Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette had never heard of the Responsibility to Protect until enrolling in a global peacekeeping class at USM last spring.
“It’s a normative construct designed to address the perpetration of the four mass atrocity crimes: genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Most people might not quite understand what he means by that, but for Dylan, advocating for and educating people about this emerging international law concept has become his life’s mission.
“Something about it just resonated with me immediately, and I just thought, wow, this makes so much sense. Ever since then it has been something of a single-minded obsession.”
His first step in accomplishing that mission is to bring the conversation to USM.
On Wednesday, Oct. 24, Dylan will lead three expert panelists in a discussion on the Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, and its emergence as a norm in the discourse at the United Nations. Organized by Dylan and sponsored by the International Relations Association of USM, the event has attracted distinguished authorities on the subject including Charles Dunbar, a former ambassador to both Qatar and Yemen.
Dunbar served under presidents Reagan and Clinton and is now a lecturer on international relations at Boston University. President Emeritus of the Fund for World Peace, Dr. Pauline Baker and UNH professor Dr. Ali Ahmida will also be speaking.
The discussion will be focused on shifting definitions of state sovereignty at the United Nations and the prosecution of war criminals who violate human rights. R2P quite literally changes the way the UN approaches these issues, making this an important issue for many here in Maine.
Mohamed Mohamed, senior international studies major and president of the International Relations Association, is grateful to have the experience provided by Dylan’s efforts.
“Portland is a perfect place to advocate for R2P with all of the diaspora population. It is a major part of what we’re studying as IS majors, and now we have access to all these important players and the knowledge they bring.”
Although Dylan is still a student, he is qualified to serve on the panel. As well as taking a full course load of five classes, he has been interning with the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect in New York City. Unable to be in New York, he works via computer which will allow him to graduate from USM this spring.
Simon Adams, executive director of the center where Dylan works has been impressed with his efforts.
“He is a bright, conscientious and committed young activist and scholar who is thoroughly dedicated to this issue,” Adams said in an email to The Free Press.
Adams was himself introduced to USM last spring, after Dylan invited him to be a speaker at the first R2P panel discussion held at the university. That event was organized by Dylan as a practical component to complete an independent study he had been working on. Dylan saw a future in events like this for USM and for the state as a whole.
“Maine generally lacks the international consciousness that it needs, especially in an increasingly globalized world. We have to start engaging with these ideas, or we will be left behind.”
Julia Edwards, who taught the course that introduced Dylan to R2P agrees with him. “The effort he has put into advancing the public’s awareness of [R2P] has helped and will continue to help put USM on the map. We are able to invite prominent and experienced guest speakers who actually say yes to coming because Dylan has worked to give credibility to USM’s interest in engaging the international community.”
Dylan plans to attend law school to study international law after he graduates, but he doesn’t see these events ending anytime soon – in fact, he hopes that the scope of these events will grow in the future.
“We just got the International Coalition for R2P to sign on as a co-sponsor. What if this thing became something USM was known for – being a hub for the dialogue for R2P?”