coming back to the scene of the crime months or even years later to reanalyse the details on the spot? And imagine if you could train at a real crime scene – complete with corpse, blood stains and murder weapon – without worrying that you might slip up and let a murderer go free.

That’s precisely what NFI has developed with its CSI The Hague project, says Vos. It’s now possible to digitise an entire crime scene and reproduce it in virtual reality.In the video Vos made to showcase the lab, we see an investigator with a head-mounted device that records the scene and flashes up augmented reality data. (“We came up with glasses like this before Google did,” Vos points out proudly.) The investigator uses a hand-held scanner to make a 3D image of the corpse. Thermal and spectral cameras pick up traces of blood and reveal how long they’ve been there.

Objective evidence

The project has also created a CSI Lab, which uses serious gaming techniques to train investigators. A scenario generator turns criminal statistics into realistic environments. The technology even measures trainees’ heart rates and records their every move. This provides valuable information for feedback and to learn more about the way investigators are likely to behave.

Vos sums up the results of his three-year CSI The Hague project: “I created a dream.” That dream is not just about inventing high-tech gadgets. It’s about uncovering objective evidence, and discovering the truth. Without the truth, says Vos, you have no justice, no democracy, and no secure society.


Kenneth Luongo: radiation doesn’t respect borders


“Climate, cyber, nuclear, financial – all the transnational issues are suffering from the same problem,” says Kenneth Luongo. “You have to find a way to break out of the 20th-century nation-centric mindset to solve global challenges. The conservative answer to nuclear security is that we are nation states. The real answer is that radiation doesn’t respect borders.”

Kenneth Luongo believes in the possibility to change that mindset and he isn’t afraid to deal with the big issues. “I don’t dwell on  the details for the most part,” he says. “I’m looking out over the next 20, 40, 50 years. Where do we need to be? How are we going to get there?”

Coming from the average person, all this might sound rather grand but not very realistic. Don’t underestimate Kenneth Luongo though. He’s is a down-to-earth type with a wry sense of humour – and the kind of global security track record that gives you a licence to think large. (Article continues below video)

‪Solving 21st Century Security Challenges‬: Kenneth Luongo at TEDxHagueAcademySalon 

Multiple partners, multiple paths

Under the Clinton administration, Luongo was senior advisor on non-proliferation policy to the US Energy Secretary. It was a time when the collapse of communism had opened up historic opportunities, and but also brought new dangers. The Cold War had left Russia with a massive stockpile of nuclear material and facilities, while the political system for managing them had caved in along with the economy.

Kenneth Luongo pushed ahead an initiative to team up with the Russians and deal with the weapons-grade nuclear material left scattered about the country. The result was a bilateral programme to protect material using rather more sophisticated methods than the padlocks, string and sealing wax Luongo observed in one Russian nuclear storage facility. 

“That initiative was unprecedented. The US government had already been trying to do it in various ways, but we actually succeeded in getting our partners in Russia to agree to allow us to work on actual nuclear weapons material – not just play in the kiddy pool. I didn’t do it alone and we didn’t just rely on government channels. It takes multiple partners and multiple paths to make real progress on complex issues where technology and politics meet.”

What’s more, you’ll see the consequences of that initiative still playing out when world leaders meet in The Hague at the Nuclear Security Summit, Luongo adds. “That cooperation with the Russians is what this summit is based on only now expanded globally. Without that precedent, none of this would have been possible.”

'I play to win'

The NSS is aimed at combating the chilling threat of nuclear terrorism. But just how terrified should we be? Are our societies more insecure than they used to be?

“The base threats haven’t changed,” Luongo argues, “but technology has created new ones and heightened the understanding, knowledge and perception of danger. Because danger sells, and we’re in a media saturated world that enhances the sense that there is danger all around us – but there are real and serious threats.”

Kenneth Luongo will be at the NSS arguing that the responsibility for tackling the challenges of nuclear security is an international one and we need to forge new forms of international cooperation. That’s quite a tall order – isn’t it an uphill struggle?

“It’s all an uphill struggle,” he agrees. “But we win. I don’t play this game just to get a cheque or to lose. I play to win. And we do win. And we have had a significant impact on the summit process.”

Summing up, what will his message be at TEDxHagueAcademySalon?

“We’re in a new world, we need to modernise the system. I’ll offer some ideas that have worked and can be applied to today’s global challenges. We need to figure out where we want to end up, and how we’re going to motivate ‘the system’ overall to move in this direction.”


Kianoush Ramezani: expression without threats


“A secure society to me is one that has independent and government-free internet,” says Iranian press cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani. “A society that can guarantee freedom of expression. So I’m free to express myself, and I’m also secure afterwards. I’m not going to receive any threats. Freedom of expression, and also freedom after expression.”

Kianoush Ramezani knows what it’s like to be threatened. And he lives in exile from a country with heavy internet censorship. Now living in Paris, social media have become his main stage and means of communication. So it’s not surprising that he should name free internet as a prerequisite for a secure society. In fact, he goes further.

“For thousands of bloggers and activists in exile, social media are the only media we have. If they seriously believe in freedom of speech, the social networks should actively promote us. I can’t afford to promote my work with Google or Facebook ads. There should be some exceptions, some special programme to promote freedom of expression.” (Article continues below video)

Cartooning, the Art of Danger: Kianoush Ramezani at TEDxHagueAcademySalon 


Ramezani founded Iran’s first independent cartoonists’ association in 1997. “I was obsessed with connecting the independent cartoonists of Iran with the rest of the world,” he says. “I was trying to break the monopoly of the pro-government cartoon organisation which had existed since the beginning of the Islamic revolution.”

The threats began after Ramezani became the Iranian leader of Cartoonists Rights Network International. “This gave me a louder voice outside of Iran, but definitely brought me fresh enemies too,” he says.

Ramezani received a phone call from a fellow cartoonist – the head of the pro-government cartoonists’ organisation – threatening that he could expect to face accusations and jail if he continued his work. Merely being associated with international human rights organisations was a risk.  Ramezani began to keep his cartooning career a secret.


Until 2009 Ramezani avoided alignment with any political movement, but that changed after the mass protests following the disputed re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “I was impressed by the bravery of young people who took to the streets to defend their votes. This motivated me to support them.”

He hung out in cafés or galleries that exhibited his cartoons, in the company of activists, cartoonists, and bloggers. But then he began hearing that friends were being picked up by the police. “People were arrested for no reason, to create fear, to prevent people from taking to the streets again.”

Ramezani realised he had two options: stay in Iran and go to prison, or escape and go on with his work. “The risk of being accused or imprisoned or tortured forced me to choose exile.” He fled to France, where he claimed asylum.

Freedom after expression?

It was a struggle to build a life in Paris. He stayed in accommodation provided by Reporters Without Borders, and blew a grant from Freedom House on French lessons. The unfamiliar freedom he saw around him inspired Ramezani to mount an international press cartoon exhibition on the theme of exile.

But now in exile, his main medium is the internet - his website and social media. Living in exile keeps him glued to the computer. Online he publishes his critical cartoons, stays in contact with activists and fellow exiles, and passionately persists in his campaign for freedom of expression.



TEDxHagueAcademySalon: seize the opportunity


Would you like to be in the audience at TEDxHagueAcademySalon Secure Societies on 19 March 2014? Now is the time to apply, because seating is limited.

What is a secure society? How do we make a society secure?

We’re offering the chance for you to hear four inspiring speakers with ideas worth spreading on this crucial issue of our era. Plus six punchy pitches with bright ideas on security. And you'll be able to make your views matter in the debate.

We’re looking for people who will make the most of this great opportunity. People who are keen to engage and interact. We’d like our audience to join in the discussion, put forward their own perspectives, and spread the word about this event and TEDxHagueAcademy.

