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By ANTHONY DiROSA
The following is the second entry in a three part series on Kenya’s 2013 general elections and their implications for similar mass atrocity prevention efforts moving forward. The peaceful Kenyan election this past March was hailed as a major victory for those working to prevent a repeat of the mass atrocities committed in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 elections. From the perspective of the mass atrocity prevention community, Kenya did a commendable job in upholding their responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocities. The international community also succeeded in assisting national and local authorities throughout this process. Thus, both fulfilled their 1st and 2nd pillar responsibilities under the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) framework, which are, accordingly: that a state must uphold its responsibility to protect its populations, and that if that state is unable to do so, the international community has an obligation to assist. Lessons learned from the 2007-2008 atrocities catalyzed both domestic and international momentum to proactively address the risk factors and causes of potential violence. But does the Kenyan case study represent a true shining example of successful R2P application, as well as a model for future applications in unstable democracies? Or were there unique circumstances germane to this case and/or a large overhype of the risks that make this atrocity prevention success not as generalizable a model as some may think?
Technology, Crowdsourcing and Social Media
Also imperative to note was the use of technology in the Kenyan case study; mass data-mining operations, the utilization of mobile communications and monitoring SMS messages for hate speech are illustrative of the innovative technological platforms that are currently expanding the mass atrocity/conflict prevention toolkit. International partners like TechChange, who teamed up with domestic crisis-mapping tech company Ushahidi, helped fill gaps in conflict prevention capacity by diligently monitoring the Kenyan elections using social media. Ushahidi used Crowdmapping to produce crisis maps, or visual data fed by on-the-ground monitors posting live updates via Twitter, SMS or online posts, which would then be geo-tagged by the system to reveal potential risk areas. As this data was aggregated, monitors could sift through it to identify reports of violence, hate speech, corruption and voter suppression and coordinate responders on the ground. Ushahidi’s work is emblematic of how crisis mapping and crowdsourcing technologies can be used to encourage transparency and accountability in elections, and ultimately reduce the chance of violence.
Early warning/ early response systems across the country, specifically in the Rift Valley, were some of the more replicable conflict prevention mechanisms employed, in terms of best practices and lessons learned for future cases. The USAID-funded Local Empowerment for Peace (LEAP) led the coordination of early warning/early response (EWER) in the Rift Valley, as they trained nearly 600 peace monitors on how to observe, report, and respond to signs of early warning/early response. Monitors would report to a vast network of first responders, which included civil society groups and local administration officials, including police forces. LEAP, along with Mercy Corps, Uchaguzi and Ushahidi, with support from the Canadian International Development Agency, worked in partnership to established two early warning hubs designed to respond to alerts from the monitors. The hubs were operated by data analysts and dispatchers who monitored the Uchaguzi platform, a hate-speech data-mining operation, as peace monitors also fed them information via cell phone. This effective example of partnering humanitarian agencies, civil society groups and tech-firms in joint conflict prevention and early warning/early response initiatives is a model that ought to be studied and replicated in the future.
Kenya’s government, specifically the Communications Commission, also led the way through innovative measures requiring screening of all short message service (SMS) texts for bulk dissemination by politicians. Kenya’s National Steering Committee on Media Monitoring took charge of identifying and reprimanding blogs with hateful and provocative material. New measures called on mobile companies to intercept any mass texts that may provoke violence. These were seen as reactionary policy measures intended to avoid what happened in 2007-08, when ethno-political hate messages were spread by political groups, leading directly to inter-ethnic violence. The suspension or censoring of mass communication technologies in conflict prone settings aren’t unique to Kenya, as SMS texts were suspended in the DRC in 2011, as well as Kashmir in 2012 and Egypt last year. International, domestic and local level efforts to curtail one of the main catalysts for violence in 2008, indigenous language media outlets, were also laudable. The media, mainly radio stations, were largely broadcasters of peace this time around, as commercial and government run stations were deeply involved in educating voters on the issues, focusing on civic education, preaching restraint and tolerance, and avoiding any and all political incitement. International media training agencies were involved in advising journalists on how to report critically without stirring up ethnic and sectarian tensions. Religious leaders also played a large role as conveyors of peace with messages of tolerance and respect aimed at their constituents. Although there were widespread criticisms and accusations that Kenya’s media engaged in self-censorship and failed to fulfill its watchdog role, it’s clear that given the alternative, the result should be deemed a success.
