Magazine Feature / People

Professor to President: Engage countries where U.S. interests lie

Jack Donnelly, a professor of human rights at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, wants to see President Barack Obama talking with countries where the United States has interests.

“I’d like to see the president and his administration engage with those countries that were deemed evil,” Donnelly says. “Iran is a good example. That’s a place where, if we don’t engage, things could get a lot worse.”

Although Donnelly says there’s plenty of room to improve in human rights and foreign relations, he believes “things aren’t as bad” as they’ve been made out to be.

“I think the question is how could we not do better,” he says. “This is clearly not a good time for human rights around the world, but things haven’t completely been screwed up. And I think the possibilities for improving international relations are very good.”

Donnelly recently won the 2008 University Lecturer award given annually by DU for “superlative creative and scholarly work.”

“I love teaching, and I love the students,” he says. “They’ll be going off to do some important work, and it’s nice to have some influence there.”

Donnelly is known for his arguments for a universal approach to creating internationally recognized human rights. He has also written on the theory of human rights, the development and functioning of international human rights regimes, human rights and development, group rights, humanitarian intervention, and democracy and human rights. A second edition of his Universal Human Rights was published recently.

Korbel School Dean Tom Farer says Donnelly is a “major figure” in the world of human rights scholarship. “Plus, he’s written what remains the leading scholarly work [Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice] on the place of human rights in international relations,” Farer says.

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