You can be assured that a TEDx event provides the kind of forum that means your contributions will count. If you’re keen to be there, imagine the people you could meet who will share your enthusiasm. And what's more, you can look forward to a great evening of entertainment with delicious food!

We don’t want your money, just your passion to be present – tickets are free. We just need you to convince us why you need to be there.

How to apply

Tell us in 100 words or fewer why you would like to attend and what assets you would bring as an audience member.

Send your e-mail to info@tedxhagueacademy.org no later than Monday 3 March 2014. If you’ve been selected, we’ll let you know by Friday 7 March and send you a programme.

Vera Winthagen: design to cut crime


Stamping out crime? Vera Winthagen prefers a more constructive approach: Designing Out Crime. At the TEDxSalon on Secure Societies she’ll be talking about applying design thinking to crime prevention. Meet the first of four inspiring speakers.

Designing Out Crime (DOC) is the name of the programme Vera Winthagen heads at Eindhoven University of Technology, and the brainchild of Prof Kees Dorst of the DOC research centre in Sydney.

Eindhoven has a reputation as a design hotspot. It’s home not only to DOC, but also to the Dutch Design Week and the world-class Design Academy where Winthagen completed her studies. She went on to focus on designing for sustainability before specialising in intercultural design and changing behaviour – as in crime prevention.

But how do you cut crime just using design? What’s the trick?

“There’s no trick,” says Winthagen. “When people think of designers they think of people who come up with new solutions. But what we do is we investigate the problem – much better than most designers usually do. We make the problem bigger, more complex. We include more stakeholders and more factors that indirectly have to do with the problem.” (Article continues below video)

Designing out Insecure Societies: Vera Winthagen at TEDxHagueAcademySalon 

"I'm a catalyst"

She gives an example of a problem DOC set out to solve in Eindhoven: how can you make the city’s nightlife district safer for teenage girls? A close study revealed that this wasn’t the right question to ask. In fact safety wasn’t such a problem for girls – boys on a night out were four times as likely to get into trouble.

“What we do as designers is to look at the physical surroundings but also at people’s emotions, and that’s what we try to connect,” says Winthagen. Not that other designers don’t think about emotions, she adds. “But we go beyond that. We see the underlying values, the deeply felt beliefs.”

What DOC discovered was that the security problem for Eindhoven’s clubbing girls wasn’t on the street, but in the minds of parents. The real task was to put those minds at ease.

But how? Conventional crime prevention measures like security cameras actually have the opposite effect, she explains. They send a message that an area must be really dangerous. What was needed was to help the parents to let go and stop worrying. One design intervention DOC students came up with was a GPS tracker housed in girls’ bike keys. This allowed parents to keep tabs on their daughters’ whereabouts, thus increasing their sense of security.

At TEDxHagueAcademy, we’ll hear Winthagen’s ideas worth spreading on design as a tool to create a more secure society. “I’m a catalyst,” she says. “What I do is bridge the idea world with the physical world.”


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TedxSalon event to be held on Secure Societies


TedxHagueAcademySalon Secure Societies, Wednesday 19 March 2014

What does it mean to live in a secure society? What are the new elements that are needed to help us towards security? What’s the balance between security and freedom?

These are the questions we’ll be asking at our upcoming TEDxHagueAcademySalon – a focused, fun evening that rolls around the concept of ‘Secure Societies’.

The word ‘secure’ has lots of different meanings for all of us. But most would agree that ‘security’ ranks up there with ‘peace’ ‘freedom’ ‘justice’ as one of those concepts that can be debated, pulled apart, disagreed about – but is essential.

Four dynamic TED-style talks will headline this inspiring and interactive evening. They will be complemented by a series of inspiring short pitches on new ideas on security in its broadest sense. Plus there will be networking opportunities, entertainment and – of course – delicious food.

TEDxHagueAcademySalon is on 19 March 2014, 18:00, at the auditorium of The Hague University (THU)

Find out more information and see the programme

Netherlands held responsible for deaths of three Bosniaks


The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday held the Netherlands responsible for deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men during the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

The three men had been ordered by Dutch peacekeeping troops to leave the UN compound when Bosnian Serb forces led by Gen Ratko Mladic overran Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. They were among thousands of others who took shelter in the UN compound only to be forced out by the "Dutchbat" (the Dutch forces under the UN command) two days later. 

During the massacre, over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men or Bosniaks were killed by Bosnian Serb forces. The incident was the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

Friday’s decision upheld an earlier ruling by an appeals court in 2011.

Liesbeth Zegveld, human rights lawyer representing the Bosnian families, called the ruling historic. She told Associated Press that the decision sets a precedent because it holds countries involved in UN missions legally responsible for crimes. Zegveld stressed, “People participating in UN missions are not always covered by the UN flag.”

The decision now clears the way for relatives and families of victims to seek compensation from the Dutch state for the deaths. Hasan Nuhanovic, who lost his brother and father in the incident, was one of the complainants of the lawsuit. “I was thinking about my family, they are dead for 18 years,” he told Associated Press, adding: “It does not change that, but maybe there is some justice.”

The case that went on for 10 years could have implications on future UN peacekeeping missions, as states might show reluctance to participate in foreign military operations. However, Dutch Supreme Court Judge, Toon Heisterkamp said the narrow focus of the case makes it unlikely to have far-reaching effects. 

Sources: Radio France, BBC, Radio Free Europe Liberty

Photo caption: Women mourn the death of their loved ones in the Srebrenica massacre. By cvrcak1

Kenya moves to pull out of ICC


Kenya became the first country to decide to withdraw its membership from the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday.

The decision came after the Kenyan parliament approved a motion in an emergency debate. Although opposition MPs boycotted the vote, a bill is likely to be introduced in the parliament in the next 30 days. 

The move comes one week before Deputy President William Ruto faces trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. 

Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta face charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly inciting post-election violence in 2007-08 which left more than 1,000 people dead and over 600,000 homeless. Both Ruto and Kenyatta have denied charges filed against them. 

Adan Duale, leader of the majority party in parliament, cited that the U.S. wasn’t a part of the Rome Statute, which overlooks prosecution of crimes against humanity and war crimes at the ICC. Duale said the U.S. did so in order to protect its citizens from harmful and politically motivated interests. “Let us protect our citizens. Let us defend the sovereignty of Kenya,” he added. 

Kenya’s withdrawal from the ICC however will not halt the cases. Earlier on Thursday, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said, “The judicial process is now in motion at the International Criminal Court. Justice must run its course.”  

A BBC report suggested that “the vote sends a powerful signal of defiance to The Hague - a sentiment that is becoming increasingly popular, here in Kenya and across much of Africa.” In May, the African Union accused the ICC of racially targetting Africans. The ICC however dismissed these accusations. 

Sources: BBC, ABC, Al Jazeera English

Photo caption: A protester carries a rock to block a road during battles between police and demonstrators disputing the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki in Nairobi January 3, 2008/REUTERS

Sri Lanka must ensure safety of activists


An international human rights organization asked the Sri Lankan government on Wednesday to ensure safety of activists, journalists and civilians.

The announcement by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based organization, came after several activists alleged that Sri Lankan security forces intimidated and harassed them after they had met with UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, who was on an official visit in the country last month.

The UN human rights chief expressed concerns on the development. She said, “Reprisals against people who talk to the UN are an extremely serious matter.” She added that she would report the matter to the UN Human Rights Council.

Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW said, “It’s outrageous for a government that is hosting the UN human rights chief to have their security forces harass people who met with her. The Sri Lankan government should announce that ‘visits’ or other forms of harassment of those who spoke to the high commissioner will be punished. And the government should make sure they punish officials who’ve already done so.”

