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Never Again

A Town Meeting on War Crimes and Genocide

Location

The Cooper Union, New York City

Connected Ideas

In the accumulated wake of Bosnia, Rwanda, the mutilation of Sierra Leoneons, among other such barbarisms occurring throughout the world, this town meeting brought together five world-renowned journalists who have covered war crimes and acts of genocide across the second half of the 20th century. Never Again was convened to address the bewilderment many of us feel in the face of such atrocities.  The all-day meeting was structured by four questions tackled both by the speakers and the audience, who together engaged a sustained dialogue addressing the complexity of these global emergencies and the circumstances of how, if or when to respond.

Featuring
Philip Gourevitch
William Shawcross
Laura Silber
Gilles Peress
David Reiff

“Is there something that would make the imagination responsible and answerable to the reality principles of being human all around us? That’s the question.” –George Steiner

Philip Gourevitch has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since April, 1997.  For “After the Genocide,” one of a series of pieces on the Rwandan tragedy, he won a citation from the Overseas Press Club. He was also a finalist for the National Magazine Award in both 1996 and 1997. Mr. Gourevitch’s first book, We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda, was published in September 1998. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the George Polk Award for non-fiction, the Overseas Press Club Book Award, the Helen Bernstein Book Award of the New York Public Library, and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for first non-fiction.  Mr. Gourevitch is currently a Contributing Editor at The Forward and a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute. Gourevitch has been published in Harper’s, Granta, The New York Review of Books, Southwest Review, Story, and Zoetrope. He lives in New York City.

Gilles Peress began his photographic career in 1970. He joined Magnum Photos in 1971 and became a full member in 1974. Three times he has served as vice president of Magnum New York and twice as president of the cooperative in 1986/87 and 1989/90. His work has been published in Time, US News and World Report, The New Yorker, Life, Stern, Geo, Paris Match, The New York Times Magazine, and The London Sunday Times. Peress has been the recipient of  fellowships from numerous institutions such as the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography, the Gahan Fellowship at Harvard University and the Open Society Institute’s Projects Fellowships. He has received the Art Director’s Club Award, the Overseas Press Club Award, the Ernst Haas Award for Color Photography, the International Center of Photography Infinity Awards, the Erich Soloman Prize and the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award. Peress’ work has been exhibited in and collected by  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the International Center of Photography, the Chicago Art Institute, the Cocoran Gallery, the George Eastman House, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Victoria and Albert Museum, Musee d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidu and Museum Folkwang. His recent books include The Graves: Serbenica and Vukovar, Rwanda: The Silence; Farwell to Bosnia; and Telex Iran.

David Rieff is a frequent contributor to various magazines and newspapers. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The New Republic, El Pais, Die Welt and The Independent, Prospect and the TLS in the UK.  He is the author of Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West, Going to Miami, Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World, and The Exile: Cuba in the Heart of Miami. He is the co-editor, with Roy Gutman, of War Crimes: What the Public Should Know. He is currently at work on a book on humanitarianism. He lives in New York City.

William Shawcross is an internationally known writer and broadcaster. He is the author of Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia, for which he won the George Polk Award for reporting and the Sidney Hillman Foundation Prize, for The Quality of Mercy, The Shah’s Last Ride, and Murdoch. He lives in London, England and is on the board of the International Crisis Group.  Shawcross is a graduate of Oxford University.

Laura Silber is co-author of the critically acclaimed Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, selected for The New York Times 1996 notable book list. She was chief consultant for the award winning documentary series of the same name. Based in former Yugoslavia from 1987, first as a Fulbright Scholar and then as Balkans correspondent for the Financial Times until February 1997, she then served for six months as special advisor to the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia. She relocated to New York and covered the UN for the Financial Times until April 1999. Awarded a fellowship from the Open Society Institute, she is researching a new book. She is now a visiting scholar at the Remarque Institute at NYU and a senior writer for the Financial Times.

Questions

On December 9, 1948 The United Nations adopted resolution 260(III)A for the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.  In response to the Holocaust, this resolution gave rise to the promise of “never again.” Yet mass killings continue to proliferate around the world, each situation more complex than the last, leaving most of us bewildered as to how to respond.

What lessons, if any, can be derived from the world’s inaction in Rwanda and Bosnia?

How can we meet the promise of never again made by the Geneva Convention in 1948?

How can or should the international community react when a government massacres its own people?

When do human rights supersede those of a nation’s sovereignty?