JAN KAVAN, PRESIDENT OF FIFTY-SEVENTH SESSION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY
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 for Foreign Affairs from 1998 to 2002. A member of the Czech Social Democratic Party since 1993, Mr. Kavan is currently a Deputy in the Czech Parliament.
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 20 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.
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 Slánský Conspiracy". Released four years later, his death in 1960 at the age
of 46, was a consequence of ill-treatment in prison.
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 of Reading.
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 (Massachusetts). He also lectured at universities such as 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.
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. He is an active member of several Czech and international non-governmental organizations. 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.
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