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  • News and Notes

Human Rights Conference in Warsaw

On October 14–16, the Foundation for the Defense of Human Rights, a Polish-based NGO, convened the Third International Human Rights Conference in Warsaw. Hundreds of human rights activists from around the world met to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to reflect upon the struggle for human rights today. The conference sought to promote the development of human rights around the world, to establish an international network of human rights and democracy activists, and to share and compare experiences in the struggle for human rights in the former Soviet bloc with those in countries elsewhere still struggling for democracy and freedom.

Working group themes included “Human Rights Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” “Human Rights and Crime,” “The Right to Information in Democratic Societies,” “Political Rights,” and “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.” Participants included Elena Bonner, Sergei Kovalev, and Father Gleb Yakunin (Russia), Wei Jingsheng (China), Lane Kirkland and Ginetta Sagan (United States), Ales Bialacki (Belarus), Jan Carnogursky (Slovakia), and Tadeusz Mazowiecki (Poland). Addressing the attendees, Polish prime minister Jerzy Buzek emphasized the “unprecedented significance” of the Universal Declaration, noting that for Poles it was “our weapon through nine years of struggle for democracy.”

Dante Fascell (1917–1998)

On November 28, Dante Fascell, long one of the strongest supporters of democracy in the United States Congress, passed away at the age of 81. Fascell represented a south Florida district during 1954–92, and was chairman of the House International Relations Committee [End Page 183] in 1984–92. He played a key role in the founding of the National Endowment for Democracy and served on its Board of Directors from 1983 to 1989. The recipient of the Endowment’s first Democracy Award in 1987, he was also recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton.

Crisis and Renewal in Africa

On November 12–14, some 50 scholars and practitioners took part in a conference on “Crisis and Renewal in Africa: States, Markets, Law, and Democracy” at Emory University in Atlanta. Convened by Richard Joseph of Emory’s political science department, with funding from the university and the Ford Foundation, the conference had three main objectives: to explore new theoretical frameworks for analyzing the multiple causes of crisis and renewal in Africa; to lay the basis for an institutional structure to enhance collaborative work by scholars internationally; and to identify ways of enhancing the capabilities of scholars and institutions in countries experiencing major upheavals and transformations.

In addition to a score of Africa specialists from Britain, Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, and the United States, participants included noted experts on Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. There were five substantive panels: 1) Comparative State-Building: Diverse Trajectories; 2) States, Markets and Social Equity; 3) Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law; 4) State Reconfiguration and Disintegration; and 5) Democratization: Beyond Presentability. Keynote addresses were presented by Steven Friedman of South Africa, Kayode Fayemi of Nigeria, and Brian Meeks of Jamaica.

This conference served as a sequel to the Conference on African Renewal held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in March 1997. An edited book of papers presented at that earlier conference has now been published as State, Conflict, and Democracy in Africa, edited by Richard Joseph (Lynne Rienner). A report on the Emory conference will be available in January and can be obtained by writing to the convener at the Department of Political Science, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322. An edited volume of revised papers presented at the Emory conference will also be published. A program to promote collaborative research on the conference’s central issues will now be established, linking scholars in several institutions worldwide.

Democracy, Inequality, and the State

On November 23–24, the Woodrow Wilson Center hosted a conference in Washington, D.C., on “Democracy, Inequality, and the State in the 21st Century,” launching a three-year comparative research project on trends in social policy in 12 countries. The study will be coordinated by Bolívar [End Page 184] Lamounier of IDESP in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Steven Friedman of the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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