The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

A life-changing encounter

 This blog is brought to you by Laura Wilkinson, STAND Communications Intern.

I never thought I would have a connection to the genocide prevention movement. I grew up in North Carolina, in a town of mostly white southerners with little international experience or knowledge. My time in high school, however, got me interested in international affairs and so I went off to N.C. State – a 15-minute drive from the house I grew up in – to pursue degrees in international relations and criminology.

While at State, I took many classes that dealt with conflicts around the world and I eventually became editor-in-chief of the university’s newspaper, which meant most of my day was spent glued to news sites, news on Twitter, and TV news channels. My relatively narrow worldview began expanding at a rapid rate, and to be honest it was a little overwhelming. There was so much going on in the world that I couldn’t come close to understanding!

Then I met Jon* through a mutual friend one night. He was very tall, very dark, and very quiet. But when he spoke, you listened. His words were always soft, but you could tell he said everything with purpose. During the traditional “tell me about yourself” line of conversation, I found out Jon was originally from Liberia and was in the U.S. to attend seminary. Then our mutual friend encouraged Jon to talk to us more about his past, and that’s when I became personally connected to the issues of war crimes, mass atrocities, and ethnic violence.

Jon was forced into becoming a child soldier in Liberia when he was a teenager, along with some of his brothers. He spent more than an hour detailing how soldiers raided his home, threatened his family with death, and swept him into a world of violence. He constantly feared for his life and followed orders to survive, but always thought about making it back home. Eventually he gained the trust of his commander, who left him alone to keep watch one night. After some deliberation, Jon decided to take his chances and escape. Although worried he would be hunted down and killed for fleeing, he made it home safely and never heard from his former commander again.

He was not comfortable talking about many of the specific horrors he faced, and I’m not sure if he will ever be comfortable talking about it – and that’s OK. While recounting his experiences, his mind seemed to wander away from the present and it felt like he was reliving that part of his life somewhere in his mind, not paying attention to the present company.

Meeting Jon and hearing about his life as a child soldier during Liberia’s civil war was life-changing for both myself and others in the room. So after moving to Washington, DC for graduate school I jumped at the opportunity to get involved with STAND. I want to be a part of the genocide prevention movement so I can stand up for people like Jon, whose story may never be heard elsewhere.

*Name has been changed.

Girl Rising: Malala and Structural Violence

This piece is by David Sanker, STAND’s Advocacy Intern.

This year’s International Day of the Girl coincides remarkably well with a story I feel is extremely powerful and resonates with STAND’s values. Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai has become an international icon for her courage and determination in her advocacy work for women’s rights, despite renewed threats by the Taliban. She even appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on October 9, 2013. Furthermore, October 9 marked the one year anniversary of Malala being shot in the head by the Taliban in retaliation for her campaigning against school closings in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The Taliban also shot two other girls during this attack. Malala has since recovered, continued advocating for girls’ education, and received near-universal accolade all in the past year. Malala was also rumored to be a top contender for the Nobel Peace Prize and recently received the European Parliament’sSakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Indeed, Malala’s fight to stay alive and her continued efforts against institutionalized discrimination in education has pushed her cause onto the world stage. Malala’s story is an example of great activism, but also shows how mass atrocities are not just physically violent — they involve and are often preceded by structural-level effects as well.

Many groups across the globe are prevented from meeting their basic needs by social institutions or government structures. John Gatlung defined this sort of social and legal discrimination as structural violence. Structural violence includes situations when people are not entitled access to the same resources. This often involves institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism, ableism and ageism. In Malala’s case, she advocated against discrimination toward women in education. Unfortunately, structural violence has occurred throughout history and can currently be seen all over the world, from the United States to South Africa to Iran. Indeed, Malala’s quest for ensuring women’s access to education proves similar to the case of many other repressed groups around the world.

