Experts on genocide discuss barriers to combatting mass atrocities: QSB conference

Posted on May 10, 2011

Dr. Paul Slovic and Major Brent Beardsley to speak at Queen’s School of Business Conference about strategic long-term need to re-design laws & institutions

KINGSTON, ON – May 10, 2011 – Queen’s School of Business will be hosting a conference on “Moral & Ethical Issues in Consumer Decision Making” on Friday, May 20th. The keynote address by Dr. Paul Slovic and Major Brent Beardsley, two experts with very different perspectives, will delve into the psychological and operational barriers that affect how we respond to and seek to prevent mass atrocities. Against the backdrop of the current situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the speakers will explore how we can design legal mechanisms and political institutions that will motivate effective responses to genocide and other forms of mass abuses of innocent human beings. The keynote will take place from 1-2:30 p.m. in the Goodes Hall Atrium, and is open to the public.

Dr. Paul Slovic is an award-winning and prolific research psychologist with over 50 years of experience helping individuals and organizations understand and cope with the complex decisions of modern life through research on human judgment, decision-making, and risk. His recent research has centered on understanding the psychological processes that produce apathy and inaction in the face of mass murder and genocide.

“I became interested in the importance people place on saving an individual life at risk and the contrast to the insensitivity we often display when there are many persons affected,” said Dr. Slovic. “Psychological research has identified that our moral intuitions often mislead us into under-responding to problems large in scale. This puts great importance on relying instead on moral reasoning, which we can do but usually do not, and in our moments of sober deliberation we must then create laws and institutions dedicated to upholding the high value we place on the lives and human rights of individuals. I believe our current laws and institutions are failing in this regard and this needs to be fixed lest we passively witness another century of genocide.”

Major Brent Beardsley is a retired Canadian army officer who served as General Romeo Dallaire’s personal staff officer in Rwanda in 1993-1994 before and during the genocide. He co-authored General Dallaire’s acclaimed memoir “Shake Hands with the Devil,” and has acted as a technical advisor for a number of documentaries and movies on the Rwandan genocide. Major Beardsley will bring a dramatically different perspective to the keynote, with his on-the-ground experience in Rwanda and his subsequent work to try and understand the legal, ethical and moral challenges that ultimately proved insurmountable and overwhelmed attempts to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

“In Rwanda, we faced an incredible number of tactical, operational and strategic challenges in an extraordinarily complex and quickly evolving decision-making environment,” said Major Beardsley. “There are similar signs of instability right now in North Africa, for example the Congo, Sudan, Darfur, as those societies struggle to cope with ethnic tension and conflict as well as threats to food and personal security that only exacerbate the stressors on the entire population and increase the likelihood of circumstances such as those we witnessed in Rwanda. These situations, as well as the one ongoing in Libya and other parts of the Middle East, highlight the need for a well-developed doctrine such as ‘Responsibility to Protect’ that allows us to act quickly to prevent atrocities the likes of which I hope never to see again in my lifetime.”

“We are very excited to be able to bring together two experts with such rich and diverse experience in this vital area of research that is too rarely discussed, and even then often only when it is too late,” said Dr. Monica LaBarge, one of the conference co-organizers. “This conference demonstrates QSB’s commitment to research that is relevant to society at-large, and we welcome the involvement of the broader Queen’s and Kingston communities to help make that research even stronger.”

For more information about the conference »

Please RSVP to Amy Marshall if you would like to attend.

About Queen’s School of Business

Queen’s School of Business is one of the world’s premier business schools—renowned for exceptional programs, outstanding faculty and research, and the quality of its graduates. Canadian executives regard Queen’s as Canada’s most innovative business school, offering students academic excellence and a superior overall experience. Queen’s School of Business—where Canada’s first Commerce program was launched in 1919—is located at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The School also delivers programs at locations across Canada, as well in the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

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To arrange an interview or to obtain further information, please contact:

Andrea Strike

Queen’s School of Business