The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Take Action For CAR and Build Peace

Peacebuilding saves money and lives. It empowers local communities by giving them the tools they need to prevent and resolve conflict. It creates a sustainable framework that can be passed down from generation to generation. It is relatively cheap and simple to implement. What’s not to love?

Peacebuilding is a process that can be comprised of many different programs designed to heal individuals and communities affected by war and atrocities. These programs can range from local truth-telling forums that acknowledge the occurrence of atrocities to wide-scale educational programs that can break down and erase stereotypes.

Unfortunately, peacebuilding is often underfunded. When limited funds are appropriated for foreign aid, money is far more likely to be dedicated to resolving ongoing conflict than to areas under the threat of emerging violence. This has created a cycle in which international actors work to put out one conflict while another erupts, creating a world in which sustainable peace seems nearly impossible. Peacebuilding efforts can create situations where the emergence of new conflict becomes rarer.

The Central African Republic (CAR) has experienced conflict since a violent coup took place in 2012. Over 5,000 civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced from their homes. While violence has subsided for the time being, tensions and insecurity remain; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Early Warning Project ranks CAR as the fifth-most likely country to experience mass atrocity in the near future.

That’s why we’re launching the Action For CAR Fundraiser with our partner Aegis Trust. Aegis developed a peace education program in Rwanda following the genocide in 1994. This program gives young people across the country the knowledge and tools to overcome the legacy of fear and suspicion left by the genocide, to break the long term cycle of violence and to build reconciliation, trust and cooperation for a brighter future. That program is now an effective part of the national education system. The reputation of Aegis’ programs caught the attention of interim CAR President Catherine Samba-Panza, who asked Aegis to develop a similar program for the Central African Republic. They need our support to ensure that this peacebuidling program can be fully implemented in CAR.


It doesn’t take much to make a difference. Just $20 dollars funds one student’s entire peacebuilding education training.

All funds support:

  • Initiating a peace education program in CAR
  • Implementing a peacebuilding and leadership program for Central African youth to lead peace efforts in their communities
  • Securing ongoing funding to sustain our programs in the longer term


#Action4CAR is comprised of a series of fundraising events developed by student leaders across the country. How can you pitch in? You can organize a fundraising event in your area with our help – check out our Fundraising Toolkit here! You can also make a direct donation at

The Central African Republic has made strides toward peace since the beginning of the conflict in 2012. Still, the risk of escalated violence and mass atrocity remains high. Take #Action4CAR with us by raising money to promote peacebuilding in CAR. Every dollar makes a difference.

The Syria Problem We Don’t Want To Answer

I recently picked up Samantha Power’s “A Problem From Hell” again.

One of the themes of the book is repetitive disappointment. Time and time again, humans worldwide have fallen victim to heinous crimes that were committed without much international resistance. Atrocities were allowed to proceed in Cambodia, Iraq, and Bosnia (among other places) for many reasons, not the least of which was political convenience.

In most cases, perpetrators of genocide, atrocities, and chemical weapons attacks conducted these acts with the knowledge that the world had neither the willpower nor the mechanisms to deliver justice. In almost all cases, we were reluctant to believe, slow to listen, late to mobilize, and horrified by the magnitude of suffering that had occurred. Our world has changed immeasurably since politically uncomfortable reports of Iraqi chemical weapons attacks on Iranian soldiers and Iraqi Kurds fell on unlistening ears in the late ‘80s. If it happened today, we wouldn’t just listen – we would act. Wouldn’t we?

The conflict in Syria has been riddled by allegations of chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime since at least late 2012. A cursory Google search of allegations unearths a Wikipedia page dedicated to the use of chemical weapons in Syria which notes almost 60 incidents where chemical weapons were reported as being used. Although UN investigators actually responded to allegations with a report in a somewhat timely manner (compared to Iraq in the 80s), the investigators were careful not to assign blame to any party – even when it was determined that missiles carrying chemical weapons were launched from government-controlled territory.

