President of the Fifty-seventh Session
of the United Nations General Assembly
Former Deputy Prime Minister and
former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
- Our Priorities
Photo of the President released for the use in media (jpeg,
300 dpi, 372 kB, photo by Mark Garten / UN-DPI).
Mr. Jan Kavan, President of the fifty-seventh session of the
United Nations General Assembly, brings to the post political
skills built on a lifetime of experience, both in the Czech
Republic and throughout his 20 years of political exile in the
United Kingdom. An advocate of democracy and human rights, he
served as the Czech Republic's Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign
and Security Policy from 1999 to 2002 and as Minister of Foreign
Affairs from 1998 to 2002. He is currently a Deputy in the Czech
While Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Kavan also served as his country's
representative to the European Union's Convention on the Future
of Europe, holding the posts of Vice-President of the State
Security Council, Chairman of the Committee for Intelligence
Activities and Executive Vice-Chairman of the Government Committee
for European Integration. Between 1996 and 2000, he represented
the Czech Social Democratic Party as a Senator in the upper
House of Parliament.
An active member of various Czech and international non-governmental
organizations, in the 1990s, Mr. Kavan served for six years
as Chairman, and later as Vice-Chairman, of the Helsinki Citizens´
Assembly (HCA) in the Czech Republic and for three years as
a member of the Executive Council of the International HCA.
In 1993, he founded the Policy Centre for the Promotion of Democracy
in the Czech Republic, which he still heads.
Mr. Kavan was born in London on 17 October 1946 to an English
schoolteacher and a Czech diplomat. His father was recalled
in 1950, in the wake of the 1948 communist coup in the then
Czechoslovakia, and the family resettled in Prague. Shortly
afterwards, his father was arrested on trumped-up treason charges
and sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment in the Stalinist trial
known as the "Rudolf Slánsk Conspiracy".
Released four years later, his death in 1960 was a consequence
of ill-treatment in prison. He was 46 years old.
Following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968,
Mr. Kavan took part in various forms of passive resistance and
other political protest activities against the occupation of
his country and was placed on the Communist Party's blacklist
of "representatives and exponents of the rightist movement".
In the spring of 1969 he was forced to emigrate to the United
Kingdom, where he lived in exile for the next twenty years,
becoming a member of the British Labour Party. Throughout this
period, he assisted Czech opposition activists -- in particular
the human rights movement known as Charter 77 -- which led to
the loss of his Czechoslovak citizenship in 1979.
On returning to Prague from political exile in November 1989,
Mr. Kavan joined the Civic Forum, the principal political movement
fighting for democracy in Czechoslovakia during the so-called
Velvet Revolution, and was elected to its Coordinating Committee.
In the country's first free parliamentary elections in 44 years,
he was elected, in June 1990, to the Federal Assembly (Parliament)
and became a member of its Foreign Affairs Committee.
Joining the Czech Social Democratic Party in 1993, Mr. Kavan
chaired its Foreign Affairs Commission from 1994 to 1998, acting
as its foreign affairs spokesman between 1996 and 1998. Mr.
Kavan represented his party on the Central and East European
Committee of the Socialist International -- a worldwide organization
of social democratic and labour parties -- of which he was elected
Vice-Chairman in 1997. He was elected to the Presidium of the
Central Executive Committee of the Social Democratic Party the
same year and re-elected in 1999.
During his early 1970s exile in the United Kingdom, Mr. Kavan
founded and ran the Palach Press Agency, which published articles
by Czech as well as Central and Eastern European authors living
in the West and served as the press agency in the West for the
activities of Czech opposition movements.
In the early 1980s, Mr. Kavan formed the Jan Palach Information
and Research Trust and the East European Cultural Foundation
(EECF). He later helped to found the East European Cultural
Endowment Ltd. which, alongside the EECF, worked to publicize
the plight of Czech political prisoners as well as the activities
of Charter 77 and other opposition groups. Among other
activities in support of the underground movement, the organizations
raised funds for the Czech samizdat publishing houses and the
underground university, which linked expelled professors with
expelled students. He also founded and edited the East European
Reporter, a quarterly whose honorary editorial board included
such well-known East and Central European dissidents as Václav
Havel, Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron.
Mr. Kavan has had a notable academic career, which includes
stints as Visiting Professor of Politics and History at Adelphi
University (New York) from 1993 to 1994 and Karl Loewenstein
Fellow in Politics and Jurisprudence at Amherst College (Massachusettes).
He also lectured at universities such a Columbia and Stanford,
Wellesley College and the Harvard Center for European Studies,
and taught at the London Adult Education Institute for close
to 15 years. He holds several honorary degrees, including Honorary
Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
A leader of the 1960s student movement in Prague, Mr. Kavan
studied journalism at Charles University, going on to study
international relations at the London School of Economics and
Political Science. Later he studied politics at the University
The author of more than 100 articles published in the daily
press and specialized periodicals in the United States, the
United Kingdom and other countries of Europe, Mr. Kavan has
edited two books on the Czech opposition movements and contributed
to four others, all published in the United Kingdom and the
United States. His recent publications include: McCarthyism
Has a New Name: Lustration, Transition to Democracy in
Eastern Europe and Russia (Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing
Group, Westport, Connecticut, USA, 2002); Youth Movements
and the Velvet Revolution (co-authored), Communist and
Post-Communist Studies Vol.27, No.2, June 1994 (Butterworth
Heinemann, Oxford, United Kingdom); Charter 77 and other
Independent Movements, Debates on the Future of Communism
(Foreign Policy Research Institute, Macmillan Academic and Professional
Publications, USA,1991); From Spring to Winter,
Legacy of the Prague Spring, (Freedom House, New York, 1989);
and Czechoslovak Opposition Since 1968, Part I and
Part II, Poland Watch Nos.5 and 7 (Journal of the Poland Watch
Center, Washington, D.C.).
Mr. Kavan is the recipient of a number of medals and awards
for his contribution to the struggle for human rights and democracy
in his country.