The Sri Lankan government ended a 27-year-old civil war against separatist Tamil rebels in 2009 after a heavy military offensive. It faces allegations of grave human rights abuses in the Tamil-majority north and east of the island country.  

During her visit to Sri Lanka, Pillay met with activists in Tamil regions as well as government officials, politicians and activists. HRW stated that the Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, based in Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka, reported being harassed by military personnel a few hours after its staff met with Pillay.

It added that several other victims, witnesses, and rights activists told a leading Colombo-based organization that they were visited by military personnel following meetings with the UN high commissioner.

The Sri Lankan government has been accused of curbing dissent and silencing its critics on several occasions previously. 

Sources: Human Rights Watch, ABC

Photo: War crimes by Sri Lankan forces during the final military offensive released by WarWithoutWitness.com

UN: Two million refugees have fled Syria


Over two million refugees have fled Syria’s ongoing civil war, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said in a statement on Tuesday.

It added that the number of refugees had grown tenfold over the past 12 months resulting in nearly 10 percent of the country’s population living as refugees outside Syria.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, said, "What is appalling is that the first million fled Syria in two years. The second million fled Syria in six months."

He referred to Syria as "the great tragedy of this century - a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history."

More than 97 percent of Syrian refugees are hosted by neighbouring countries like Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp is home to the largest numbers of civilians feeling the war that broke out in March 2011. [Check our speaker Faisal Attrache’s documentary project in Zaatari camp].

Living conditions in refugee camps, where over 50 percent of the population is below 18 years of age, are worsening as the humanitarian crisis within the country escalates.

Additionally, the number of internally displaced people within Syria has reached over 4.2 million, according to the UNHCR.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing for a military intervention in Syria against President Bashar al Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in a Damascus suburb last month. Assad however has rejected these allegations and warned against a possible international intervention in the coming days. 

Sources: UNHCR, ReutersBBC

Photo: Syrian refugee child in Qaa, Lebanon by Freedom House. 

ICTY judge disqualified for demonstrating bias


In an unprecedented decision, a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia (ICTY) has been disqualified before the end of a case.

Danish Judge Frederik Harhoff was removed from a case he was hearing because of a letter he wrote in June.  

The decision comes only two months before the planned announcement of a verdict in the case against Serbian politician Vojislav Šešelj, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Šešelj, who has been indicted for crimes committed at the beginning of the nineties in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, asked the president of the court to disqualify Judge Harhoff for alleged inclination to convict accused persons of Serbian ethnicity.

In the letter circulated to 56 friends and associates, Harhoff had criticized recent decisions at the ICTY as a "departure from the previous 'set practice' of convicting military commanders," and said that the acquittals of Croatian General Ante Gotovina, former chief of staff of the Yugoslav Army Momcilo Perisic and former head of Serbia’s State Security Service Jovica Stanisic, were the result of politically motivated pressure on judges exerted by ICTY President Theodor Meron.

Harhoff raised speculation that the “military establishment in leading states such as USA and Israel” were imposing pressure on the court because of  concern for any precedents in future cases against their own citizens.

Harhoff’s removal has raised many complications for the ICTY. Legal experts say options include assigning a replacement judge, ordering a new trial, or throwing out the case entirely on the grounds that the process was flawed.

Šešelj has already been in custody for ten years. In closing statements last year, prosecutors demanded a conviction and 28-year sentence, while the accused, who is self-represented, seeks acquittal.

Story Sources: Balkan Insight, Deutshe Welle, IWPR.

Photo: Srebrenica Memorial outside Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina. All rights reserved by canasam

Help Fund Cambodian Tribunals, says Ban Ki-Moon


United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has appealed to the international community for financial assistance for the Cambodia tribunal which is charged with putting on trial those accused of the most serious crimes – including crimes against humanity during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970’s. This comes as Cambodian staff at the tribunal were informed on Tuesday that there is not enough money to pay their salaries.

‘I want to use this opportunity to make a special appeal on behalf of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.  This Court has achieved important successes in prosecuting the brutal crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge regime.’ Ban  Ki-Moon told an audience of dignitaries who were in The Hague to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Peace Palace. ‘Yet today the Court is in crisis.  The voluntary contributions on which the Court depends have run dry.  Cambodian staff have not been paid since June.  The very survival of the Court is now in question.’ 

Amid the deepening funding crisis, at a court already bogged down by resignations and the ill health of its elderly defendants, Cambodian staff threatened to go on strike on 1 September unless they are paid their overdue wages.  Court spokesman Neth Pheaktra confirmed an internal announcement that “despite recent efforts from the government and U.N…and visits to five Asean countries, there is still no news on new pledges and the Cambodian side has a problem with cash flow.”

On August 18, U.N. special expert David Scheffer embarked on a six-day mission in the region to try and secure funding for the court. Tribunal observers have said the international community is cautious about funding the national side of the tribunal because of allegations of government interference and corruption.

The funding dispute puts into question the commitment of the Cambodian authorities, who have been accused of interfering behind the scenes to limit the scope of investigations.

 ‘Financial failure would be a tragedy for the people of Cambodia, who have waited so long for justice.  It would also be a severe blow to our shared commitment to international justice.’ Ban Ki-Moon said, ‘I call on the international community to come forward with the financing to continue this most important judicial process – not just for the weeks ahead, but to see all the cases through to their conclusion.’

Between 1.7 million and 2.2 million people -almost a quarter of Cambodia's population, died between 1975 and 1979 under the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge - many of them from overwork and torture.


You can read more about the cash challenges facing the tribunal here

You can read UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s statement here

To read about donations already made to the tribunal, click here

Story sources: United Nations and The Cambodia Daily.

Image : Photos of young Khmer Rouge fighters ( on display at the tuol sleng Museum, Phnom Penh)

Source: Adam Carr at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Meet the speakers

Welcome to #TEDxHagueAcademy!

This event will focus on inspiring people with powerful stories who’ve found themselves in unexpected circumstances or difficult situations which empowered them to make a meaningful contribution to the future of peace and justice.
Vithika Yadav
Welcome to #TEDxHagueAcademy!

This event will focus on inspiring people with powerful stories who’ve found themselves in unexpected circumstances or difficult situations which empowered them to make a meaningful contribution to the future of peace and justice.
Vithika Yadav
A human rights advocate passionate about developing an open and honest discussion around sexual knowledge in India. Head of Indian Operations for Love Matters, a web and mobile site that openly addresses conversations about safe and satisfying sex. Read more about her on her TEDxHagueAcademy profile
Theodor Meron 

President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Presiding Judge of the Appeals Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the ICTY. Read more about him on his TEDxHagueAcademy profile

Neal Katyal 
An American lawyer and law professor at Georgetown, whose legal work has dramatically changed the U.S government’s policy on enemy combatants, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the application of the Geneva Conventions in US civilian and military courts. Read more about him on his TEDxHagueAcademy profile
Jean-Paul Samputu

A survivor of the Rwanda genocide. Singer, songwriter, and musician.Travelling the world promoting peace and reconciliation. Read more about him on his TEDxHagueAcademy profile
Iduvina Hernandez 

A journalist and civic rights activist heavily involved in the ongoing case of former head of state, Efrain Rios Montt, who is standing trial for genocide. She is the director of an NGO working to reduce impunity and improve the democratic process in Guatemala. Read more about her on her TEDxHagueAcademy profile

Hauwa Ibrahim 
A human rights advocate and lawyer, internationally known for her defense of Amina Lawal and also Safiya Hussaini, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. She has written various published pieces addressing practical and theoretical challenges of protecting women’s right under Sharia law. Read more about her on her TEDxHagueAcademy profile
Michael Liu

Founder and Secretary-General of the Chinese Initiative on International Criminal Justice, an initiative dedicated to representing victims at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia. This team of lawyers from Mainland China is the first to appear at international tribunals. Read more about him on his TEDxHagueAcademy profile
Hadi Marifat 

Co-founder of an NGO dedicated to promoting democracy and human rights in Afghanistan. He has assisted in the development of the Memory Box Initiative, a program created in conjunction with victims of war, to remember those who lost their lives in various conflicts that define Afghanistan’s violent past. Read more about him on his TEDxHagueAcademy profile
Faisal Attrache 

A film student whose work has received massive international attention. His documentary film and humanitarian project WalkIns Welcome: Stories of Syrian Refugee Barbers, is said to have increased international understanding of refugee life and the Syrian crisis in general. Read more about him on his TEDxHagueAcademy profile


UN Human Rights Probe Wants Access to North Korea


A United Nations investigation into human rights abuses in North Korea has called on the authorities in Pyongyang to allow them into the country to collect evidence on the ground.

Retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, the chairman of the three-member Commission of Inquiry, said Pyongyang had not directly replied to an invitation to participate in the commission hearings. The commission’s repeated requests for access included a formal written letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but it has had no direct response.

“Lacking direct access to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we are still able to gather numerous first-hand accounts from people who have managed to leave the country in recent years,” Mr. Kirby said in a news release.

He reiterated the benefits Pyongyang would gain by cooperating.

"An ounce of evidence is worth a pound of many, many insults," Mr. Kirby said. "Those who criticize the commission should provide the evidence."

Established by the UN Human Rights Council in March this year, the Commission is tasked with investigating the “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in the DPRK in order to ensure full accountability, in particular for violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.

The inquiry has wrapped up five days of disturbing hearings in the South Korean capital Seoul - mostly testimony from North Korean defectors.

The panel members move next to Japan to address the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea decades ago. The abductions remain a sharp issue in Japan and a point of tension between the two countries. Commission members also plan to collect witness testimony in Thailand, Britain and the United States.

North Korea, which strongly denies allegations of rights abuses, refused to recognise the UN body’s mission and barred it from visiting the country.

"The issue of the 'human rights' touted by the south Korean authorities…is a plot hatched by the U.S. and other hostile forces to justify their moves for hurting and stifling a sovereign state," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said.

Mr. Kirby stressed that the commission is conducting the inquiry with impartiality and with no preconceptions.

The Commission is scheduled to present an oral update to the UN Human Rights Council in September this year in Geneva, and to the UN General Assembly in New York in October. A final written report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council next March.

Kirby said he expected the UN to act on any recommendations the commission might make. Many North Korean defectors hope that the United Nations Security Council will ask the International Criminal Court to indict North Korean leaders for crimes against humanity.

“We hope their brave decision to testify will raise the international profile of the human rights situation in North Korea – not just with a general global audience, but also among the member states of the United Nations,” he added in a statement issued by the UN human rights Office.



Story Sources: United Nations and the New York Times.

Read more about this story here, here and here

Image: A North Korean soldier keeps watch over the demilitarized zone betwee both countries with his binoculars. 

Source: Thomas Bougher Flickr 

Peace or Justice? Colombia’s Difficult Choice


Colombian President Manuel Santos said the time for peace is "now or never" but reiterated that any negotiated agreements must be ratified by popular vote.

Santos, who started peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, back in November, has said Tuesday that he would be willing to meet  FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londoño, who is sometimes referred to as Timoleón Jimenez or Timochenko, to hasten an agreement in talks seeking to end 50 years of conflict. He has however warned that the nation will continue at war if Colombians reject what is agreed at the negotiating table.

"I think this is the most important process that Colombia can have and, if it's successful, the most important thing that can happen to Colombia in recent history," Santos told W Radio, a local radio station.

More than three dozen FARC commanders are in Cuba, which is hosting the talks. They are working through a five-point agenda that would let the two sides declare an end to the fighting. The war has pit the FARC and a smaller rebel group, the ELN, against government troops and illegal paramilitary death squads.

The outcome of the talks will however depend on whether Colombians vote to accept the mechanism for dealing with thousands of documented abuses, and ensuring justice for the victims if the matter goes to referendum. According to a study by a state-supported National Center for Historic Memory, the FARC killed nearly 3,300 people since 1981, launched hundreds of attacks on small towns and kidnapped nearly 13,000 people from 1970 to 2010. Some Government forces were also implicated in rights abuses.

“We don’t believe there will be justice, as they say there will be,” said German Bernal, 35, who represents victims of the conflict in Tolima. “I think the government, in its rush to find peace, is doing things we don’t agree with on the issue of justice.”

A prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, has written that the suspended sentences the Colombian framework could permit suggest that the objective is to “shield the accused from responsibility.” She also said the plan might be in violation of Colombia’s own treaty obligations.

“It’s the search for the right balance between peace and justice,” said Sibylla Brodzinsky, co-editor of “Throwing Stones at the Moon,” a recently published book on victims uprooted from their homes by Colombia’s conflict. “What it comes down to is if you demand too much justice, then peace is at risk. If you prioritize peace over the demands of justice, you could be creating the basis for an entirely new conflict.”

Santos, who has pushed hard for a peaceful negotiated settlement for Colombia, told Reuters in a recent interview that the rebel leadership could face jail terms if peace were achieved. He also said FARC negotiators would need to return to Colombia's jungle and face capture or death in battle if talks collapse.

Londoño  is not personally taking part in the negotiations so far, and his exact whereabouts are unknown. He is thought to be coordinating the war from hiding in Venezuela.

Any meeting between Santos and Londoño would be the first such sit down since former President Andres Pastrana met rebel founder Manuel Marulanda during peace talks that fell apart in 2002.


Story sources: The Washington Post and Reuters 

Read more here, here and here

Read about  the search for peace and justice in Guatemala here

Image Source: xmascarol Flickr  

Kosovo Seen as Template for Syria Intervention


With Russia most likely to veto any military action against Syria in the UN Security Council, U.S. national security aides are studying the 1999 NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations.

Allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria have amplified calls for military intervention against the Assad regime. The non-profit Doctors Without Borders estimates that 355 people were killed and more than 3,600 were injured in an attack on Wednesday. If confirmed, it would be the worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein gassed more than 3,000 people in an Iraqi Kurdish village 25 years ago.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave a statement which has been interpreted as making the case for military action against the Assad regime.

“The argument in 1999 in the case of Kosovo was that there was a grave humanitarian emergency and the international community had the responsibility to act and, if necessary, to do so with force,” said Ivo H. Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO who is now the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Doing the same in the case of Syria would require a similarly robust international coalition and legal justification.

Calling for international intervention to stop the killing, Kosovo’s foreign minister wrote, “As a country that today enjoys freedom and democracy thanks to NATO action, we are strong supporters of the idea that sovereignty is not a right, but a responsibility. Speaking from experience, the time has come for the international community to offer protection to the people of Syria.”

Legal experts have pointed to Kosovo as an obvious legal precedent  because, similar to the case in Syria, civilians were killed and Russia had long standing ties with the government authorities accused of abuses. U.S. President Bill Clinton used the endorsement of NATO and the rationale of protecting a vulnerable population to justify 78 days of airstrikes.

In the case of Syria, Daalder said, the administration could argue that the use of chemical weapons had created a serious humanitarian emergency, and that without a forceful response there would be a danger that the Assad government might use it on a large scale once again.

Another basis for intervening in Syria, Daalder said, might be violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which outlaws the use in war of poison gas.

