On the 2nd of December, Oliver McTernan was invited to deliver the Purvis Oration to the West Kent Medico-Chirurgical Society – a medical society founded in 1856.  The Purvis Oration, a speech given to members of the society, was instituted in 1895, and has been given annually except during both world wars.

Oliver’s talk was on the challenges of conflict in a globalised world and focused on the cycle of Empathy to Apathy. An extract from Oliver’s speech is included below:  “Few of us  failed to be moved by the photo of the small body of a Syrian child refugee child washed up on a Turkish beech, or shocked by the sight of blood stained children been rescued from their bombed out homes in Aleppo, but how easy it is to allow the momentary empathy to reverse to apathy.  Apathy is born from a sense of helplessness and the mistaken belief that these conflicts are based on ancient hatreds and therefore intractable: it leads to a lack of political will to act in a decisive manner. We all need to play a part if we are to break out to this cycle.”

Oliver went on to explain what is needed is intelligent intervention that can open the way to durable solutions: this needs to be based on a factual analysis and right motives. Foreign policy needs to be driven by our values/principles rather than our interests, which are too often perceived as economical. Our interests should be our values.