In Search of A Better World
Written by Payam Akhavan
Publication Date September 09, 2017
A work of memoir, history, and a call to action, In Search of a Better World, the 2017 CBC Massey Lecture, is a powerful and essential work on the major human rights struggles of our times.
In February of 2017, Amnesty International released their Annual Report for 2016 to 2017, concluding that the “us versus them” rhetoric increasingly employed by politicians is endangering human rights the world over. Renowned UN prosecutor and human rights scholar Payam Akhavan has encountered the grim realities of contemporary genocide throughout his life and career. He argues that deceptive utopias, political cynicism, and public apathy have given rise to major human rights abuses: from the religious persecution of Iranian Bahá’ís that shaped his personal life, to the horrors of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, the genocide in Rwanda, and the rise of contemporary phenomena such as the Islamic State. But he also reflects on the inspiring resilience of the human spirit and the reality of our inextricable interdependence to liberate us, whether from hateful ideologies that deny the humanity of others or an empty consumerist culture that worships greed and self-indulgence.
A timely, essential, and passionate work of memoir and history, In Search of a Better World is a tour de force by an internationally renowned human rights lawyer.
Payam Akhavan is a Professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, a Member of the International Court of Arbitration, and a former UN prosecutor at The Hague. He has served with the UN in conflict zones around the world, including Bosnia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda, and Timor Leste, and as legal counsel in landmark cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States. His prior academic appointments were at Oxford University, University of Paris, the European University Institute, University of Toronto, and Yale Law School. He earned his Doctor of the Science of Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School, and his widely cited academic publications include Reducing Genocide to Law from Cambridge University Press. He served as Chair of the Global Conference on Prevention of Genocide, is a Founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, and his groundbreaking human rights work has been featured on BBC World’s Hardtalk, CBC Ideas, Maclean’s magazine, Brazil’s TV Globo, and the New York Times. In 2005, he was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. Payam Akhavan was born in Tehran, Iran, and migrated to Canada with his family in his childhood.
"Beyond Payam Akhavan's impressive professional and academic distinctions as a former UN prosecutor lies a deep and enduring dedication to the pursuit of justice on the international stage. In Search of a Better World is a revelation of the some of the darkest moments of the world’s recent history and a vital and enduring odyssey of hope for the future. An essential work on the human rights struggles of our times." Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran
"With precision and sensitivity, as well as brutal honesty, Payam Akhavan’s In Search of a Better World highlights the complexity of modern conflict and the necessary solutions for our future. It is heartening to see essential tools (such as the Will to Intervene) being offered up in practical and meaningful ways, when so many have turned their back on them, and so, on our responsibilities as global citizens." Lieutenant-General Roméo A. Dallaire
"Payam Akhavan has produced a remarkable work — a unique combination of fascinating biography, moving descriptions of human suffering inflicted by malicious war criminals, and recognition of the resilience, courage, and dignity of so many of the victims. This book will be appreciated by all who understand and reject the evils of irrational discrimination and applaud the efforts of those determined to end it." Justice Richard J. Goldstone, retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and first Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda
"[Akhavan’s] standing as the 2017 Massey Lecturer [is] not only deserved but overdue. The lecture’s companion book, In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey is more than a treatise on rights: it’s also effectively an autobiography, showing how a crusade with global implications had its roots in personal experience." The Montreal Gazette
"Akhavan’s message never fails to bring our inextricable interdependence to the table, and he isn’t afraid to speak the truth he finds is needed to liberate." VUE Weekly
"Such an illustrious career, played out against the backdrop of some of humanity’s darkest moments, makes for a revelatory, heartbreaking, and often challenging narrative." Quill & Quire