The United States has been consulting with its allies about possible responses, and on Monday the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Turkey said in separate radio interviews that they would be prepared to back U.S. action outside the parameters of a UN mandate.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the Turkish Milliyet daily newspaper that more than 35 nations are considering joining the United States in taking action against Syria, and that Turkey was among them. If the UN Security Council could not agree on measures, he said, Turkey would be willing to consider “other alternatives.”


Read More about intervention in Syria here. Read the Kosovo foreign minister’s article here. Read about the possibility of military intervention in Syria as reprisal here.

Story Sources: New York Times and Washington Post http://alturl.com/48aer

Photo: survivors mourning victims following last week's suspected chemical attack in Syria. Credit: (C) AFP PHOTO / HO / SHAAM NEWS NETWORK

Swift justice Promised after Mumbai Gang Rape


The suspects in last week's gang rape of a 22-year-old photojournalist in Mumbai will be put on trial quickly, said Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

"Stringent action will be taken against the culprits," Mr Chavan told reporters. Five men have been arrested for the crime.

The woman was raped last Thursday at the Shakti Mills, an abandoned textile mill in the city, while on assignment with a male companion. She was taking pictures of an abandoned factory for a Mumbai magazine. It is not clear whether her companion is also a journalist.

Shakti Mills is widely known to be used as a shelter by drug addicts.

The five men raped her in turns after assaulting her companion and tying him up with a belt. Police are still trying to trace a cellphone with which the men took photographs of the victim after the rape.

Mumbai has long been considered one of the safest places in India for women to travel alone, even at night.

On Sunday, about 1,000 people gathered in south Mumbai to stage a silent protest. Some wore black armbands, while others carried placards reading 'Stop rape' and 'City of shame'. Other protests were held in Tamil Nadu, Calcutta and Assam.

In December 2012, a gang rape in New Delhi sparked similar protests. In response, the government passed legislation increasing prison terms for rape and making voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women punishable under criminal law.

The trials of the four men and one juvenile accused of the New Delhi attack are expected to conclude within the next three weeks. The verdict on the juvenile suspect is set for August 31. Closing arguments in the trial of the four adult suspects started on Thursday.

To read a popular blog article by an American student about sexual violence in India, click here.


Story Sources:




Photo: one of the suspects in the Mumbai gang rape taken into custody. Credit: (C) AFP

Should We Remember the Past, or Forget It?


It is said that those who forget history are destined to repeat it. But even remembering the past can be dangerous, says Rwandan-born author Olivier Nyirubugara.

Nyirubugara will host a seminar on the role of memory in a post-genocide society on 5 September at the African Studies Centre in Leiden. The seminar is part of the Peace Palace centennial celebrations (see details below).

In his book, Complexities and Dangers of Remembering and Forgetting in Rwanda, Nyirubugara discusses his view that ethnic identities, and the memories related to them, create a lethal trap that must be dismantled to neutralize the threat of new mass violence in Rwanda.

Nyirubugara is a lecturer in new media and online journalism at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

He argues that Rwandans have become hostages of their memories of the distant and recent past. His book describes how these memories follow ethnic lines and lead to a state of cultural hypocrisy on the one hand, and to permanent conflict – either open or latent – on the other. Seemingly harmless cultural practices such as child-naming, myths, folklore, proverbs, and poetry affect how communities conceptualize the past.

Nyirubugara’s book is the first in the Memory Traps series, which he hopes "will capture the attention of those interested in understanding those societies around the world where memory seems to be a burden and a cause for cultural hypocrisy."

Date, time and location

05 September 2013

3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences

Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden

Room 1A01


Click here to register for this seminar



To find out about an organization in Afghanistan that is also involved in the managing of memory in post-conflict society, click here

(Photo: Olivier Nyirubugara http://www.flickr.com/photos/mauroppi/3990518422/sizes/o/in/photostream/ )

Syrian Child Refugees Now Number One Million, UN Reports


One million Syrian children are now living in refugee camps because of the civil war in their country, according to figures announced by the United Nations today.

The latest statistics from UNICEF and the UNHCR show that more than half of the 1.9 million refugees from the Syrian conflict are under the age of 18. Some 740,000 of them are younger than 11.

Many of the child refugees are in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt. Others have fled as far away as North Africa and Europe. More than 3,500 children in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have crossed Syria's borders either unaccompanied or separated from their families.

The UN agencies noted that in addition to the physical upheaval, fear, stress and trauma that many of the children have experienced, they are also vulnerable to being used for child labour, forced into early marriage and even sexual exploitation and trafficking.

"This one millionth child refugee is not just another number," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in New York. "This is a real child ripped from home, maybe even from a family, facing horrors we can only begin to comprehend."

The UN agencies pressed the need to find a political solution in Syria, and urged the warring parties to stop targeting civilians and recruiting children.

"The youth of Syria are losing their homes, their family members and their futures. Even after they have crossed a border to safety, they are traumatized, depressed and in need of a reason for hope," said António Guterres, High Commissioner of the UN refugee agency, in Geneva.

The UN agencies urged governments in the region to ensure that children and their families are safe to leave Syria and that borders remain open so civilians can seek refuge. They warned that those who fail to meet these obligations under international humanitarian law should be held fully accountable for their actions.


Click this link to find out more about an initiative to tell the story of life in the Syrian refugee camps. To find out more about life in the Zaatari the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, click here.

(Photo: Syrian child refugees http://www.flickr.com/photos/syriafreedom/6811500512/sizes/o/in/photostream/ )

Maldives Teenager Spared the Rod


The High Court of the Maldives overturned a flogging sentence against a teenage girl found guilty of fornication. The move was welcomed by human rights activists.

The 15-year old girl, who was not named, had been sentenced to 100 lashes and house arrest. The High Court on Wednesday ruled that the girl, whose stepfather is on trial for raping her, had been wrongly convicted by a juvenile court of having pre-marital sex with another man.

“Annulling this sentence was of course the right thing to do. We are relieved that the girl will be spared this inhumane punishment based on an outrageous conviction,” said Amnesty International’s deputy Asia-Pacific director Polly Truscott.

The girl was first arrested in June 2012 after the body of a baby she had given birth to was found buried outside her home on Feydhoo Island. Her conviction on charges of fornication caused an international uproar. More than 2 million people signed an online Avaaz campaign to have the verdict reversed.

Rights activists argue that prosecutions for “fornication” violate individuals’ rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and bodily autonomy. Flogging, carried out with a cane, is normally handed down as a punishment by village chiefs who also act as local judges. Media reports indicate that a large majority of the individuals convicted of “fornication” in the Maldives in 2011 were female.

The chief justice of the country's criminal court defended the practice of flogging in a 2009 article by the Independent describing how the country was divided over the strict application of Islamic sharia law.

The Maldivian judicial system currently practices a combination of common law and sharia. Article 142 of the country’s constitution mandates that any matter on which the constitution or the law is silent must be considered according to the sharia code.

For more details on this story, click here. To read more about the debate over flogging in the Maldives, click here. For how women’s rights issues are tarnishing the Maldives reputation as paradise isles, click here.


(Photo this page: Maldivian capital Malé http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Male-total.jpg Photo homepage: Mosque in capital Malé http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mal%C3%A9_Mosque.JPG )

Defence Counsel: Lebanon Tribunal Must be Thorough


The lead defence lawyer at the Special Tribunal on Lebanon says the proceedings against his client, Salim Jalim Ayyash, must not become a "show trial".

Ayyash stands accused of coordinating the February 2005 bombings that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others. He is still at large.

The defence counsel, Emile Aoun, acknowledges the controversial reputation of the Special Tribunal on Lebanon (STL).

"I know that the STL is a very divisive issue among many Lebanese, that’s clear," he told the Daily Star. "But to me it’s not so much about politics. This is simply about the rights of the accused and a fair trial in their absence."

