UN diplomat to speak on Syrian conflict: Lakhdar Brahimi lecture rescheduled to March 30


Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria. 22 August 2013. Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré

By Jane Collins ’18

On Wednesday, March 30, Lafayette will welcome Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat, to give the third lecture of the Robert (’69) and Margaret Pastor International Affairs Lecture Series.

Brahimi served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Algeria from 1991 until 1993 and worked as the Special Envoy to Syria for the United Nations until May of 2014.

He describes himself as a “peacemaker, working for peace for the UN,” and said in a phone interview with The Lafayette that his upcoming lecture at Lafayette will be about the problems currently facing Syria.

As the Special Envoy to Syria, Brahimi said that he tried to help the Syrians find peace. But unfortunately, he said, he has not been successful.

This unsuccessful attempt at peace that Brahimi is referring to is the Syrian Civil War, which is an ongoing, complicated battle between the Syrian government and rebel groups, displacing millions of Syrians, according to the BBC. The Syrian government has been accused of violating human rights, according to Human Rights Watch, and the UN has continuing efforts to bring peace to this part of the Middle East.

“We will talk about how the problem erupted and where it is going, how it has been affected by others and how it is affecting others,” Brahimi said.

“Clearly the response from the international community as a whole, including the United States has been rather poor,” he added. “That is why the problem has become worse, not better. There is a ray of hope now that the Russians and the Americans have come to work together. There is a lull now in the fighting. There is hope that we can build on this.”

The talk was supposed to have occurred last Friday, March 11, but was postponed due to the norovirus outbreak and subsequent school shutdown. The talk is now scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. on March 30.

The lecture series is named after Robert Pastor, a New Jersey native and Lafayette graduate who served under President Jimmy Carter in multiple foreign affairs positions, and his wife, Margaret.

The purpose of the lecture series is “to provide members of the Lafayette community with the opportunity to listen, pose questions and exchange views with policy-makers and scholars about important contemporary issues and ideas in international affairs,” Professor of Economics and Chair of International Affairs David Stifel said.

The first two lectures in this series, which were given by President Jimmy Carter and then Harvard professor Joseph Nye were “very well received,” Stifel said.

In a phone interview with The Lafayette, Brahimi explained that his close friendship with Bob Pastor, who passed away in 2014, was an important factor behind his decision to give this talk.

By giving this lecture, Brahimi said he hopes “to honor the deceased, who dedicated his life to conflict and conflict resolution.”

“I was honored by the college and the family of the deceased to be asked to do this lecture,” he said.

According to Stifel, the school has been considering Brahimi as a lecturer for years.

“Not long before he passed away, Bob Pastor strongly encouraged us to invite Mr. Brahimi once he stepped down from his position as the UN Envoy to Syria,” Stifel said.  “We did just that.”