Any form of military intervention in Syria was avoided when the Syrian government agreed to eliminate its entire chemical weapon stockpile. I have issues with what seems to be the conceptual equivalent of a murderer avoiding jail time by turning in his gun, but at least it was progress. Almost a year ago to date, Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile was announced to be completely destroyed. Of course, there were always suspicions that the Assad regime was hiding undeclared caches of chemicals, but at least it was progress.

Marking the success, President Obama commented the collective “we” had sent “a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community.” But really, were the consequences so severe?

The Assad regime seems to think not. In early May, US officials accused the regime of continued use of chlorine gas on civilians. In July, The Wall Street Journal published a story headlined “Mission to Purge Syria of Chemical Weapons Comes Up Short”, which was exactly what it sounds like. Two weeks ago, the UN adopted a measure to finally identify the party(s) responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Even after perpetrators are officially identified after years of essentially unimpeded use, prosecution could be “years or more than a decade away.” It doesn’t take an expert to see the similarities between the atrocities occurring and Syria and those that occurred in Iraq, Bosnia, and many other places before.

I think there is value in reflecting on the failures of our conventions and red lines, just as there is value in considering that we are likely underestimating the number of casualties caused by chemical weapons in Syria – just as we have in conflicts before. In “A Problem From Hell” (2002), Ambassador Power notes her fear that the “Kosovo intervention and the Milosevic trial, once thought to mark important precedents, may come to represent high-water marks in genocide prevention and punishment”. Thirteen years later, the water level is mostly unchanged. We have grown better at believing (mostly), and the international community does a whole lot of listening now. Still, that’s not enough.

We have the evidence, and we have the responsibility to act on it. If we choose to forget past lessons and drag our feet even more in Syria, we’ll again be horrified by the magnitude of suffering we inevitably uncover.

STAND Semester in Review

It’s been another long semester, and to those of you who thrived in finals (or maybe just survived), congratulations! The many successes within the genocide prevention movement this semester also deserve congratulations. We wrote letters, supported petitions, shook social media, and hung flyers. New campaigns were launched, and lasting partnerships were formed. This is the STAND Semester in Review.

The semester kicked off in August with our first campaign, Decisive Action Sudan. You signed a petition for action in Sudan and South Sudan, joined an online panel of Sudan experts for Q&A, and lobbied your local Congress member for increased humanitarian aid and civilian protection, among other asks.

September saw the launch of the Campaign to Prevent Identity Based Violence, STAND’s joint campaign with the Student Peace Alliance. IBV focused on different facets of violence each month: violence against the internally displaced and homeless people; indigenous and native peoples; LGBTQIA people; and violent protest suppression committed by government power holders were important focuses highlighted by domestic and world events time and time again.

We revived #Syriasly in September with the distribution of conflict education materials and a flyering action in which STAND members’ colleges and universities were peppered with facts about Syria.

At the end of September, students took part in STANDfast, abstaining from social media for 24 hours and coming together in solidarity with South Sudanese people affected by conflict and famine.

In October, US airstrikes rocked Syria and Iraq, resulting in dozens of civilian deaths. We pushed for accountability and the prioritization of civilian safety in all actions in Syria and Iraq. The campaign culminated in a midterm election Thunderclap tweet. We asked Rep. Ed Royce, “How will you ensure #civpro?” The post reached 58,000 people across social media.

Two huge successes were achieved in November. We worked with United to End Genocide on the #JustSayTheirName campaign, spurring President Obama to use the word “Rohingya” in support of the oppressed people during a visit to Burma. His use of the word was an important step toward ending the plight of Burma’s Rohingya.

STAND partnered with Students Organize 4 Syria (SOS) in November to launch Perspectives on Syria, a blog series highlighting perspectives of Syrian Americans, diaspora, refugees, and activists on the conflict in Syria. The series has four parts already and will continue into next semester.

