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Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture 2022 | What Justice for Famine Crimes? 

Speaker: Professor Alex de Waal (World Peace Foundation, Tufts University)

10 November 2022

Magdalen College, Oxford

The lecture

Starvation is an ancient, cruel and effective weapon of war. Efforts to prohibit and criminalize starvation as a war crime are recent and limited in scope. The prohibitions in the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court are as yet untested in courts of law and at the United Nations Security Council. This lecture examines ongoing efforts to expose, prevent and punish starvation crimes and the prospects for success. It examines what may constitute a starvation crime, and ranges more widely into the acts of commission and omission that cause the societal distress that is famine. Building upon the transitional justice toolkit, the lecture explores measures that could be canvassed to remedy the injustices and traumas suffered by those who have endured starvation.

The speaker

Alex de Waal is executive director of the World Peace Foundation and a research professor at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, USA. Considered one of the foremost experts on Sudan and the Horn of Africa, his scholarship and practice has also probed humanitarian crisis and response, human rights, HIV/AIDS and governance in Africa, and conflict and peacebuilding.

Professor de Waal received a DPhil from Oxford for his thesis on the 1984-1985 Darfur famine in Sudan. He worked for several Africa-focused human rights organisations, focusing on the Horn of Africa, and especially on avenues to peaceful resolution of the second Sudanese Civil War. He also researched the intersection of HIV/AIDS, poverty and governance, and initiated the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa. De Waal was a fellow at the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard (2004-2006), and program director at the Social Science Research Council. He was a member of the African Union mediation team for Darfur (2005-2006) and senior adviser to the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan (2009-2012). He was on the list of Foreign Policy’s 100 most influential public intellectuals in 2008 and Atlantic Monthly’s 27 ‘brave thinkers’ in 2009.

Lecture poster (pdf)

A transcript of the lecture will be available in due course.

The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture is held each Michaelmas term. It is named after Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre.