Amherst provost speaks about intersection between development and human rights


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Amherst College provost Peter Uvin discusses human rights and economic development Tuesday evening. The event was part of a lecture series for One Book One Northwestern.

Jennifer Ball, Reporter

Amherst College provost Peter Uvin spoke to more than 100 individuals Tuesday at Harris Hall about the development of poor countries and human rights principles as part of the Roberta Buffett Center’s programming on global engagement.

“The rights-based approach to development is a true merger,” Uvin said. “It’s a rethinking of development in terms of human rights.”

Uvin said the method of development is “a change of vision” and many nonprofits have adopted its strategy. He compared this progressive way of addressing development based on human rights to earlier approaches.

“Obviously, (human rights and development) are related, but for the first 40 or 50 years, they did not care about each other,” he said. “But in recent years, this has been changing.”

He said people who assist developing countries have recently added democracy and human rights to more established methods of focusing on economic and social principles.

Uvin authored the 1998 book, “Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda,” which won the Herskovits Award for the most outstanding book on Africa. During his talk, he cited Rwanda as an example of “one of the most amazing humanitarian constructions that ever came to be,” because of the massive human rights efforts to bring aid to the people who fled the country’s 1994 genocide. 

Uvin also focused on Burundi, which lies just south of Rwanda. He earned a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, which led him to write his latest book, “Life After Violence: A People’s History of Burundi,” published in 2009. 

The Buffett Center sponsored the presentation, along with One Book One Northwestern, the African Studies program and Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights. 

Tracy Navichoque, the co-director of NUCHR, said the group was asked to sponsor the event by the Buffett Center because it covered a topic many of the group’s members who hope to pursue careers in development are interested in.

“It was nice to see a practical perspective on theoretical ideas,” the Weinberg senior said.

Weinberg junior Emily Park said she attended the speech about human rights because she is a member of NUCHR and found it related closely to her economics major.

“A lot of what he said was very true in the sense that there is a disparity between economic development and enforcing human rights,” Park said. “The solutions are really ambiguous.”

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