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Debate | StepTalks

StepTalk: Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine

  • Alex de Waal, Director of the World Peace Foundation
  • Wayne Jordash QC, lead counsel UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals
  • Catriona Murdoch, barrister, UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals
  • Marriët Schuurman, MFA UN Security Council Taskforce
Thursday 22 February 2018
StepTalks: science at the Spanish Steps
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague
Spanish Steps

Until the 1980s, famine killed ten million people every decade, but by early 2000s mass starvation had all but disappeared. Today, famines are resurgent, driven by war, blockade, hostility to humanitarian principles and a volatile global economy. Discuss the issue with a panel of three humanitarian law specialists.

The eminent panelists will discuss the world-renowned expert on humanitarian crisis and response, Alex De Waal’s, Mass Starvation. It will consider the history of modern famines: their causes, dimensions and why they ended. Mass Starvation breaks new ground in examining forced starvation as an instrument of genocide and war. Wayne Jordash QC will discuss with Alex De Waal the legal elements of the crime of starvation, refuting the enduring but erroneous view that attributes famine to overpopulation and natural disaster. Catriona Murdoch will discuss Global Rights Compliance (‘GRC’s’) projects on mass starvation, with a focus on Yemen and the unfolding humanitarian crisis. GRC offers a range of legal services pursuant to accountability for violations of international  humanitarian law (‘IHL’), human rights law and other grave crimes. GRC provides support to the investigation and prosecution of locally-perpetrated crimes in domestic, regional and international jurisdictions, using innovative solutions to exploit the range of available accountability mechanisms.


Alex de Waal is the Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation and Research Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Considered one of the foremost experts on Sudan and the Horn of Africa, his scholarly work and practice has also probed humanitarian crisis and response, human rights, HIV/AIDS and governance in Africa, and conflict and peace-building.

Wayne Jordash QC regularly advises governments on human rights and international humanitarian compliance, including the Bangladeshi, Libyan, Serbian, Ukrainian and Vietnamese governments. He has appeared before an array of international tribunals and courts and is currently appointed as lead counsel before the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (‘MICT’) in the first full re-trial in international criminal law.

Catriona Murdoch is a British barrister, appointed to the UN MICT and consulting with GRC, she leads GRC’s Yemen Accountability Project. Catriona Murdoch practices internationally and in the UK in International Human Rights Law and IHL. In the UK, her practice comprises: European Convention on Human Rights claims; prison law; criminal law; inquests and inquiries.

Ambassador Marriët Schuurman is a career diplomat who has served many countries, including Macedonia, Sudan, Zambia, Moscow and the Western Balkans. She is currently assigned as Coordinator of the Task Force for the UN Security Council membership of the Dutch MoFA. Previously she served for 3 years as the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security.

Book signing

Alex de Waal presents his book Mass Starvation: The History and Future Famine. Book signing and sales from 17.30 hrs.


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