HKS Student Project Brings Sudanese Leaders to Cambridge

April 23, 2012
By Doug Gavel

What began as a Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) student project may end with a new way forward for the peoples of war-torn Sudan and South Sudan. Several political leaders from the region met Friday and Saturday (April 20-21) with a small group of academics, activists, advisors and humanitarian specialists during a series of discussions focused on developing an advocacy plan for the democratic leaders of the two countries. The meeting took place at the Harvard Faculty Club and the Charles Hotel under the direction of David King, HKS lecturer in public policy.

View pictures from the discussion (no audio).

"We in the US mourn the loss of the 3,000 lives we lost on 9/11. An estimated 8,000 people are lost in Sudan every month. Why do we let this continue?" asked Kym McCarty MC/MPA 2012, a former country director for Sudan for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs who worked with King to arrange the meeting at a time of great uncertainty in the region. "I believe change can only happen for all marginalized Sudanese whether they are from the north or south if Sudanese leadership at all levels including the students and the political leadership fight for their people."

King developed the general framework for the discussion, which began with an overview from the Democratic Sudanese leadership, and included sessions on U.S. foreign policy and current advocacy efforts. The participants then took up the task of designing a new advocacy plan that they hope will gain traction in the coming months.

"The governments in both Sudans are nearing a breaking point; the government in Khartoum is teetering, and all-war may be on the horizon" said King. "We wanted to use Harvard’s convening power to bring together policymakers, activists and scholars. We focused on hearing, and then advising, three key players in the region -- Yassir Arman, an opposition party leader in Sudan; Dr. Luka Deng, who represents the people of the oil-rich Abyei region between North and South; and Omer Ismail, a leading activist on behalf of reconciliation in the Darfur region."

Others taking part in the discussions were Baroness Caroline Cox, British House of Lords; Alex de Waal, Tufts University; Ishac Diwan, lecturer in public policy, HKS; Sam Gejdenson, former member, U.S. House of Representatives; and Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development, HKS.

The talking and listening carried on into a second day when a group of Sudanese Diaspora joined the discussion.

"A core lesson is that the Sudanese cannot count on sustained commitment from Western leaders without a sustained voice among the Sudanese Diaspora. We hope that the Harvard gathering will nurture that Diaspora," King said.

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