How does one best deal with a regime which represses human rights. While I have a strong opinion on Human Rights (I'm for them. Duh.) I honestly do not know the best way to encourage them from the viewpoint of, say, Where should CCC 2012 be? Having a conference in a country (a) legitimizes them and says that you approve of what they are doing, and (b) opens up a conversation so they may change what they are doing. Hence my confusion. Math is easier in that there are well defined questions that have answers, hard as they may be to find.
Here are some scenarios.
- Uganda is in the process of passing a law which would make homosexuality a crime with very harsh penalties, including the death penalty in some cases (See here for some details.) If Uganda offered us money to go to a conference, would we turn it down on those grounds?
- When South African had Apartheid many organizations boycotted them for this reason. If they had offered money to hold a conference there, would we have done it? My guess is that we would TURN DOWN The money. Since our actions would have been part of a much bigger movement they may have been effective. If we are the only organization who does not go to China because of their Human Rights Policies I doubt it has any affect.
- If Saudi Arabia offered a monetary prize (say $400,000) for advances in Mathematics would you turn it down because of the nature of the regime? (I'll be honest- I would take the money.)
- Hyatt Hotels in Boston fires 100 of their workers, who are then known as The Hyatt 100. Should STOC/CCC not use their hotels for the 2010 STOC/CCC meetings? For this one there are other organizations boycotting so it may be effective to join it (I do not know what STOC/CCC are actually doing.) What if they reach a compromise that some of the workers are happy with and some are not? Then what do we do? Do we really want to get involved with the details of a labor negotiation? However, the orignial boycott might help get Hyatt to reverse their decision.
- To protest Human Rights Violations in America (Gitmo, the treatment of the American Indians, Abu-Ghraib, the shooting of Randy Weaver, pick-your-favorite-cause) its not clear where you would decide to NOT have a conference. America is so large and diverse, and no one state or city did these things, that its not clear how you would express your outrage. Also, the government is not that connected to Academia as in other countries. The only thing I can think of is to not take money from the Military for a conference. But then the arguments goes better they spend it on Interactive Proof Systems Oracles then on Machine Guns.
- We should NOT have a conference in California, or any other state where they voted against Gay Marriage. Or maybe not stay at the Marriott since they put alot of money on the anti-gay side. How about countries that do not allow gay marriage? (I apologize to the 3 readers of this blog who are against gay marriage if you find this notion offensive.)
- We should NOT have a conference in any state that has laws against interracial marriage. Actually, I don't think there are any such states. But there may be countries that do not allow it. (I apologize to the 0 readers of this blog who think the government should make interracial marriage illegal. I also apologize to the 1 reader who thinks its a states right issues where states can decide for themselves.)
- Should we ban Nazi Mathematics? See here for an opinion, actually the 88th Opinion of Doron Zeilberger.