However, structural violence does not end with discrimination. The adverse effects of structural violence, according to Paul Farmer in An Anthropology of Structural Violence, include: “death, injury, illness, subjugation, stigmatization, and even psychological terror.” Furthermore, structural violence has often been tied to adverse events like genocide, human rights violations, and mass epidemics. Jews in pre-war Germany experienced an ever-increasing amount of religiously, judicially, economically, and socially discriminatory laws, such as the Nuremberg Laws, in the years before Hitler’s Final Solution. The MuslimRohingyas in Burma have experienced increased structural violence particularly since clashes in June and October 2012. The government has denied Rohingya’s citizenship and forced them to use ID cards identifying ethnicity.  Various governments in Rwanda used ID cards identifying ethnicity before the 1994 genocide. Indeed, structural violence should not go unnoticed because it could potentially serve as an early warning mechanism for emerging conflict areas.

One must not ignore the people whose livelihoods are being subjugated on a daily basis, even if nonviolently, by repressive regimes across the world. While focusing on ongoing violence and mass atrocities is crucial, it is equally as important to take interest in the various groups being subjugated to structural violence around the world. Malala was shot in the head and continues advocating against the structurally violent act of forbidding women’s education. What’s the least we could do?

Top 10 Updates in Genocide Prevention

1. Sudan and South Sudan: This week the US backed an African Union plan to hold a referendum in the contested region of Abyei. The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) has proposed holding the referendum this month. This proposal comes after a steady increase in protests calling for such a vote. This revamping of US support for action comes after a meeting between the US, Norway, and the United Kingdom who compose the troika for Sudan/South Sudan.

2. Sudan: In the aftermath of the recent protests in Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir has announced plans to hold a major economic conference to create a comprehensive plan to create a solution to the countries economic woes. This comes after a week of protests that Bashir claims were attempts to overthrow his regime, which has been in power since 1989. Aljazeera quoted him saying on Oct. 9th “Khartoum could not be overthrown because it is protected by God.”

3. South Sudan: Also this week South Sudan President Salva Kiir pardoned several former opposition leaders including Lam Akol former leader of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC). Beyond Akol, the President’s order also included the release of several former militia leaders and political prisoners whom had been accused of being in cohorts with the Sudanese government. This move has earned Kiir praise from Human Rights advocates.

4. Syria: The momentum generated by the recent chemical weapons deal to hold an international conference seeking a diplomatic solution to the conflict appears to be stalling as Washington and Tehran have run into disagreements. Iran rejected the U.S. State Department’s suggestion on Monday that it would be “more open” to Iran taking part in the conference if Iran were to embrace a 2012 statement calling for a transitional authority in Syria. Tehran said it would not accept any conditions for taking part in the “Geneva 2″ conference. A previous conference in June 2012, the “Geneva Communique”, also sought a diplomatic solution. Iran was excluded from this conference.

5. Syria: Government and Assad-affiliated militia groups launched attacks on a northern Syrian city and a southern Damascus suburb Tuesday and Wednesday. Government airstrikes on Tuesday targeted rebel positions near the strategic northern city of Maaret al-Numan, which is located by a major supply route connecting Damascus and Aleppo. Rebels captured Maaret al-Numan a year ago. On Wednesday, Iraqi militiamen and Hezbollah fighters captured the southern suburb of Damascus, Sheikh Omar, with the help of Syrian army firepower. Sheikh Omar sits between two highways used by the Assad regime to supply its forces in the southern provinces of Deraa and Sweida.

6. Democratic Republic of the Congo: Peace talks between M23 and the Congolese government, which began last month, were expected to finish this week. The original 14-day deadline for the completion of the talks has already passed, but Kinshasa has continued to express optimism towards the outcome. Meanwhile, the United States announced last week the withdrawal of military aid to Rwanda in retaliation for the use of child soldiers by M23, though Rwanda continues to deny any involvement with the rebel group.

7. Burma: Police have arrested 48 people following violence in Rakhine (Arakan) State of Burma last week in which five people were killed and  110 homes destroyed. The fighting began on Sept. 29 and lasted four days, coinciding with President Thein Sein’s first visit to the region. According to The Irrawaddy, in the weeks leading up to the violence that was predominantly divided along religious lines between Buddhists and Muslims, the nationalist Buddhist organization known as 969 was spreading anti-Muslim messages throughout the region.

8. Burma: Three day long peace talks between the Kachin Independence Organization and the Myanmar government in Myitkyina, Kachin State failed to reach a much anticipated ceasefire agreement. However, people familiar with the talks said that the KIO had not in fact ruled out agreeing to a nationwide ceasefire between the government and all of the country’s ethnic groups. Burma has subsequently released 56 political prisoners to bolster favorable perception of the government both in peace talks with the KIO and overseas in Brunei for the 23rd ASEAN Summit.

