Genocide conference to address crises in Congo and Zimbabwe

International experts in genocide and mass violence will gather at the University of Sheffield in early January (9-12 January 2009) to discuss the ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and warnings by the UN that the war is on the brink of turning to genocide. They will also report on and discuss the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.

The discussions will form part of a global conference entitled 'Genocide: The Future of Prevention' and organised by Dr Juergen Zimmerer, Director of the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Mass Violence at the University of Sheffield and the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS).

The keynote speech will be presented by Professor Zygmunt Bauman, a world-leading sociologist and cultural theorist, who became famous by addressing the link between modernity, rationality and the Holocaust. In his address 'Done to humans, done by humans' he will discuss his belief that genocide is not committed by "monsters" but by human beings who are just the same as their victims. He will warn of the need to be vigilant, because genocides can happen again anywhere in the world.

Climate change will also be on the agenda. The link between environmental change and genocide will be addressed, with academics arguing that climate change will have a major impact on large parts of the world leading to battles for resources, and potentially war and genocide.

This is all part of an attempt by scholars from Sheffield to develop a model of 'sustainable and proactive prevention' based on the fact that prevention, as it is most commonly understood, is always reactive and by definition too late.

Topics discussed by some of the 90 speakers from around the World are: Genocide and Sexual Violence, Media Coverage of Genocide and Representation of Genocide in Art and Literature. Rwanda, the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide are amongst the cases which will de discussed at the conference.

Dr Juergen Zimmerer, Director of the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Mass Violence at the University of Sheffield, said: "This unique gathering of scholars shows that genocide studies is becoming an established discipline, with the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Mass Violence at Sheffield taking the lead in Europe.

"The field of genocide studies is extremely important and research in this area could potentially save millions of lives. We need a concept of prevention that goes beyond military intervention, because this is often too late and not sustainable, we need something long-term and proactive. And for that we need to understand the root causes of genocide through research.

"Understanding the relationship between resources, the lack of them and violence is essential. It is clear that climate change and the battle for resources will increase the likelihood of genocide. We therefore have to identify those areas most likely to be affected and then start working immediately to diffuse the situation. Congo, Darfur and Zimbabwe are classic examples of where a lack of resources can spark violence."

Notes for Editors: Journalists wishing to attend the conference should contact the University of Sheffield Media Team on 0114 2225338.

The conference is sponsored by the University of Sheffield, the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at the University of Sheffield, the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Mass Violence, Sheffield, and the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS)

For further information please contact: Lindsey Bird, Media Relations Manager, on 0114 2225338 or email l.bird@sheffield.ac.uk