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Trivia and Discussion Guide: Preventing Genocide and Preventive Diplomacy

The fourth chapter of the Genocide Prevention Task Force (GPTF) Report entitled “Preventive Diplomacy: Halting and Reversing Escalation” names several factors that influence which preventive tactics might be used. Name at least two.

Hint: You’ll find the answer in the discussion guide!

The Genocide Prevention Task Force Report outlines the challenges of and recommendations for the inclusion of early prevention of genocide and mass atrocities into US foreign policy. While the report analyzes these recommendations on a general level, it does not specifically apply them to current conflicts or troublesome areas which threaten to become conflict zones.

How would the GPTF recommendations on preventive diplomacy impact the conflicts in Sudan, Congo, Burma and other areas of concern if they were implemented into government policy?

  • Ideally, the US should use peaceful tactics to prevent and resolve crises whenever possible, though diplomatic, economic, legal, and military are potential policy options.
  • Factors influencing policy choices include:
    • Timing ("volcanic" or "rolling" genocide)
    • Geographical location
    • Political character
    • Economic profile
  • View a chart of preventive tools available to the US here on page 61.
  • Challenges include:
    • Countries prioritizing other issues deemed more important to national interest and security
    • Popular belief that little or nothing can be done to halt atrocities
    • Difficulty in getting international support
    • Legal and budgetary concerns (ie if policymakers determine a crisis is of little effect to US interests, paying the bill for preventive measures is not desirable)

GPTF RECOMMENDATIONS on preventive diplomacy

  • Recommendation 4-1: The new high-level interagency committee-the Atrocities Prevention Committee-should meet every other month (and as needed at other times) to review the status of countries of concern and coordinate preventive action.
    • This committee should be directed from the White House and co-chaired by a senior NSC official.
    • The APC would review the status of countries on the Atrocities Watch List (AWL) and coordinate preventive actions.
  • Recommendation 4-2: The Atrocities Prevention Committee, working with NSC staff, should prepare interagency genocide prevention and response plans for high-risk situations.
    • Crisis response plans include:
      • 1) A detailed target country assessment by the intelligence community that identifies potential points of leverage and policy intervention.
      • 2) An atrocities estimate and impact assessment
      • 3) A policy options assessment that draws on the target country analysis to lay out a range of potential U.S. responses matched to rising levels of crisis escalation.
  • Recommendation 4-3: The secretary of state should enhance the capacity of the U.S. government to engage in urgent preventive diplomatic action to forestall emerging crises.
    • Efforts towards this end are already present in the State Department’s Civilian Response Corps; these small active corps can be deployed within 48 hours; further efforts from this structure or the establishment of something new would enhance US capacity.
  • Recommendation 4-4: Preventive diplomacy strategies should include the credible threat of coercive measures, should avoid an overly rigid "escalatory ladder," and should not dismiss potential benefits of rewarding "bad people" for "good behavior."
    • The threat of coercive measures should only be used if credible; harsh rhetoric with meager action shows weakness and damages US credibility (ex. Darfur)
    • Stronger measures at earlier stages are more likely to achieve success.
  • Recommendation 4-5: Preventive diplomacy strategies should engage international actors who have influence with potential perpetrators, be mindful of becoming hostage to peace negotiations related to a broader conflict, and maintain consistency in the messages conveyed.
    • The international community, neighbors, prominent individuals and organizations, NGOs, diaspora networks, etc should be engaged.
    • Actors should strive for consistency and discipline with messages delivered to perpetrators.
Read the fourth chapter of the GPTF report here.
  • Recommendation 4-4 mentions that strong speech with weak action diminishes credibility. Are there instances regarding Sudan, Congo and Burma when the US government used strong, forceful language which preceded little action? What impact do you think this had on these conflicts?
  • Recommendation 4-5 mentions that influential international actors should be engaged; what if these actors have higher priorities than stopping the violence? For instance, China is a key actor in Sudan, yet their oil interest often trumps their concern of the violence.
  • While these recommendations address developing crisis response plans, how can we be sure that these plans would be implemented?

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