Leiden University: International lecture series on moral courage begins on 22 September

The series (in English) will expound on the topics General Roméo Dallaire covered in his Cleveringa Lecture on 26 November 2020, such as moral courage, disobeying orders, leadership, moral injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but also child rights and child soldiers, war crimes, humanitarian law and peacekeeping missions. Dallaire led the UN peacekeeping troops in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994. He was ordered to withdraw, but disobeyed this order and remained to protect those who needed help. His later revelation that he had experienced PTSD and ‘moral injury’ helped destigmatise this potentiatlly fatal disorder among veterans.

Equality, leadership and culture
Between 22 September and 10 November experts from Leiden and abroad will elaborate on the topics that Dallaire raised. They will consider his vision in light of three themes: ‘Embracing Humanity’, ‘Engaged Leadership’ and ‘Transformative Culture Change’. ‘Embracing Humanity’ assumes a fundamental humanity, at all levels of all societies. No one person is any better than another. ‘Engaged Leadership’ means leaders who proactively seek solutions when others are not willing or able to do so.

‘Transformative Culture Change’ focuses on how to change a fixed mindset or behaviour within a culture or organisation. Dallaire believes that the current generation of students (the generation without borders) has an important role to play in this as well as in the creation of a new leadership culture. This generation must also have the moral courage to deal with major crises, at the heart of which lie complex moral, legal and ethical dilemmas. A series of prominent international speakers will discuss these topics in a series of eight ‘Critical Conversations’.

‘Special and powerful’
The conversations will be moderated by, among others, Eric Vermetten (Professor by Special Appointment of Medical-Biological and Psychiatric Aspects of Psychotrauma). Together with Suzette Bremault-Philips, a colleague from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, he is one of the initiators of the series. ‘The series has developed into something very special and powerful, a unique way for specialists from different disciplines can talk to one another. There will be legal experts, psychiatrists, retired generals, representatives from the UN, indigenous peoples, the clergy, writers and activists. And they will all contribute from their own discipline to the topics of courage, vulnerability and doubt, and will give their vision on leadership.’

Speakers from Leiden University include Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl, Robert Heinsch (Associate Professor of Humanitarian Law), Ton Liefaard (UNICEF Professor of Children’s Rights), Bert Koenders (former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Professor of Peace, Justice and Security). Writer and legal expert Roxane van Iperen will also be speaking. The series has been organised by Leiden University in collaboration with the University of Alberta, The Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security at Dalhusie University, and is supported by the Leiden Nypels Tans PTSD Fund.