9. Central African Republic: The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution drafted by France for the Central African Republic this week. The resolution urges the establishment of a U.N peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic. Although France has been reluctant in getting directly involved in the crisis in CAR, French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius warned that if international mitigating measures are not taken, CAR will become a failed state. Aside from the fact that France has a small force in Bangui surrounding the airport, they have stated that they are willing to provide logistical support as a way to stabilize and secure CAR.

10. Azerbaijan: On Wednesday, Azerbaijan held its presidential election.  The country has a long history of conflict with Armenia, especially over Nagorno-Karabakh.  However, a report surfaced before voting even occurred that showed President Aliyev won reelection.  The expectations for the election were very low, but the leak proves that the prospects for increasing democratization in Azerbaijan are slim.


The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine and the Current Situation in Syria

 By David Sanker, STAND Advocacy Intern

Last week I attended an event at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC. The speakers at this event included Igor Ivanov, Former Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Lord George Robertson, Former Secretary General of NATO, and Frederic Hof, Senior Fellow of Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. This event detailed the current situation in Syria and whether a political solution is possible. I was amazed at the low number of questions directed toward Russia’s support of the Assad regime. The event focused primarily on current diplomatic issues and secondarily on how the humanitarian crisis is continuing unabated.

Multiple times during the event former Russian Foreign Minister (1999-2004) Igor Ivanov labeled the lack of trust between the United States and Russia as detrimental to current diplomatic proceedings. Indeed, he stated that this lack of trust and cooperation has severely limited the development of new mechanisms for tackling diplomatic problems and preventing mass atrocities. However, Ivanov’s comments about the situation reflect neither the complexity of the situation in Syria nor Russia’s reasons behind their recent diplomatic initiatives. Furthermore, Russian policies aiding and supplying weapons to the Assad regimedirectly support the use of conventional weapons that has killed more than 115,000 people since the conflict began.

Throughout the discussion at the Atlantic Council, Ivanov addressed neither the issue of violence against civilians nor Russia’s supplying of weapons to Assad’s regime. Ultimately, the lack of emphasis on civilian protection in Russia’s recent diplomatic proposals risks having a negative effect on efforts to lessen the violence in Syria, and ultimately might impede further progress into creating effective international early warning mechanisms for preventing mass atrocities.

Frederic C. Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and George Robertson, NATO Secretary General (1999-2004), criticized the explicit targeting of civilians by Assad’s government and Russia’s reluctance to put pressure on the Assad regime to stop it. To be fair, many other countries are neglecting the needs of Syrian civilians as well. Indeed, near the end of the discussion Robertson raised an important point about the faltering mass atrocities response initiative, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. Robertson noted that overwhelming international “inaction (to halt the violence) in Syria undermines the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, and it would serve the international community well to revisit the lessons from Bosnia, where the United States, the European Union, and Russia collaborated to resolve a similarly horrific sectarian conflict.” The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine was first formulated during the 2005 UN World Summit and states that “sovereignty no longer exclusively protects States from foreign interference; it is a charge of responsibility that holds States accountable for the welfare of their people.” The three main pillars of this doctrine as developed since the 2005 UN World Summit are:

  1. The State carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement;
  2. The international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist States in fulfilling this responsibility;
  3. The international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Ultimately, the third pillar’s emphasis on collective action through the Charter of the United Nations is dependent on the will and decisions of the Security Council. However, Russia holds veto power as one of the five permanent members of the council and has consistently opposed sanctions and actions explicitly targeting Assad’s regime. Indeed, Russia’s veto power has prolonged the inaction prevalent in the UN Security Council before the recent resolution to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Moreover, the recent call for immediate access to humanitarian aid in Syria by the UN Security Council still does not adequately address stopping the violence. Unfortunately, George Robertson’s concerns about inaction in the international community are valid and further raise important questions, such as:

  • Has the international community regressed in its ability to cooperate and act when faced with a humanitarian crisis?
  • Will the international community’s inaction harm future efforts in responding to or preventing mass atrocities?

