Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

November 22, 2004

Whitworth Professor to Address the Humanitarian Crisis in Western Sudan
in Dec. 13 Human Rights Day Lecture

In observation of Human Rights Day, John Yoder, professor of politics and history at Whitworth College, will present a lecture, "The Humanitarian Crisis in Darfur." Hosted by the United Nations Association-Spokane Chapter, Yoder's lecture will take place Monday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4340 W. Fort George Wright Drive, in Spokane. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 326-6827.

Warning that there is no time to waste in ending Sudan's long nightmare of civil wars, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged a rare special session of the Security Council in Africa to give the final impetus to peace talks in the south while addressing "the terrible situation" in the west of the continent's largest nation, according to a Nov. 18 U.N. News Service excerpt.

"The situation in Darfur has been brought about mainly by deliberate acts of violence against civilians, including widespread killing and rape," Annan said, noting a continuing deterioration as the government, militias and rebel groups have breached agreements seeking to safeguard humanitarian rights and security.

"This has made humanitarian work by the U.N. and our partners precarious and difficult, if not impossible," he said. Darfur is a region the size of France, where about 1.45 million people have been forced from their homes inside the country and Janjaweed militias stand accused of killing and raping thousands of villagers after rebel groups took up arms against the government last year. Another 200,000 are living as refugees in neighboring Chad.

"When crimes on such a scale are being committed, and a sovereign state appears unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens, a grave responsibility falls on the international community, and specifically on this council," Annan stated.

Yoder teaches African studies, international politics and peace studies at Whitworth. He is the author of Popular Political Culture, Civil Society, and State Crisis in Liberia (Edwin Mellen Press, 2003). Yoder's research for that project, which he conducted both in Liberia and in the United States, was supported by a grant from the Pew Foundation. Yoder is currently involved with a group of Liberian scholars, political activists, and former government officials who are working to bring government reform to Liberia.

Yoder edited the Zaire volume of the Dictionary of African Biography (Reference Publications, 1979), wrote The Kanyok of Zaire (Cambridge, 1992), and contributed articles on Liberia to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of African History (Routledge, 2004).

In 1987-88 he had a Fulbright grant to teach African studies at Cuttington University and at the University of Liberia. In 1998, taught African history and politics as well as conflict resolution in Africa at Daystar University in Kenya, also under a Fulbright grant. In the summer of 2001, Yoder returned to Kenya to conduct a workshop on conflict resolution and to teach at Daystar. That effort was supported by a Fulbright alumni initiatives grant.

Each year, on Dec. 10, the international community observes Human Rights Day, which was established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The promotion and protection of human rights has been a major preoccupation for the United Nations since 1945, when the organization's founding nations resolved that the horrors of WWII should never be allowed to recur.

Respect for human rights and human dignity "is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world," the General Assembly stated in 1953 in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Over the years, a network of human-rights instruments and mechanisms has been developed to ensure the primacy of human rights and to confront human-rights violations wherever they occur.

The United Nations Association of the United States of America is a non-profit, non- partisan organization that supports the work of the United Nations and encourages active, civic participation in the most important human-rights issues facing the world today.

Yoder's presentation is part of an on-going lecture series offered by the UNA-USA Spokane Chapter at its monthly meetings to heighten public awareness and increase public knowledge of global issues. Monthly meetings, held September-May, are open to the public and are free of charge. For more information about the Spokane chapter, contact President Jo Stowell at (509) 624-3608 or visit www.unaspokane.org.


Laura Reber, chair, Outreach, Advocacy and Networking United Nations Association USA, Spokane Chapter, 509-326-6827 or ljreber@msn.com.

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