The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Early Prevention of Genocide

After examining the importance of leadership and early warning for genocide prevention, this week STAND’s education team asked you to consider early prevention. We provided trivia and a discussion guide to test your knowledge and jump start a discussion with your chapter. Below, you will find answers to the trivia and the e-team’s analysis of the discussion question. By emailing, you can subscribe to receive trivia, a discussion guide, and news briefs each week.

This week’s trivia question asked: the Genocide Prevention Task Force (GPTF) finds that efforts to prevent genocide and mass atrocities should address the main underlying sources of conflict and what else? The answer is: the means and motives of leaders. Acknowledging the importance of leadership in the occurrence of mass atrocities, theGPTF notes that opportunistic leaders may exploit risk factors for their own political gain. Addressing this aspect of mass atrocities makes for a comprehensive prevention strategy.

This week’s discussion question asked you to apply the recommendations of the GPTF on early prevention to the conflicts in Sudan, Burma, and Congo. What do these recommendations mean for these countries? How would the implementation of theGPTF early prevention recommendations affect these countries? What might these recommendations look like when put into effect? The e-team provides their analysis. To learn more, read the third chapter of the GPTF report.


The GPTF notes that in general, mass atrocities occur when elites take advantage of underlying conditions such as armed insurgency or political and economic exclusion to take power.  When it comes to early prevention, it is crucial to address these conditions but also to address these leaders and their resources.  Recommendation 3-1 suggests that early prevention strategies “aim to influence leaders by using positive and negative inducements, aggressive enforcement of international regimes, and fresh approaches to conflict transformation.”  The first step to holding the Burmese military regime accountable is to refer Burma to a UN Security Council Commission of Inquiry to investigate the regime’s crimes and potentially refer the case to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of a special tribunal for prosecution.  This action would signal international consensus against the abuses of the Burmese regime, creating political pressure and implying consequences for these abuses.   At the same time, the regime can be concretely weakened through arms embargoes and targeted sanctions. 

Recommendation 3-2 suggests that early prevention strategies “support development of institutions in high-risk states by supporting power sharing and democratic transition, enhancing the rule of law and addressing impunity, and reforming security forces.” The Burmese military regime has already turned down one chance to become democratic and legitimate. Although the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the 1990 democratic elections by a landslide, the military regime refused to acknowledge the election results and forcibly maintained power.  Elections have been scheduled for 2010, but few political parties and ethnic minority groups give credence to the claim that they will be free or fair.  International pressure should focus on ensuring that the elections are legitimate so that Burma can eventually transition to a true democratic government and allow the NLD to share power, potentially bringing about true reform.   

Recommendation 3-3 suggests that early prevention strategies strengthen civil society by, among supporting economic and legal empowerment and citizen groups, a free and responsible media.  This is particularly relevant in Burma because the Burmese military regime uses suppression of the press as a means to maintain control over the populace. The media is heavily censored, and the military regime owns or controls all daily newspapers and broadcast media.  To prevent information about the regime’s atrocities from reaching the world media, the regime has enacted legislation that can imprison reporters caught smuggling information or video footage out of the country for years.  With virtually no freedom of speech, the Burmese people have no means by which to conduct dialogue about the political process and the regime’s activities.


Sudan is quite literally a ticking time bomb of insecurity: as Southern Sudan builds towards a critical referendum put in place by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement andDarfur witnesses the endless deterioration of the Darfur Peace Agreement, the risk of violence multiplies. The US Government can help prepare and protect the civilian population by supporting civil society and institutions on the ground, while continuing to pressure leaders to slow the swell in violence.


The most outstanding recommendation is ‘partnering with local organizations’. Congolese versions of their own history have hardly been considered when coming up with solutions to their problems. Many intervention efforts have continued to be based on western perspectives of the conflict, which rarely do justice to the local people’s sentiments, experiences and resilience. By continuing to export western-centric models and ideas of what peace and democracy are, we continue to force horse shoes on Cinderella’s feet. It is important that local Congolese participate in identifying the risk factors and policies that trigger grievances and cause civilians to rebel. Should the USA heed the prevention ‘gospel’,  emphasis should be put on listening and valuing Congolese input.




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