We wrapped up the semester with two campaigns. We got engaged with conflict-free jewelry and published 13+ letters to the editor in newspapers around the country. We marked the first anniversary of the most recent conflict in South Sudan, and thousands of incredible stories and analyzations were collected under the hashtag #1yr2long.

In addition, across the country, STAND chapters and members took dozens of other actions and held events, each contributing to the genocide prevention landscape as it stands today. Your efforts, whether you wrote a letter to your local paper or simply kept up with the constant stream of information (no small feat), are extremely valued and appreciated. We had a great semester, and we’re looking forward to making waves next semester, too!


Taking a First Step

This post was written by Jake Ramirez, STAND’s Communication Coordinator. Jake is a rising junior at the University of Arizona.

I want to change a culture. I’m not talking about pop culture – I’m talking about real culture. Deeply ingrained culture. The kind of culture that is so natural and unassuming that it can be hard to even recognize as part of a culture. How do you change a culture like this? Recognizing it is the first step.

Genocides and humanitarian wrongs are not the kinds of problems we grew up learning about on television. The problems we watched unfold were neat. Difficult? Sure. Violent? Sometimes. Scary? On occasion, but they were always resolved in a convenient 30-minute window. The bad guy was always unmasked, the resolution clearly defined, and the next episode of Scooby-Doo started. Neat. Unfortunately, the word “neat” is used very rarely in discussion about humanitarian issues, and always after the phrase, “this issue is not”.

When issues are complex, and we’re talking downright labyrinthian in many humanitarian cases, good people try to help the people that do understand. Most often, that means donating hard-earned dollars to organizations. We have a “bad” habit of throwing money at problems – we, America as a collective. I put bad in quotations because it isn’t a real problem; generosity is a fantastic trait, and money is a vital tool in the mending of almost any issue. It’s only a bad habit when we think we’ve seen the resolution and move on to the next episode.

How do you change a culture? You can start by simply acting. Don’t get me wrong, diving into some of these issues seems about as attractive as diving into a Nickelback greatest hits album, especially if you have a test on something like vector calc the next day. But you don’t have to understand the difference between the APRD, UFDR, CPJP, FDPC, and FACA to get started. I sure didn’t. I’m still a million miles from being an expert, but I’m making progress.

Every organization like STAND thrives on the human resource, and you can help simply by being an enthusiastic and willing volunteer. If your first volunteer mission is passing out flyers on campus with a partner, you’re making a friend! When you make a friend, you go back! When you go back you accidentally learn a little and then you accidentally learn a lot and all of a sudden you care deeply about the issues you once knew nothing about. All of a sudden, you’re providing something a lot more valuable than a twenty dollar check. Maybe you’re an informed, passionate person with a vested interest in the conflict in the Central African Republic, or an individual that wants to join the Peace Corps, and you’re someone that makes people around you want to do what you’re doing.

So how do you change a culture? Honestly, you probably don’t, at least not in the “Woodstock ‘69” sense. All you can do is act for yourself and hope your domino tips someone else’s. It doesn’t hurt to nudge a domino here or there though. Offer your roommate lunch if they go to a charity festival with you; I can think of maybe three people I’ve met in my collegiate existence that wouldn’t take me up on a free lunch, and people that don’t like free lunch aren’t people you should be associating with anyways.

We don’t live in a utopia, and until someone makes Adam Sandler stop making Grown Ups sequels, we never will. Still, the fact something can’t be perfected is not an excuse to abandon trying to make it better. If that were the case you would still be using t9 texting, and the Cavaliers would have signed Pau Gasol instead of Lebron.

Before my soapbox implodes:

As citizens of the world we have a responsibility to look out for our neighbors abroad just as we would a neighbor next door. We have a responsibility to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of making the world even a slightly better place. We each have a responsibility to shape our personal culture with such care that others are inspired to shape theirs. I’m working on changing my own culture, and I hope you do too.

*soapbox implodes*

Anyways, I’d love to hear any comments or questions you have, and if you like Grown Ups or Nickelback, I apologize. Email me at