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.

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

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