Nevertheless, the international community will have to work together alongside Syrians on the ground to solve the situation in Syria. The planned Geneva II Middle East peace conference aims to  end the civil war and organize the peaceful transition of the country postwar. However, many feel that it is too little and too late. Furthermore, we can only hope that no member of the Security Council undermines prospects for peace by supporting a regime that systematically targets its own civilians.

Education Update

Welcome to the Education and Policy update for the week of October 3.

This week we compiled a series of Storify presentations about our perennial conflicts as well as two “emerging” conflicts.  Storify collects information from all over the web (e.g. tweets, articles, videos, etc.) and presents it in narrative form.  To see a presentation, simply click on the conflict you want to learn more about.  As always feel free to provide your additions, comments, or critiques in the comments section or email  Happy reading!

Democratic Republic of the Congo





Sudan and South Sudan

Education Update: The Week in Pictures

STAND has decided to highlight the most important events of the past week by using pictures of important moments, meetings, and life throughout our conflict zones. We have pictures going over events in Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Sudan, Egypt, and the Central African Republic.

The United States and Russia reached an agreement on Saturday calling for the destruction or removal of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid 2014. Under the agreement, Syria must provide an inventory of its chemical arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by the end of the week. On Monday, President Obama signed an order allowing the US to freely send protective equipment and training against chemical weapons attacks to the OPCW as well as approved rebel groups and nongovernmental organizations working within Syria.

While the agreement explicitly refers to a plan for a United Nations Security Council resolution under chapter 7 of the UN charter, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov called reports that the deal included a threat of military force “distorted”. US officials have stated that a unilateral American attack remains a possibility should diplomacy fail. The deal also included an agreement for the US and Russia to renew efforts to convene a peace conference between the Assad regime and rebel forces that has thus far proved elusive.

Inspectors reported to the United Nations Security Council on Monday that they found “clear and convincing evidence” that a large chemical attack was carried out in Syria last month. Although the report itself does not state who is responsible for the attack, the United States and its Western allies cited parts of the report as evidence of the Assad regime’s guilt.

Following the Russian-American deal on removing or destroying the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons, United Nations Security Council negotiations began on Tuesday. Anonymous diplomats have said that disagreements arose over the draft put forward by the United States, Britain, and France over the threat of military force to enforce the agreement, whether or not to condemn the Assad regime for the chemical weapons attack, and whether or not to refer the suspected perpetrators of the attack to the International Criminal Court.

A car bomb on the Syrian-Turkish border was reported to have killed 7 and wounded at least 20 people. The bombing took place at a roadblock held by Islamist brigades at the entrance of a rebel-held crossing on Tuesday. The day before the explosion, Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter in Turkish airspace.

Opposition activists reported Tuesday that rebel groups have intensified their blockade of many government-held areas of northern Aleppo to include a highway previously left open to civilians. This has caused a rapid increase in food scarcity and prices in government-held areas, and many activists have condemned the tactic.

The humanitarian crisis in Syria continues to intensify. A group of 55 doctors and medical professionals wrote in an open letter to one of the world’s most respected medical journals, the Lancet, warning that the Syrian healthcare system is “at breaking point”. The letter, set to be published Friday, states that the impending medical crisis is due to hospital staff being attacked, forced to flee, or imprisoned, as well as attacks on hospitals, and humanitarian organizations being denied access to patients.

Talks between the Congolese government and M23 rebels, which stalled earlier this year, resumed last week under the mediation of Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga. This round of talks is set to last two weeks, and Kiyonga announced after the first day that the groups had reached a draft of a peace agreement. Late last week, the Ugandan government announced that it was encouraged by the progress in the talks and by the commitment shown by both sides.

The Congolese government has announced that it is willing to grant amnesty to most, though not all, M23 rebels. Regional heads of state have called for M23, as well as other rebel groups such as the Rwandan FDLR, to disband.

Representatives from the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Myanmar government met earlier this week to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire in October as well as other issues relating to internally displaced persons. The KIO is the last remaining major rebel group to have yet sign a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government, which hopes to have nationwide peace with all ethnic nationalities for the month of October. The Kachin Independence Army, the armed wing of the KIO, consists of about 10,000 fighters and has been fighting the Myanmar government since June 2011. It is thought that fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people.

