Hard Vs. Soft Power

Foreign Policy Strategies in Contemporary International Relations

(Cambridge University, UK; June 23rd - 26th, 2010)

Martin Bell

UNICEF UK Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies; Former British MP (Independent) and War Correspondent

Martin Bell is the UNICEF UK Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies, a position he assumed in 2001 following a prestigious career as a war correspondent for the BBC and, notably, as an Independent Member of Parliament from 1997 – 2001.

Born in Redisham, Suffolk, in 1938, Martin Bell worked as a journalist for over three decades, most famously as an award-winning television war correspondent. His journalism was recognised by the Royal Television Society's Reporter of the Year award in 1977 and 1993, and by appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1992, the year in which he was injured by mortar fire whilst reporting in Sarajevo.

Following his career with  the BBC, which spanned 90 countries and 11 wars from Vietnam to El Salvador and Biafra to Bosnia, Bell became disillusioned with what he came to see as the artificially amoral perspective of journalism. He feels that the convention of neutrality in journalism can distort reporting on conflicts in which one side is demonstrably guilty of atrocities. He left the BBC, which he has since criticised, to run as an independent in the 1997 British General Election, seizing the hitherto “safe” Conservative seat of Tatton from Neil Hamilton and winning an 11,000-vote majority. This saw him elected as the first British independent MP since 1951.

Bell is the author of three books: In Harm's Way (1995), An Accidental MP (2000) and Through Gates of Fire (2003). They draw on his experience in war reporting and politics to present a powerful critique of government and media manipulation in domestic politics and foreign interventions. Since joining Unicef in 2001, his assignments have included Burundi, Kosovo, Tajikistan, Iraq, Malawi, Bosnia, Sudan and Sri Lanka.