Zachary Kaufman

A holistic approach to combating genocide

Dr. Zachary D. Kaufman was an HIA Fellow in 1999 to Denmark and has since been an active HIA Senior Fellow and dedicated member of HIA’s American Planning Board, which selects HIA’s American Fellows and oversees HIA’s U.S.-based activities. Although HIA was at an early stage in its development when Zachary began to concentrate on human rights, the organization provided him with an opportunity to gain a deeper background and more experience in the field. Since then, Zachary has embraced a long-term personal and professional commitment to promoting and protecting human rights. For his outstanding leadership, HIA awarded Zachary the Dr. Louis Rabineau Award.

Zachary thinks that the most effective way to address critical issues is from multiple angles. As he says, “the world’s most challenging problems—whether concerning human rights, conflict, weapons proliferation, crime, terrorism, poverty, public health, drugs, education, energy, or the environment—are so multi-dimensional that they require a holistic approach, one that utilizes academia, government, the private sector, and civil society.” And Zachary has pursued just such an approach in his efforts to combat genocide.

First, during graduate and law school (at Oxford and Yale, respectively), through his subsequent academic teaching and lecturing, and in his extensive writing, Zachary has focused on international law, international relations, U.S. foreign policy, genocide and other atrocities, human rights, transitional justice, non-profit organizations, and social entrepreneurship. His first book, After Genocide (co-edited with Dr. Phil Clark), addresses transitional justice, post-conflict reconstruction, and reconciliation in Rwanda and other sites of recent atrocities. His second book, Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities—to which HIA Senior Fellow Sophie Raseman contributed and for which HIA Executive Director Dr. Judy Goldstein provided a blurb—analyzes challenges, obstacles, and opportunities in social entrepreneurship and lends new insight to the concept, history, and methodologies in the field.

Second, Zachary has served in the U.S. government and the United Nations, where he concentrated on war crimes investigations and prosecutions. Third, he has worked for Google in helping to apply its programs to atrocities.

Finally, Zachary was instrumental in the international campaign to build the Kigali Public Library, Rwanda’s first-ever public library. Zachary says that he was driven to help construct, outfit, stock, staff, and operate the Kigali Public Library for two reasons: “It is shocking to think that a country in the modern world does not possess a public library. For this reason alone, I knew such an institution must be built. Furthermore, a public library is particularly important for Rwanda. The 1994 genocide occurred there, in part, because of propaganda against Tutsi in what was an extremely closed society. Accurate information is vital to combat myths and misperceptions that lead to persecution. Public libraries, which provide open access to accurate information, help do just that.” Zachary is also involved in other human rights organizations and social enterprises, such as Ashoka, the United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumIndego Africa, and HIA itself.

Zachary emphasizes that optimism is part of what inspires and motivates his work. “Our global challenges,” Zachary says, “may seem insurmountable. With hard work, good ideas, trustworthy and talented colleagues, supportive friends and family, and a little luck, however, you may surprise even yourself with what you can accomplish.”

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"The world's most challenging problems ... require a holistic approach."