Unless Ayyash is caught, he will be the first person tried in absentia by an international tribunal since the proceedings against Nazi suspects in Nuremberg in the 1940s.

The STL has been criticized for the narrowness of its mandate, which covers a limited number of attacks in 2004 and 2005, and for the burden it places on the annual Lebanese budget. It was created under the auspices of the UN, but will try crimes under Lebanese law.

Rafik Hariri's assassination led to a series of political crises, killings, and bombings that ignited sectarian clashes in 2008, leading Lebanon to the brink of civil war.

Aoun, the main defence lawyer, is a believer in international justice, but says it is "selective, expensive and slow." Asked when the process could conclude, Aoun quipped: "the two slowest forms of justice are God's justice and international justice".

Proceedings at the Special Tribunal on Lebanon will begin next January.


Read More about the Special Tribunal on Lebanon here. For a timeline of events around the 2005 bombing, follow this link. Story source here.

(Photo: The corner where Rafik Hariri was assassinated.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/maccise/54199073/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Blog Sparks Debate over Sexual Harassment in India


An American student's blog detailing sexual harassment in India is fuelling worldwide discussion and keeping the spotlight on recent high-profile rape cases.

In her blog for CNN, University of Chicago student Michaela Cross describes her experiences after spending three months in Pune, India on a semester abroad program.

“India was wonderful…but extremely dangerous for women,” she writes. Her article describes the difficulty of living as a woman in a society where women have to deal with the reality of sexual harassment on a daily basis.

She recounts having strangers groping her on the streets, incessant photographing and a stalker who followed her for close to an hour until she shouted at him in public. Her experience so affected her that she took leave of absence from university to receive treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

On the blog, which has raked in more than 825,000 views, Cross says that nothing could have prepared her for a cultural experience that was “both beautiful and traumatizing.”

Cross’s story has sparked heated reactions from several countries. Many commentators have offered sympathy, with some men offering apologies for her experiences, while others have cautioned against making generalizations about India or its people. Sexual violence and harassment have been especially sensitive issues in India since the Delhi 2012 rape case.

For more information about rape, sexual harassment, and women’s rights, follow this link. For information about the ‘Red Brigade’, India’s Anti-rape vigilantes, click here.


Story source: cnn.com

(Image: Delhi rape protest 2012 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/Delhi_protests-India_Raped%2C_says_one_young_woman%27s_sign.jpg )

Investigate Guatemala Murders, Trade Unionists Say


Global workers union Public Services International (PSI) has called on Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina to tackle the many murders targeting trade unionists in his country.

At least 58 trade union members have been killed in Guatemala in the past five years, according to an estimate from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). No one has been convicted for the murders.

President Pérez, reacting to the appeal by a visiting PSI delegation, said it was “very shameful for us that our country is the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists today.”

The ITUC 2012 Survey of Trade Union Rights described Guatemala as “characterized predominantly by human rights violations” against trade union, rural and indigenous community leaders. The report documents numerous allegations of attempted murder, torture, kidnappings and death threats.

Impunity has remained rampant in Guatemala since the 36-year armed struggle ended in 1996.


Read more about the plight of workers in Guatemala here, or learn more about the ITUC here

(Image: PSI delegation visits Guatemala August 12-15 http://www.world-psi.org/en/node/1555 )

Kosovars Urge Resolution of Missing Persons Cases


Survivors of the conflict in Kosovo are demanding to know the fate of their loved ones who went missing during the hostilities. They've urged their own leaders to rally international pressure on Serbia through the UN Security Council.

Family members of the 1,754 documented missing people put their demands in a letter to Kosovo's Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, and Foreign Minister, Enver Hoxhaj on Tuesday.

“Serbian authorities and representatives of Serbian institutions have information on places where mass graves are located,” Prenk Gjetaj, chief of Kosovo’s missing persons commission, said.

The armed conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia lasted from 28 February 1998 until 11 June 1999.

Missing persons were part of EU-mediated talks between the Kosovo and Serbian authorities, but the issue did not appear in the document that normalized relations signed April 19.

EU officials have described the issue as a humanitarian rather than a political one, but activists warn that failing to deal with missing persons could scuttle the resumption of normal ties.

Earlier this month, investigators from Belgrade and Pristina started looking for a possible mass grave in the village of Svirce, Tanjug news agency reported. But overall progress has been slow, with slightly more than half of the 36 excavations planned for 2012 carried out.

In his July 2013 progress report on the situation in Kosovo, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged resolution of missing persons cases, writing that "full normalization requires resolution of painful issues inherited from the war."

Family members of the missing are urging Kosovo's government to put the issue on the agenda of the UN Security Council meeting on August 29.


Read More about disappeared persons here, here and here.

For more information on the UN mission in Kosovo, you can click here.

Article sources:  Balkan Transitional Justice http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/families-urge-kosovo-authorities-to-internationalize-missing-person-issue and B92 http://www.b92.net/eng/news/crimes.php?yyyy=2013&mm=08&dd=06&nav_id=87195

(Image: http://www.state.gov/www/regions/eur/rpt_9905_ethnic_ksvo_7a.html )

Girls Education Rights Champion Wins Award


The teenager who made global headlines after being shot in the head by the Taliban was awarded an international prize. Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year old Pakistani schoolgirl and education activist, is the 2013 winner of the Tipperary International Peace Award.

From the age of 11, Malala wrote secretly for the BBC, telling the story of life as a girl seeking education under Taliban rule. Her identity was discovered, and on 9 October 2012, a Taliban gunman went into her schoolbus and shot her above the left eye. She survived and was treated by doctors in Pakistan and in the UK where she was later airlifted.

Even after the shooting, and continued threats on her life, Malala continued speaking out for girls' right to education across the world. Sixty-one million children worldwide have no access to education, and the vast majority of them are girls.  Malala has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and has addressed the United Nations, which designated July 12 as “Malala Day” in her honor.

Previous recipients of the Tipperary International Peace Award include former South African president Nelson Mandela and the former Soviet and former US leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton. Malala is also the youngest-ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

You can read about the Tipperary Peace Award here

Watch the I Am Malala Music Video here


(Image: screen shot http://www.tipperarypeace.ie/peaceprize.html)

The medias balancing act on conflict and justice


It takes real dedication to take on the task of reporting on conflict and justice. Just ask the journalists who've covered election violence in Kenya, filmed forgotten war victims in Afghanistan, or explained the intricacies of international justice in The Hague.

News media play a crucial role in the exposure of injustice. But for journalists covering conflicts, the challenges, risks and responsibilities of the job can be enormous. So how do they handle these pressures and keep delivering balanced, fair and accurate coverage? What kinds of choices are these reporters confronted with?

Seasoned journalists, editors and bloggers who cover conflict and international justice will answer these questions and more on September 5 2013 at "Whose truth, whose justice? The role of the media in conflict in justice". The event is timed to celebrate the centenary anniversary of the Peace Palace in The Hague.

The panel speakers will include Nzau Musau, Imad Bazzi, Rachel Irwin, Daniella Peled and Janet Anderson from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), and Dutch freelance journalists Heikelien Verrijn Stuart and Kees Schaepman. The event at the Peace Palace will also include an exhibition of the 2013 World Press Photo 2013 and a screening of the award-winning film 'Give up tomorrow'.

Tickets are available via http://vredespaleis.nl/100years or at the Visitors Center of the Peace Palace.

(Photo: Israeli security man blocks reporters' way during emergency in Tel Aviv. Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/government_press_office/6714897313/)

Stories of Normal Life in Tragic Times


Most men don’t think twice when shaving. It’s part of their daily routine: wash the face, lather the soap and go. But in some places, these simple acts are the only remnants of normal life.

