Carnegie Mellon University
Conference Program


Thursday September 22, 2011 (location: Mellon Institute Social Room)

BREAKFAST (8:15-8:30am)

Welcome and Introductions (8:30-9:30am)

Panel 1: Why Identify? (9:30-10:45am)
  • What are the reasons why we identify missing people?
  • To what extent does the right to identity exist and from where does this right emerge?
  • Does this right hold equally for conflict and disaster contexts?
  • With whom does the responsibility to recover and identify lie?
  • What is the role of international actors?
  • What are the roles of local actors?
  • Human Rights vs. Humanitarian Approach
  • Are there any societies or situations in which the right to identity is not applicable?

Panel 2: The Role of DNA in victim ID in relation to other forms of evidence (11:00am-12:30pm)
  • Does increased reliance on DNA (rather than more traditional forms of forensic science) affect the outcome of investigations at the political, cultural, and psychosocial levels?
  • What happens when DNA technology cannot be used?
LUNCH (12:30-1:30pm)

Panel 3: The Ethical Dimensions of DNA Identification (1:45-3:15pm)
  • Incidental findings
  • The consent process
  • Voluntary vs. legally compelled reference samples
  • Introduction to DNA database issues
Panel 4: Local vs. International Issues (3:30-4:45pm)
  • How are decisions made to start identifying bodies locally and internationally?
  • What are the ethical dimensions of the interactions between local and international personnel?
  • Obligation not to participate in certain investigations (e.g., Iraq, where the scope of the investigation was severely limited by the U.S. govt., or when identification effort may endanger people or preclude legitimate actions)
Discussion: Existing Guidelines, Manuals and Best Practice Resources: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Opportunities for Further Analysis (5:00-6:00pm)
  • What guidelines and best practices currently exist?
  • To what extent do they address ethical issues?
  • What should be done to improve ethical guidance in the realm of post-conflict and post-disaster identification of missing people?

DINNER (6:15-7:30pm)

Friday September 23, 2011 (location: Posner Center)

BREAKFAST (8:15-8:45am)

FIRST SESSION: Roundtables 1 and 2 will be held concurrently (8:45-10:00am)

Roundtable 1: Families, Mourners, and Communities 
  • What role should families play in the policymaking process?
  • Do families care who does forensic work and where labs are located?
  • How should resistance to the identification process be handled?
  • How can the needs and desires of families and communities be determined and met?
  • Controlling Expectations
Roundtable 2: Factors leading to the use or lack of use of DNA technology
  • Resource allocation issues
  • Culture
  • Geography
  • International involvement
  • Politics

SECOND SESSION: Roundtables 3 and 4 will be held concurrently (10:15-11:30am)

Roundtable 3: Recovery and Storage of Human Remains after Conflict and Disaster
  • Who develops and implements recovery and storage plans?
  • What has gone wrong with the recovery and storage of human remains in various situations around the world?
  • How can the recovery and storage phase be improved in the future?
Roundtable 4: Post-Disaster Identification
  • What are the similarities and differences of identification efforts in the post-disaster and post-conflict domains?
  • Is there the same legal/moral imperative to locate and identify missing people in the aftermath of disaster as there is in the aftermath of conflict?
  • In situations like the 2004 Asian Tsunami, what are the obligations of nations undertaking recovery and identification efforts for their own citizens towards citizens of other nations?


LUNCH (12:00-1:00pm)

THIRD SESSION: Roundtables 5 and 6 will be held concurrently (1:00-2:15pm)

Roundtable 5: DNA databases--Balancing Privacy and the Public Good
  • Security Issues
  • Control/Ownership issues
  • Public trust
  • Use of national databases for missing persons and DVI
Roundtable 6: Return of Remains
  • The partial remains problem
  • What to do about very small fragments that remain after larger ones have been identified and returned (deals with issues of completeness of the skeleton, etc)?

FOURTH SESSION: Roundtables 7 and 8 will be held concurrently (2:30-3:45pm)

Roundtable 7: Mistaken Identifications
  • How big is the problem?
  • What are its causes?
  • What are the effects of mistaken identifications?
  • What should be done when mistaken identifications are discovered?

Roundtable 8: Is there a post-conflict/post-disaster identification industry emerging?
  • If so, what are the positive and negative aspects of this trend?
  • What are the ethical obligations of the actors involved in this development?
  • Under what circumstances do for-profit biotechnology firms undertake the work of DNA identification in post-conflict/post- disaster societies?
  • What relationships do private contractors have with other non-governmental and governmental actors, families, and communities?


FIFTH SESSION: Everybody will participate in the same roundtable discussion over refreshments and hors d'oeuvres (4:45-6:00pm)

Roundtable 9: Recovery and Identification: Paths to Reconstruction?
  • Is the recovery and identification of missing people always a pre-requisite for peace?
  • How should asymmetries of loss among formerly warring parties be dealt with?
  • What factors lead to identification efforts having a positive (or negative) impact on reconstruction and peacebuilding activities?
DINNER (6:00-7:30pm)

Saturday October 24, 2011 (location: Posner Center)

BREAKFAST (8:30-9:00am)

Planning session I (9:00-10:30am)

Planning session II (10:45am-12:00pm)

LUNCH and Informal Discussions (12:00-2:00pm)