Kenneth Roth
Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
02:05

Re: Whom would you like to interview, and what would you ask?

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It would not be a traditional global leader.

Kenneth Roth

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993, has investigated human rights abuses around the globe, with special expertise on issues of justice and accountability for atrocities committed in the quest for peace; military conduct in war under the requirements of international humanitarian law; counterterrorism policy including resort to torture and arbitrary detention; the human rights policies of the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations; and the human rights responsibilities of multinational businesses. Mr. Roth has published more than 100 articles and chapters on a range of human rights topics. Before joining HRW as deputy director in 1987, Mr. Roth was a federal prosecutor for both the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University.

Transcript
Well if I could interview anyone, I actually think it would not be some traditional global leader. I think for me, what I’d be interested in doing is interviewing an ordinary nobody in an Indian village or, you know, in the middle of the Congo. Or, you know, people whose lives are completely different from mine, with whom I have no contact at all. And I would wanna understand the world from their perspective. And that’s not easy. There are not only enormous linguistic barriers, but there are massive cultural barriers and differences of perspective. And I feel that, you know, I don’t understand those people. And I’m sure that most people don’t. But if I think about, you know, what would be most expansive for me, what would I learn the most from, it wouldn’t be speaking with, you know, another member of the elite in some other country, even if it’s a very foreign country. But it would be talking to somebody whose life is really completely different from mine. And that would be, for me, fascinating.

I’d wanna know, you know, not only what they aspire to, but really what would make their life better. You know where do they want to go with their . . . their own life, with their village, with their nation? And I think understanding aspirations from that point of view would provide very important guidance. It’s . . . it’s a point of view that we don’t hear, because you hear leaders speaking on behalf of these people; but you don’t hear these people. They’re never on TV. You know, they’re not articulate enough to be on TV. They don’t speak the right languages. They’re not on the Web for that matter. They’re probably not online. And that is a part of the conversation that tends to be absent that I feel I have a lot more to learn from, and I feel many others do as well.

Recorded on: 8/14/07


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