Like at the Zaatari refugee camp, where over 120,000 refugees who've fled the Syrian civil war are now living. Local barbers have set up makeshift shops with mirrors and a chair. There, they wield their clippers and razors, while every day dozens of customers share their life stories as they get a trim or a shave. This is the setting for Walk-Ins Welcome: Stories of Syrian Refugee Barbers, filmmaker Faisal Attrache's documentary film and humanitarian project.

The conversations Attrache filmed illustrate the lives of people displaced by the crisis, but they also reflect on the Syrian conflict as a whole. Attrache says his aim was to restore a human face to the conflict, something that was lost while the fighting dragged on for the past two years.

(Photo: The main street in Zaatari refugee camp. Credit: www.refugeebarbers.com)


Fighting for the Rights of Everyone


Neal Katyal recalls the moment he met his client at Guantanamo Bay. Salim Hamdan, formerly Osama bin Laden's driver who was being charged with supporting terrorism, asked Katyal why he had taken the case as he was aware the lawyer had previously represented Vice President Gore.

Katyal gathered his thoughts and told Hamdan why.

“My parents didn’t come to the USA because of the quality of its sports teams or the beauty of its soil. They came to America because they knew they would be treated fairly.”

From that moment on, the lawyer with an Indian, Hindu background and his Yemeni, Muslim client were able to work together. Katyal says he was fighting not only for the rights of Osama bin Laden's driver, “but for the rights of everyone.”

This report gives more fascinating background on a trial whose outcome in 2006 has been labelled ‘historic’. Salim Hamdan scored a second legal victory in 2012.

(Image: artist's depiction of Salim Hamdan at the Supreme Court. Copyright AFP)

Cartoon Heroine Fights for Justice...in a Burka


"She doesn't punch. She doesn't hit, she doesn't kick, she doesn't shoot anybody. All she does is clonk people on the heads with books or throw pens, so there's an underlying message with that - the importance of education — and the pen is mightier than the sword."

That's how Haroon Rashid describes his creation, Burka Avenger, a cartoon hero on Pakistani television that breaks the genre’s mould. The cartoon, originally in the Urdu language, has been praised for its unique take on women’s agency in Muslim society. The show follows the story of Jiya: by day an intelligent Sharif Muslim schoolteacher, by night a fighter for women’s rights and education against extremists.

Better known as a Pakistani pop star than as a cartoonist, Rashid also performs the show’s theme song. His concept for the cartoon was born when he heard reports of extremists shutting down girls’ schools. Rashid came up with the idea of a main female protagonist who defends a girls' school. In her black flowing Burka, and with the help of three schoolchildren, she stands up to thugs and corrupt politicians. Her goal is to ‘defend justice, peace and education for all.’

The show’s premise might sound far-fetched, but the issues the Burka Avenger tackles are everyday impediments in the lives of women, not only in Pakistan’s Northwest, where Taliban militants have blown up schools and prevented thousands of girls from going to school, but throughout the country. Nearly half of Pakistan's children are not enrolled in primary school, including nearly three quarters of young girls, according to the United Nations and 2012 government statistics.

"What business do women have with education?" one villain asks in an episode where they try to close down a school. "They should stay at home, washing, scrubbing and cleaning, toiling in the kitchen."

Since its July 2013 release, the series is set to air in 60 countries and be translated into numerous languages, including English and French.

You can watch the debut episode with English subtitles here, and follow the debate on the use of a burka, here. For stories related to women’s education, you can read Malala’s story here.

(Photo credit: http://www.burkaavenger.com/)

Guantanamo Adds Insult to Injury


As plans to close down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay hit a major snag, censorship at the prison has prompted thriller writer John Grisham to write an angry Op-ed piece aimed at President Barack Obama and the U.S. government.

Washington lawmakers have been speaking out against the repatriation of Yemeni prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Sparked by an upswing in Al Qaeda activity in Yemen and the terrorist threat that recently led to the temporary closing of several US embassies, the pressure in Congress will slow down the Obama administration's effort to close down the facility, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, the White House came under fire from an unexpected angle, in this remarkable opinion piece by thriller writer John Grisham. Angered by the discovery that his books were banned at Guantanamo Bay, he wrote the story of prisoner and hunger-striker Nabil Hadjarab. It's a scathing commentary on the current U.S. government's policies.

Photo (C) AFP

Spreading Hope, in Rwanda and the World Over


First he healed himself, then he started helping others do the same. Musician, singer and peace activist Jean-Paul Samputu continues a quest that started in the aftermath of Rwanda's genocide.

After learning to forgive the man who murdered his father, Samputu realized he wanted to do more. He founded the Mizero Foundation, an organisation that aims to help children who are homeless, orphaned, infected with HIV/Aids, or vulnerable in some other way.

The foundation has created the Mizero Troupe, a group of children who tour outside Rwanda singing and dancing.

The foundation provides children with basic needs and counseling, and promotes forgiveness, unity and peace among young people. The ultimate goal, it says is to ensure future generations remain free from conflict.

For another reflection on post-genocide Rwanda, check out this remarkable story by Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda.

Bringing China into the Fold of International Justice


“The general public in China largely perceives the ICC as a remote institution, irrelevant to their daily lives,” says Michael Liu, founder and secretary general of the Chinese Initiative on International Criminal Justice.

“Few Chinese are aware of International Criminal Justice Day, which is now a global event. And even fewer appreciate its significance,” Liu adds.

But he says attitudes are shifting because of initiatives like the establishment of the China Network for the International Criminal Court, in July 2013. And he's doing what he can to change minds even more. He wants to show his country why the international justice system is beneficial and relevant to China.

The West Has a Skewed Image of Sharia Law


Nigerian human rights advocate Ibrahim Hauwa says the West has a one-sided image of Shariah law.

She blames Western media for biased portrayals of sharia, the Islamic legal code used in the courts of Northern Nigeria where she works. 

“The bedrock is fairness, it’s justice and it’s equity. That's what is embodied in sharia,” Ibrahim says. “The issue of stoning to death has attracted a lot of attention. But the Koran did not provide for stoning to death.”

While she has her own criticisms of the sharia code, she does not comment on the Koran, the holy scriptures of Islam, in her cases. Instead, she bases her legal arguments on universal human rights and dignity, the rule of law, and the right to a fair trial.

Ibrahim has published a book entitled Practicing Sharia Law: Seven Strategies for Achieving Justice in Shariah Courts.

“As lawyers, we are not challenging the law - whether it is right or not - that is not our business,” she says. “Our argument has always been in all those cases, ‘Please follow the basic rules that this Sharia code has laid out for you to follow.”

A recent Pew Research Center report shows that while Sharia enjoys wide popularity in majority-Muslim societies, the legal code's supporters largely favor religious freedom for non-Muslim minorities in their countries. The report also explores attitudes towards women, morality, interfaith relations, popular culture and science in the Muslim world.

(Photo: Anti-Sharia protest in the UK, Flickr)

In Quest for Transitional Justice, Myanmar Looks to the East


As the military regime in Myanmar inches ahead with democratic reforms, human rights workers are exploring forms of transitional justice for the victims. And they're getting a little help from their friends in Cambodia.

The Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma) is sending a group of volunteers to Cambodia in mid-August to study how the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime have been documented. The visit follows a meeting between Cambodian documentation workers and Burmese former political prisoners and opposition politicians in the former Burmese capital Yangon in July.

This year, Myanmar's relations with the world community have improved rapidly. After decades of military rule, the regime has announced a series of amnesties for political prisoners, while the European Union and Washington have lifted most international sanctions against the country.