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama met in Prague, Czech Republic to attend the 17th Forum 2000 Conference on Societies in Transition. Suu Kyi, a Burmese democracy icon and MP, has expressed her intention to run for president in 2015.

The U.S. Presidential Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth met with Al-Khair al-Fahim, the head of the Sudanese envoy to the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) to discuss the ongoing dispute between the north and the south regarding the oil rich region. The two countries continue to squabble for influence and oil rights as the North continually threatens to cut off southern oil exports to ports in the north. Booth later flew to Juba to further encourage progress on the issue.

A Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldier maintains his post in Jonglei State. Over the past year reports have continued to surface showing evidence of SPLA soldiers attacking civilian communities in the region as they battle against rebel factions primarily led by David Yau Yau. SPLA spokespersons uphold that they are simply combating rebel groups while several NGOs and other news outlets claims civilian targeting especially against the Murle community continue to take place.

On Monday in the Sinai Peninsula, a bomb exploded on the road near the Gaza Strip. The bomb was allegedly targeting a bus of police recruits, and nine were wounded as a result.  The bombings follow a recent large-scale military offensive to combat growing violence in the region. Just in the past few weeks, Sinai has seen 20,000 new  military combatants enter the region. As allegations continue of Islamist involvement in bombings like this one, demonstrators of the Muslim Brotherhood continue to protest against the interim government.

Shown above is a “Rabaa” sign, recently utilized by pro-Morsi supporters. The sign, refers to the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, the site of a violent confrontation between Morsi’s followers and the Egyptian army in which hundreds or perhaps thousands of people were killed. This shift, according to several Egypt experts, signals a shift from the Brotherhood seeking international legitimacy to seeking internal legitimacy.

A week ago in the Central African Republic, Muslim residents of Bouca were attacked. The attack occurred at 5 am, at the time of morning prayers, leaving at least 40 people dead. Survivors from the attack indicated that the aggressors were also residents of Bouca

According to Michel Djotodia, the president of CAR, the Seleka rebel group no longer exists. Last Friday, President Michel Djotodia announced that the Seleka rebel group, who helped him gain presidency, has been dissolved.

Top 10 Updates in Genocide Prevention (9/5-9/12)

1. A United Nations Commission of Inquiry has concluded that both pro-government and rebel forces have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. While both sides were reported to have committed these crimes, the majority of the crimes cited were carried out by pro-government forces. A four-person United Nations panel presented the report, calling on the international community to halt arms transfers to Syria and to “curb the increasing influence of extremists. The full report can be found here:

2. In his address to the nation on Tuesday, President Obama stated his intention to pursue a new diplomatic plan laid out by Russia to remove the Assad administration’s chemical weapons and place them under international control, while retaining the threat of military action should the plan fall through. The plan relies on a presidential statement, and calls on the United Nations Secretary General and the organization that oversees the Chemical Weapons convention to enforce it. Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing for more force in the final Security Council resolution, and is currently in the process of negotiating with Russian foreign minister Sergey V. Lagrov.

3. France put forward a draft UN Security Council resolution on Tuesday that warned of “serious consequences” should the Assad administration fail to comply. Paris also stated that a military strike was still possible. Russia has said it cannot support the current resolution, calling it a “trap” meant to lead to military intervention.

4. Before France put forward the UN Security Council resolution, Syria stated its willingness to unveil and cease the production of chemical weapons, although it fell short of a verbal commitment to give up its chemical arsenal. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem came out with this statement a day after “welcoming” the Russian plan to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control.

5. Last Sunday, Iraq spoke out against potential US strikes on Syria during the visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javed Zarif. Iraqi Foreign Minster Hoshyar Zebari stated that “Iraq will not be a base for any attack, nor will it facilitate any such attack on Syria”.

6. The Sentinel Project, a Canadian-based genocide watchdog group, released a study on Tuesday that graphically portrays the ongoing persecution of the stateless and predominantly Muslim Rohingya people in Burma. What makes the study particularly alarming is that it shows the widening geographic scope of the violence that began as clashes in Burma’s far western Rakhine (Arakan) State but has since spread east to the country’s two largest cities (Mandalay in central Burma and Yangon on the coast) as well as other areas. The most recent incident cited by the new study is the death of five Rohingya men on Tuesday, allegedly killed by a group of Rakhine.

