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John Shattuck, President and Rector, CEU, Hungary

GDN is hosting its 13th Annual Global Development Conference titled ‘Urbanization and Development: Delving Deeper into the Nexus’ in Budapest, Hungary on 16-18 June, 2012. The international event is being held in partnership with the Central European University (CEU). About 350 participants are expected to attend the conference from all over the world. The conference is a prime opportunity for the exchange of ideas on the above important topic with internationally renowned researchers, representatives of national and international organizations and sponsors of research.

Presented below is an excerpt of the full interview conducted by GDN with John Shattuck, President and Rector of CEU, Budapest, Hungary.

From an international legal scholar and human rights leader, US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, to the CEO of the J.F. Kennedy Library Foundation and now the President and Rector of CEU, you have played many roles. How has the journey been so far?
: I’ve had some very interesting positions all of which, ultimately, pointed in the direction of CEU, where I’m now the President and Rector. I’ve had a long involvement in international affairs… As the Assistant Secretary of the State for human rights, I was actively involved in the successful efforts to end the war in Bosnia, and elsewhere in the Balkans. I was the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic… all of these were good background and made me more knowledgeable about this region. I’ve also had a long‐standing involvement in higher education, having served as the Vice President at Harvard University and having taught at the Harvard Law School, and most recently, having been the head of a major US presidential library, the J.F. Kennedy Library, in Boston where I was involved in many partnership programs with universities and public affairs activities.

CEU is expanding and redeveloping its campus in Budapest and strengthening its partnerships. Do you see the current CEU-GDN partnership as setting a stepping-stone in that direction?
: GDN is a perfect example of the kind of partnership that CEU likes to develop and is very pleased to develop. Many of our academic activities are in line with the development work that GDN does. As a global university with students from over 110 countries from all parts of the world, and also a graduate university, we focus very much on research, as well as teaching. We are specializing in social sciences and humanities. We are interdisciplinary by nature. A lot of our work is aimed at long‐term development activities in the world and strengthening not only economic development, but also, governance and democracy, and bringing together civil society and government, and the private sector. I get the impression that that’s what GDN does in its regular development work.

Do you have any other formal partnerships in mind that you’d like to build between CEU and GDN, post the conference?
: A number of our faculty members are already very much involved with GDN; one of our star visiting professors is none other than your President Gerardo della Paolera. So our partnership is deeply embedded in the relationship already. We would be developing further opportunities with other partners, and some of them we may well meet through GDN. We like to focus on strong relations – academic and research between universities in the north‐south. We have had a number of early relations with developing universities in India, China, and certainly many relationships with universities in North America and in the rest of Europe. We will actively look for partners in South America as well, in the future. We are very much open to all these global connections through GDN.

Any comments on GDN’s current role in research capacity building and how GDN is performing on that front?
: GDN is a great broker; it provides a very important service to local research activities by connecting them with other local research activities, regional and even global activities. You have a series of research competitions. GDN provides incentives to researchers in the field of development to perform not only to their best standards, but also with others. You also focus on high quality mentoring as part of your global research projects.

As an international legal scholar, what are your thoughts on the ‘high crime rate in cities, both as a cause and effect of the rising urbanization, for example, in Favelas of Latin America, Squatters of Bangladesh or India’?
: Urbanization is a fact of life these days. There are advantages in living in an urbanized environment: economic and health related, schooling and academic. But there are also huge challenges for development economics and politics. There are big externalities like diseases, crime, contagion, and poverty, all of which are endemic to large cities. The challenge is how to tackle these problems, particularly crime in urban areas, while at the same time continuing to bring about the advantages that many parts of the world population have from increased urbanization.

As a global human rights leader, what advocacy tools do you suggest for implementing the rule of the law as the foundation for safer cities, justice and development?
: Rule of law is heavily dependent upon the development of strong and effective democratic governments, which give people a say in how governance is developed, but at the same time, provide standards to deal with effective means of fighting crimes; not only punitive measures, but also social measures dealing with the root causes of criminality in urban areas. Rule of Law is crucial but it doesn’t come about on its own. It is developed by good governance and good governance comes with active participation by civil society.

Any message you’d like to give to the young minds at work or researches to reflect upon with respect to policy relevant solutions within the theme of urbanization and development?
: It’s a huge and important field that will decide the future of humanity in many respects. It should be inspiring to young researchers to think that they are on the cutting edge of addressing some of these problems, which for centuries have not really been addressed. They are all human problems and they’ll be always with us. We need to look at a subject that is not sufficiently researched in my view, and that is civil society.

What are the mechanisms and processes by which people can be encouraged to participate in their own development and governance and advocate on their own behalf?
: We’re living in an era where so much is changing, so rapidly, especially in communication. Changes in communications technologies have brought huge opportunities for civil society development. We’ve seen some of the results in politics, in the Middle East, North Africa… incomplete as those are, they are bringing about major change. Every society has its own form of local governance. If sometimes not democratic, one has to find channels through which to bring about change if they are not satisfied with the government’s activities. Above all, we need to understand better what it is that motivates people to actively participate, advocate on their own behalf and bring about change. My advice is: you can be a great economist/political scientist or specialist in international relations, but underneath all of those disciplines is the study of civil society, so I recommend that young researchers really look at that problem.

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John Shattuck, an international legal scholar and human rights leader, became the fourth president and rector of the Central European University (CEU), Budapest, Hungary, in 2009. Before coming to CEU, he was CEO of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Boston, and senior fellow at Tufts University, where he taught human rights and international relations. He also served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor under President Clinton and as US ambassador to the Czech Republic. Prior to his government service, Shattuck was a vice president at Harvard University. Shattuck’s career began at the American Civil Liberties Union. He is the author of Freedom on Fire, a study of the international response to genocide and crimes against humanity, and Rights of Privacy, and many articles on higher education, international relations, human rights, and civil liberties.