But in their quest for transitional justice, ND-Burma is reluctant to push too hard. When the group launched what it called the ‘Unofficial Truth Project’ in July, coordinator Han Gyi told Cambodia Daily the project's name was carefully chosen to avoid sending a threatening message to those in government who were part of the previous regime.

At the event in Yangon (see photo), visiting workers from Documentation Center-Cambodia explained how the post-conflict experience in their country could be applied to the situation in Myanmar. Speakers gave their Burmese audience a brief history of the Khmer Rouge regime and sketched efforts to create a Cambodia Truth Commission. They also explained the workings of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

DC-Cam workers also met with members of Myanmar's National League for Democracy and other opposition groups.

Despite recent reforms, human rights violations persist in Myanmar. In the past year, more than 200 people have been killed in religious clashes and more than 150,000 have been displaced—most of them stateless Muslims known as the Rohingya.

(Photo: website ND-Burma - http://www.nd-burma.org/)

Peace and Justice Dont Always Go Hand in Hand...


Sometimes, in the world of diplomacy, the two seem mutually exclusive.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are talking again. And in the unlikely event that all goes according to plan, they will have a peace deal within nine months. But Middle East tranquility could come at a heavy price for international justice, as Mark Kersten of the London School of Economics explains on the Justice in Conflict blog.

Photo: (C) AFP

Rwanda Accused of Meddling in DRC Conflict


The United States is pressing Rwanda to stop supporting armed rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, amid reports that ordinary Rwandans are being press-ganged into joining the fight in the DRC.

At a U.N. Security Council meeting in late July, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said “all parties must immediately end their support for armed rebel groups” in the DRC.

Kerry was referring to Rwandan support for the M23 rebels (see photo), who, like other groups, have cyclically attacked mineral-rich eastern provinces of the DRC for the past two decades.

Meanwhile, some Rwandans have reported being forcibly recruited by their own country's army to join the M23 and accused Rwandan President Paul Kagame of giving the orders. Those allegations were dismissed by the president's spokesman in an interview with the BBC.

In July, the Security Council discussed resolution 2098 on Peace, Security and Cooperation, relating to the multi-level Peace framework adopted by the U.N. in March 2013. These two initiatives are aimed at reinstating peace in the Great Lakes region of Africa, comprising Burundi, Rwanda and part of the DRC, Kenya and Tanzania.

The war in DRC has had devastating results on the population, particularly women and children. The death toll is set at 3.5 million with some estimates significantly higher. Millions of people are internally displaced and in immediate need of food assistance. Despite ongoing peace talks and the presence of the U.N. Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO), clashes between the Congolese army and the M23 resumed on July 14th, IPS reports.


(Photo: M23 rebels near Sake, Eastern DR Congo. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS)


Monitoring Guatemalas Montt Genocide Trial


"Terror and impunity." These are the first words Iduvina Hernandez says when she is asked to describe Rios Montt, the former Guatemalan head of state now awaiting partial retrial for genocide.

During the trial of former dictator Rios Montt, Hernandez assumed the task of monitoring proceedings and regularly reporting news to the many illiterate villagers in rural indigenous communities of Guatemala.

In this photo, taken on day 26 of the trial, Iduvina Hernandez (seated on right) and fellow activist Marylena Bustamente listen to testimony given by Montt (in foreground). Two days later, on May 11th 2013, the court sentenced the former president to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Later that month, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court struck down Montt's conviction and ordered all proceedings from the last several weeks of the trial redone. For more on the trial, see this excellent site.

(Photo credit: Mimundo.org)


So you want to attend TEDxHagueAcademySalon, 19th March 2014?



Seating is limited, so if you want to attend this great event, you'll have to apply!


Because the seating is limited at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, we need you to jump through a couple of hoops before you can definitely attend. We want to make sure we have an audience which is willing to interact, engage and enjoy an inspiring evening in the best possible way.

We'd like a diverse group that's eager to participate in debate, contribute unique perspectives and spread the word about this event and about TEDxHagueAcademy.

Our offer to you: Entrance is free of charge. 4 dynamic TED-style talks on Secure Societies. A variety of inspiring individuals presenting new ideas on security in its broadest sense. The TEDx format provides a platform for personal commitment, insights and inspiration that the whole world needs to hear about. There will be opportunities to interact, network, give us your points of view - and some delicious food too.

What we need you to do: Please tell us, in 100 words or less, why you'd like to attend and what assets you would bring as an audience member. E-mail your letter to info@tedxhagueacademy.org by March 3rd 2014. By March 7th, we'll let you know whether you've been selected for a ticket and send you a programme.


Theres More Than One Way to Help People


When Neal Katyal told his mother he was applying to law school, she burst into tears. From sadness, not joy. Clearly this was not the career path she had envisioned for her son.

Growing up, there was only one profession Katyal's parents told him he could pursue: becoming a medical doctor.  He recalls being “indoctrinated into the medical profession from the age of two.” His mother and father told him time and again how, as a doctor, “you could help people.”

But over the years, he realized they had a “narrow conception of how to help people.” There were many other ways, and one of them was law.

It was during law school that he learned about a case that would stay etched in his mind, Korematsu v. United States, in which the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1942 order that led to the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans.

For Katyal, it was a “dark day in the Supreme Court’s history,” but it taught him that “the American system of justice (...) makes mistakes, and it’s up to all of us to try and figure out how we can strengthen the system so that it never happens again.”

(Photo: Neal Katyal lecturing at Georgetown University)


Personal Items Unleash Memories of Conflict, Loss


While the search continues for a permanent exhibition space, the Memory Box exhibit travels the world, helping Afghanistan's war victims share their stories of loss and resilience with international audiences.

Memory Boxes contain donated personal items that once belonged to ordinary people killed in Afghanistan. Surviving family members or friends of the dead present the boxes at the exhibition, using the items contained in them to tell the audience more about loved ones who lost their lives. Their stories trace Afghanistan's violent history of mass murder, genocide, palace revolutions and unrelenting political upheaval.

The Memory Box initiative resembles earlier exhibits commemorating those killed in the Second World War. It was introduced in 2011 by TEDxHagueAcademy speaker Hadi Marifat and others at the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO). Their aim was to give conflict victims a place in the country's peace and reconciliation process.

Memory Boxes contain a wide range of items such as clothing, jewelry, books and games. Lined up in a row, the 20 boxes represent both individual stories and the wider social impact of war and impunity.

To Vithika Yadav, Love Really Does Matter


India is successfully breaking down taboos that prevent people from openly talking about sexuality, according to sex education advocate Vithika Yadav.

Yadav is the Head of Indian Operations for Love Matters, a web platform that challenges the idea that sex cannot be discussed in public. Created by Radio Netherlands Worldwide in 2011, the Love Matters web and mobile sites provide easy-to-access information and news on sexuality and sexual health for teenagers and young adults.  

Love Matters is making strides where others have stumbled, Yadav says. The Indian government created the Adolescent Education Program in 1999 and the National Population Education Projects in 2005. Both programs failed to capture national attention as sexual topics were addressed in an academic tone, with heavy emphasis on abstinence and monogamy.

The informal, non-judgemental approach taken by Love Matters is proving more effective, allowing people to anonymously engage in dialogue and asks questions about sex and sex-related issues. “Love Matters offers a lifeline to thousands of youths who, up until now, have faced a wall of silence,” says Yadav.

Progress is uneven in the patchwork of cultural and religious groups that make up India. However, the growing number of people seeking information about sexual issues illustrates nationwide progress, Yadav adds.

In her view, sex education is not a privilege reserved for certain countries, cultures or communities, but an inherent human right. Yadav names her father as a “lifelong inspiration” who instilled in her values of advocacy and volunteerism.