7. The past week in Sudan and South Sudan has been categorized by ongoing conflict in border states as well as positive signs for the future. While the wet season begins flooding has already began in Warrap State sparking an emergency response by NGO’s and UN agencies. Several tonnes of extra food supplies, medicine, as well as doctors have been dispatched to the effected areas. This flooding is also effecting the Jonglei, Upper Nile, and other states. Another story coming out of Khartoum is the trial of Amira Osman Hamed who potentially faces flogging as a punishment for refusing to wear the hijab in public. This week also consisted of further protests in Abyei in support of a one sided referendum, the first flights from Juba to Khartoum by a Southern Sudanese Airline, and a Chinese proposal at the UN to take on a stronger role in peace building in the region.

8. In Egypt this week, concern grew after an assassination attempt on the Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim. The assassination attempt aroused fears that more violence and acts of “terrorism” may soon unfold in the nation rigged with explosive instability.Wednesday, as two suicide bombers rammed into an army checkpoint, new twists were added to the crisis in Egypt. The potential for continued violence is extremely high and has caused the military to suppress 55,000 mosque preachers for fear of spreading a radical message of Islam. The hope is that through this ban the interim government will be able to maintain a moderate message of Islam.

9. In the past week, at least 60 people have been killed as a result of clashes between Seleka rebel forces and local militia loyal to the ousted president, Francois Bozize. According to government spokesman Simplice Kodegue, the clashes took place in Bozize’s hometown, a town northwest of Bossangua. UN officials stated that two aid workers were killed in the clashes. In a recent statement by Amy Martin, the head of the UN humanitarian office in CAR, Seleka rebel forces have been destructive in identifying militiamen by burning down villages and killing civilians. Leader of the Seleka rebel forces, Michel Djotodia, who was sworn in as president of CAR earlier this month, states that he will renounce his position after the 2016 elections. As stated by UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, about a third of the country’s population is in need of food, water, shelter and or healthcare.

10. Bertrand Bisimwa, president of the M23 rebel group, announced on Sunday that M23 was ready to disarm, on two conditions: that Congolese refugees living in neighboring Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi return to their homes, and that another rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), made up primarily of Rwandan Hutus, disarms first. This announcement followed an emergency summit held last week in Uganda among countries of the Great Lakes Region to discuss the ongoing conflict in the eastern DRC. Those in attendance at the talks included Congolese president Joseph Kabila, Rwandan president Paul Kagame, and UN Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Mary Robinson, as well as the presidents of Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan. At the ends of the talks, the regional leaders issued a declaration that peace talks between the Congolese government and M23 leaders, which had stalled earlier this year, should resume within three days and conclude within 14 days.

Education Update

Welcome to the first Education and Policy Update of the 2013-14 session!  This year, we are mixing things up.  Each week will feature an exciting new way to learn about atrocity prevention news, including emerging conflicts.  From Top 10 lists to in-depth blog posts, our task force is committed to providing you with high-quality updates from around the world.  This week, we started with Storify, a neat service that combines the best social and traditional media from the web.  Check out the Storify presentations below and feel free to give us feedback about our new formats in the comments section.  Happy reading!

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Central African Republic

Sudan and South Sudan



Darfur: A Conflict Revisited

This post, written by Natasha Kieval, Programs Intern, reviews the conflict in Darfur at its present stage. 

2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of the beginning of the genocide in Darfur. Last week, Nicholas Kristof, American journalist and activist, published this op-ed in the New York Times, entitled “Darfur in 2013 Sounds Awfully Familiar.” In this op-ed, Kristof writes that while the media has largely stopped covering the slaughter of Sudanese by its own government, the violence continues.

