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Mary Stata returns to the AIPR blog as guest preventer this week:

While the debt ceiling debate continues to dominate headlines, Congress will soon begin deciding on annual legislation that sets policies and funding for tools to help prevent genocide and other mass atrocities. The Friends Committee on National Legislation continues to lobby for greater investment in civilian tools that help avert crises that can result in mass killings of civilians.

Lobbying for these small yet vital accounts can be a tough sell in this budget climate. However, we’re not alone. FCNL coordinates the Prevention and Protection Working Group (PPWG), a coalition of human rights, religious, humanitarian, and peace organizations dedicated to preventing deadly conflict and protecting civilians. PPWG recently sent a letter to members of Congress who determine the funding levels for the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development. The letter argues that working with international partners and investing in prevention accounts like the Complex Crises Fund and Civilian Response Corps, will save the United States lives and treasure in the coming years.

On July 20, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to mark up the 2012 Foreign Affairs Authorization bill, which guides U.S. foreign policy and authorizes funding levels for the State Department, USAID, and contributions to international organizations like the United Nations. Then, on July 27, the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee will mark up the annual spending bill for diplomacy, development, and international cooperation. The Prevention and Protection Working Group believes that strong investments in these tools better equips the U.S. government to help prevent genocide and other mass atrocities.

Earlier this year, we succeeded in protecting the Complex Crises Fund from being eliminated in the fiscal year 2011 budget. However, it’s clear that we still have our work cut out for the next budget cycle. You can take action and support genocide prevention accounts by contacting your member of Congress. In the coming months, we’ll keep you updated on our progress and continue to lobby for strong prevention funding. Will you join us?

Mary Stata is the Prevention and Protection Working Group Coordinator with the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, DC.

The AIPR blog is pleased to have Mary Stata of the Friends Committee on National Legislation posting this week as our first Guest Preventer:

On February 19, 1986, the United States Senate ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Significant pressure from Senator William Proxmire and the U.S. public paved the way for U.S. ratification. However, rather than meeting the aspirations of the Convention on Genocide to prevent future atrocities, the past 25 years have been witness to mass killings of civilians in the Balkans, Sudan, and Rwanda. The United States and the international community failed to prevent these atrocities despite access to intelligence on each escalating crisis. More recently, warning signs of impending violence in places like Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Kyrgyzstan did not lead to prompt policy reviews or preventive action.

The 2008 Genocide Prevention Task Force found significant gaps in U.S. policy and capacities to help prevent atrocities and offered a blueprint for improvements. The Obama administration and Congress have taken some steps toward implementing these recommendations, including Senate passage in December 2010 of a resolution (S. Con. Res. 71) calling for specific steps to improve U.S. capacities to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.

Despite these initial steps, the United States remains ill equipped to effectively prevent mass killings of civilians. Fortunately, a new movement of NGOs and grassroots activists is poised to work with Congress to translate the mantra “Never Again” into practical policy solutions. The Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby group in the public interest, convenes a working group focused on this policy agenda. The Prevention and Protection Working Group is an advocacy platform dedicated to preventing genocide and mass atrocities and protecting civilians threatened by this violence. Comprised of human rights, anti-genocide, humanitarian, peace, and faith-based organizations, the Prevention and Protection Working Group leverages its grassroots networks, media outreach, and Congressional and administration lobbying to strengthen U.S. civilian capacities to prevent genocide.

Significant work remains. The 112th Congress has yet to outline a human rights agenda, and no Proxmire-like leadership has yet stepped forward to champion the critical next legislative steps on genocide prevention. The solutions are known, but the practical policy steps have yet to be taken. The Prevention and Protection Working Group will work over the next year to enact policy that effectively prevents genocide before the killing starts.

To sign up for the FCNL newsletter on current legislation and other ways to take action on genocide prevention and related issues, click here.

Mary Stata is the Prevention and Protection Working Group Coordinator with the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, DC.

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