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Manchester professor and former UN chief calls for more help in Syria

11 Apr 2013

A former United Nations (UN) chief and University of Manchester Professor, who let the world know about genocide in Darfur, has called for more to be done in Syria ahead of a debate in Manchester next week.

Professor Mukesh Kapila
Professor Mukesh Kapila

Professor Mukesh Kapila, Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at The University of Manchester, said gross violations of human rights were occurring in Syria and there was a severe shortage of humanitarian assistance.  
 
Professor Kapila made the appeal ahead of a public debate entitled: Getting away with murder: genocide and politics in Manchester next week (15 April) which coincides with his new book documenting his work in Sudan, Iraq, Rwanda, Srebrenica and Sierra Leone.
 
He said: “Clearly the situation in Syria is a mess. We have more than a million refugees and more than 2.5million internally displaced. Gross violations of human rights are occurring and there is a severe shortage of humanitarian assistance.”  
 
Professor Kapila, who joined the University last year and works in the Humanitarian Conflict and Response Institute and the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences as Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs, has also just published a book Against A Tide of Evil documenting his time as the head of the United Nations in the Sudan. He teaches on the postgraduate course in Humanitarian and Conflict Studies and undergraduate degree courses in Global Health. He is also part of the Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre (MAHSC) Global Health Theme, a partnership between the University and six NHS Trusts in Greater Manchester, where he advises on global health development and how health workers can support medics coping with natural and humanitarian disasters overseas.
 
After a career in medicine and public health where he helped set up the UK’s first national HIV and AIDS programme at the Health Education Authority, Professor Kapila joined the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Overseas Development Administration and later became the first Head of Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs of the Department for International Development (DFID).  He went on to become Special Adviser to the UN in Afghanistan, and to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, before becoming the Head of the UN in Sudan.
 
A veteran of humanitarian crises and ethnic cleansing in Iraq, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sierra Leone, in 2004 he blew the whistle on the genocide taking place in Darfur revealing how mass murder and ethnic cleansing were being perpetrated. He has received a CBE for his international service and the Global Citizenship Award of the Institute for Global Leadership. He has also been Under Secretary General at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world's largest humanitarian and development network.
 
Professor Kapila said he hoped his role at Manchester and his book would help to raise awareness and help prevent further human suffering. “My book has grown out of my experiences over the years culminating in my biggest and hardest test as Head of the United Nations in Sudan witnessing the first genocide of the 21st century – the worst crimes against humanity,” he said. “When I found myself in charge instead of just a general aid worker on the ground it was a real test of my values and convictions as well as my position of responsibility. The story is about the challenges and problems I faced in confronting this most heinous of crimes against humanity  - especially having just said after Rwanda in 1994 "never again on my watch". It documents the limitations and disappointments of the international system, governments and the UN in not being able to stop it
 
“I want to get my story and experience out to a new generation so they can understand the atrocities in Darfur and Rawanda. This can never be forgotten, or else it will happen again and again.”
 
Ends
 

Notes for editors

To request an interview with Professor Mukesh Kapila or if you are a journalist or photographer who would like to attend the Manchester event, please contact:
Alison Barbuti 0161 275 8383 or email alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk.
 
Professor Kapila will take part in the debate entitled: “Getting away with murder: genocide and politics” in an event sponsored by the University’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) at Manchester Salon, in the discussion area of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Engine House, Chorlton Mill, Cambridge Street, Manchester, M1 5BY at 6.30pm on 15 April. To attend the event, please book by visiting: http://www.manchestersalon.org.uk/getting-away-with-murder.html.  The discussion has been sponsored by The HCRI is inspired by the need to conduct rigorous research and to support postgraduate training on the impact and outcomes of contemporary and historical crises.

The work of the HCRI is driven by a desire to inform and support policy and decision makers, to optimise joint working between partner organisations, and to foster increased understanding and debate within the field. Bringing together the disciplines of medicine and the humanities to achieve these goals, the HCRI aims to facilitate improvements in crisis response on a global scale whilst providing a centre of excellence for all concerned with emergencies and conflicts.
 
For details about Professor Kapila’s book: A Tide Against Evil which was released on 14 March, please contact: Fiona Atherton on 0131 550 7513 or email fiona.atherton@mainstreampublishing.com
Proceeds from the book go to the Aegis Trust.