The UN reports that so far this year 300,000 people have fledthe fighting in Darfur, which is more than in the past two years combined. According to the same UN report, people are fleeing “inter-ethnic community violence, or conflict between rebel movements and government forces, much of which is driven by the struggle for resources such as land, water, cattle, and gold.” Darfur continues to rank as one of the world’s largest humanitarian operations, with more than one million people living in camps. According to Kristof, the current violence in Darfur is committed by Khartoum’s government against two previously untargeted Arab ethnic groups: the Salamat and the Beni Hussein. Sudan’s government covets gold that has been discovered on the land of the Beni Hussein. The government distrusts the Salamat as potentially disloyal to the regime and are being expelled so the government can give their land to the Miseriya, an Arab group more loyal to the regime. Inter-communal violence also exists. The Miseriya and the Salamat tribes began feuding on Friday, and so far 94 have been killed. This is particularly remarkable given that these two tribes signed a peace agreement on July 3. The Reizegat and Beni Hussein tribes have also experienced conflict, which began last January over control of the region’s gold mines. The two tribes signed a peace pact on Thursday.

Kristof also published an op-ed last week, entitled “A Policy of Rape Continues,” which details the rape of a Salamat girl and describes the Sudanese government’s strategy of using rape to humiliate targeted ethnic groups.

In late April, the Senate introduced the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2013, which remains in committee. It attempts to shine a spotlight on the abuses in Sudan and create a strategy to combat these abuses. In June, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing on human rights abuses in Sudan, at which John Prendergast of the Enough Project gave several examples of action the US government could take – read histestimony for details.

While the world waits, the violence continues. For additional coverage of this ongoing conflict, check out Radio Dabanga and Sudan Reeves.

Responsibility to Protect: An Emerging Norm?

This post, written by Natasha Kieval, Programs Intern, describes the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect in light of the recent report “The United States and R2P: From Words to Action.” 

In 2005, at the UN World Summit, governments adopted the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. This doctrine was created out of the inability of the international community to adequately prevent and respond to heinous mass atrocities in numerous countries, including Cambodia, East Timor, Haiti, Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. The concept of R2P rests on three pillars: the state’s responsibility to protect its population, international assistance for states to fulfill their responsibilities, and timely and decisive collective action when a state is failing to protect its citizens from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, or crimes against humanity.

In practice, R2P is rarely formally invoked, most notably during the conflict in Libya. Concerns about the invocation of R2P include the possibility that it undermines national sovereignty and the idea that R2P necessarily means military intervention.

The US continues to be “fatigued” from its involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan and is hesitant to invoke R2P (which is often assumed, albeit incorrectly, to mean military intervention) and to become involved in other conflict areas. This hesitancy seems inconsistent with President Obama’s remarks in 2012 that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States,” and his additional creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board.

Several prominent US officials have encouraged the US to translate the idea of R2P into a reality – most notably former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former envoy to Sudan Rich Williamson, who together co-chaired a working group and published a report entitled “The United States and R2P: From Words to Action.” This report includes several recommendations to strengthen R2P: “articulating a clear vision of U.S. support for all pillars of R2P, diplomatically engaging key like-minded states, pursuing a policy of positive engagement with the International Criminal Court (ICC), continuing to institutionalize steps to prevent atrocities, and developing additional uses for modern technologies to advance R2P objectives.” The intent of these recommendations is to allow the US to become a more credible global leader for R2P and to move the international community forward on embracing R2P.

On Tuesday, Albright and Williamson spoke about this report at the US Holocaust Museum. They spoke of the report as a way to make R2P part of an emerging norm for an international response to crimes against humanity.

Issues with R2P still exist. In the wake of these heinous crimes, there is a struggle between the issue of individual guilt (the guilt of the perpetrators) and collective guilt (the guilt of the bystanders). Some have said that R2P increases collective guilt while not addressing individual guilt enough. Albright spoke of addressing this issue on a case by case basis, and remarked that it is always awkward for her to speak about the International Criminal Court, as the US has still not become a member. Williamson also addressed the possible “moral hazard problem” that arises from R2P – the possibility that a country could begin a conflict that it is sure it cannot finish, knowing that the international community will step in. Albright referred to R2P as a double-edged sword: it allows monitoring of conflicts and greater knowledge of international crimes, but with this knowledge comes a greater need to act.

Current conflicts were brought up during this event, specifically Syria, which is on everyone’s minds. It remains unclear whether R2P will be invoked in Syria, and how (or if) this report will affect US policy. The New York Times covered this with an article on Monday.