The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Answers and Analysis: International Action and Preventing Genocide

Last week our discussion focused on the sixth chapter of the Genocide Prevention Task Force (GPTF) Report, International Action. Preventing genocide is not a responsibility for the US alone. While previous recommendations have addressed changes in the procedures of the US government in responding to the threat and outbreak of genocide and mass atrocities, the GPTF recognizes that prevention will most likely be successful when the international community as a whole is engaged. Historically, the international community has a poor track record. In some instances, national interests of state actors may be stronger than their will to stop the atrocities. Due to hesitant or disdainful views of the US, American leadership may be poorly received on these issues. These are the challenges. However, there are strong signs of increased willingness to stop atrocities. The Responsibility to Protect and growing consensus on accountability for crimes (as seen with the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the International Criminal Court).

The trivia asked for an example of an international justice mechanism which can be seen as a positive sign of growing consensus on accountability for crimes. Possible answers include: the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the International Criminal Court.

The discussion asked you to consider how GPTF recommendations on international action would affect Sudan, Burma, Congo and other areas of concern if they were incorporated into US policy. Below, the STAND E-team provides their analysis.

Sudan’s crises do not exist in a vacuum: they exist in context of a global system in which crises cross borders, actors transcend national boundaries, and international systems intertwine with local conflicts. Thus no one international actor can intervene successfully in Sudan; instead, the international community must develop a concerted and interdisciplinary strategy. To do this, the US government should invest in strengthening those international systems through robust diplomatic and capacity-building activities with potential partners in combating genocidal violence and strengthening international institutions designed to do this, such as the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council.

When it comes to international institutions, the UN has great potential to be effective but that potential is rarely realized in the case of genocides and mass atrocities. The issue of the Security Council veto is especially problematic because SC members such as China with interests in countries where these conflicts are occurring use their vetoes to block any sort of meaningful action against abusive and genocidal regimes. This is true in the case of Burma, where China has supported the military regime and provided economic partnership. China has used its veto power to prevent the passage of UN resolutions that would hurt the regime, which makes Recommendation 6-2, that the Secretary of State should “undertake robust diplomatic efforts toward negotiating an agreement among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council on non-use of veto in cases concerning genocide or mass atrocities” particularly relevant. Implementation would greatly reduce China’s power to support Burma’s abusive regime and stand in the way of international action against it.

Strengthening institutions is as important in prevention of genocide as in maintaining the regular functioning of a state. Institutions make and break states, and in DR Congo it is evident that weak institutions are compliant and can hardly contain or resolve the situation. With the national army preying on its citizens, criminals manning many of the police stations and jails, and a seriously corrupt judicial system, this country is in dire need of institutional stream lining. However, care is to be taken in this pursuit, so that USA and other interveners don’t interpret ‘empty’ elections in Kinshasa as a sign of emerging democracy and freedom. In forming more functional institutions, there is need to pay attention to their actions and how they are affecting the lives of Congolese, instead of, for example, just celebrating the mere existence of a coalition government on paper.

The final chapter of the GPTF report encourages the U.S. and other international actors to strengthen the norms and institutions of high-risk states as a way to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. This includes providing aid and support to international partners willing to institute any of the above measures to prevent genocide and mass atrocities and to institutionalize intelligence sharing, cooperation among NGOs and multinational corporations and plan preventative measures. All these actions can help protect civilians and restore stability to conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka. Yet these measures cannot be undertaken without U.S. leadership and commitment to preventing genocide and mass atrocities.

Email to receive weekly trivia, discussion guides, and news briefs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>