Human rights advocate wins scholarship to Scandinavia

Published 24 September 2009

refugeesAn academic from the University of New England has won a highly competitive scholarship from the European Commission that will enable him to share ideas with researchers in Scandinavia.

Dr Siri Gamage, a Senior Lecturer in UNE’s School of Education, is known internationally as an expert analyst of – and commentator on – ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. He said that the Erasmus Mundus Scheme Scholarship would enable him to broaden his investigation of the human rights instruments available to ethnic minorities in nations around the world, and the conflicting claims of “national sovereignty” and the rights of minorities to “self-determination”.

Next week, Dr Gamage’s scholarship will take him to the University of Tromso in Norway – the northernmost university in the world. There, as a Visiting Scholar, he will contribute – from the perspective of his own expertise and experience – to seminars and discussions with academics and postgraduate students in the university’s Department of Social Anthropology.

After six weeks in Tromso, he will go on to the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, where he will be hosted for six weeks as a Visiting Scholar by that university’s School of Global Studies.

Dr Gamage’s  paper “Economic liberalisation, changes in governance structure and ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka”, was published this year in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 39 (2). His most recent paper, “Can Sri Lanka achieve durable peace after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers?” has been accepted for publication by the Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict (Wisconsin Institute).

He said that – among other things – the  scholarship experience would be invaluable for him in his supervision of PhD students who are investigating issues surrounding the human rights of refugees and migrant workers, and in his coordination of a UNE course unit on social justice in education.

“Talking about human rights is not a revolutionary, radical activity,”  Dr Gamage said. “It’s part of being human.”

The Erasmus Mundus Scheme aims to enhance the quality of higher education within the European Union by encouraging dialogue between European academics and researchers and those from beyond Union.

Clicking on the image of refugee children displayed here reveals a photograph of Dr Siri Gamage.