The letter from academics at London Metropolitan University that I featured yesterday clearly ruffled some feathers at the university. In response, the Vice Chancellor of London Metropolitan University wrote this reply in the UK’s Guardian newspaper (thanks to David Wolfson for spotting this):
Thursday 16 February 2012 21.00 GMT
David Hardman et al (Letters, 14 February) correctly point out that London Metropolitan University is proud of its dedication to social justice. There are more ways, however, of addressing injustices in or elsewhere Uzbekistan than by severance of all communications.
Iran shows where that approach has not worked. The university is involved in Uzbekistan with a translation project, funded by the British Council, and an academic quality-assurance project, funded by the EU. In past years we trained human rights defenders in Uzbekistan, funded by the Foreign Office. We also receive international students from Uzbekistan. We believe these things contribute to dialogue between two very different societies. They build skills and connections, without lending legitimacy to regimes or military actions.
Presumably, if we should not have connections with Uzbekistan, we should not connect with other countries in the same human-rights band, such as China, India and Russia.
Professor Malcolm Gillies
Vice-chancellor, London Metropolitan University
The Guardian’s website is www.guardian.co.uk
Emma adds: Suggestions on a postcard (well, the electronic equivalent is to leave a comment below) for what will happen next at London Met…
I’d like to recommend a great article I’ve just read, The Soviet Fall and the Arab Spring.
By an experienced human rights researcher, the article provides six ideas “about what has to happen after the revolution to make change stick”.
The six ideas are:
1. There is nothing inevitable about transitions to democracy
2. Guard against misplaced blame (I found this a particularly interesting idea)
3. Institutionalize strong minority rights protections
4. International institutions matter
5. Establish concrete human rights benchmarks and give them teeth
6. Support a strong civil society
However, in the case of the post-Soviet countries featured in the article, it’s more of a sobering lesson in how human rights have not always been prioritised, and how motivation (political, individual) plays an important role in the success – or otherwise – of attempts to “make change stick”.