The next part of this Case Study for GenPrev series will focus on how the Kenyan model can be used in future R2P cases, and what the implications are for future atrocity prevention efforts.
Photo: The New York Times
The following is the first entry in a three part series on Kenya’s 2013 general elections and their implications for similar mass atrocity prevention efforts moving forward. The peaceful Kenyan election this past March was hailed as a major victory for those working to prevent a repeat of the mass atrocities committed in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 elections. From the perspective of the mass atrocity prevention community, Kenya did a commendable job in upholding their responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocities. The international community also succeeded in assisting national and local authorities throughout this process. Thus, both fulfilled their 1st and 2nd pillar responsibilities under the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) framework, which are, accordingly: that a state must uphold its responsibility to protect its populations, and that if that state is unable to do so, the international community has an obligation to assist. Lessons learned from the 2007-2008 atrocities catalyzed both domestic and international momentum to proactively address the risk factors and causes of potential violence. But does the Kenyan case study represent a true shining example of successful R2P application, as well as a model for future applications in unstable democracies? Or were there unique circumstances germane to this case and/or a large overhype of the risks that make this atrocity prevention success not as generalizable a model as some may think?
Why were they peaceful?
After a tension-filled but mostly peaceful election, Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declared Uhuru Kenyatta president-elect. Although his victory was challenged in court by his main competitor, Raila Odinga, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled it legitimate. Any analysis of why Kenya turned towards peace and away from violence must begin with the many reforms the country has undertaken to create credible institutions, such as the aforementioned IEBC and the revamped judiciary, which were criticized for corruption and incompetence and viewed with mistrust during the 2007-2008 elections. The main impetus behind these reforms was the new Kenyan constitution, ratified in 2010, which sought to change many of the broken laws, corrupt institutions and antiquated power structures that many Kenyans believed were culpable for part of the unrest in 2007-2008. Politically, a process of devolution, which gave greater control of local policies back to ethnically homogenous communities across Kenya, helped diminish political tensions fueled by long-standing ethnic-based resentments. Furthermore, according to the International Crisis Group, a consensus between the political elite and the citizenry not to drag Kenya back into chaos again was a major factor. Many Kenyans spoke of a national sense of regret, fed by strong memories and reflections of the violence in 2007-2008, as a powerful force that helped convince them that violence wasn’t the answer. Others may have felt compelled to resist promoting violence because of the possibility of accountability due to the lingering effects of the 2010 ICC indictments and the newfound confidence in Kenya’s judiciary, both of which restrained certain actors.
Some of the most important preventative efforts were indeed organic. A myriad of efforts throughout Kenyan society, from government bureaucrats, religious leaders, heads of political parties, local NGOs and youth peace activists, pushed Kenyans to embrace the peace discourse and reject violence. Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) played a large role in rooting out hate speech, promoting tolerance, and assuaging long-standing ethno-political cleavages. Local peace capacities were bolstered by the IEBC and the NCIC through creating conflict management committees at the local level, which helped ensure the consolidation of peace prior to the elections. These initiatives were prompted by the peace accord signed after the atrocities in 2008, which included requirements for establishing a countrywide network of “peace committees” at the district level that were locally instituted. Innovative and creative efforts like holding community peace workshops and conducting local street theatre performances, with themes of peace and inter-ethnic relations, helped increase inter-communal understanding prior to the election.
Domestic efforts were reinforced by numerous international partners. From the European Union and the United Nations, to the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, external actors greatly aided Kenya’s efforts to institute conflict mitigation mechanisms and multi-level early warning systems. From the United States alone, the State Department’s Conflict and Stabilization Operations bureau and the U.S. Institute of Peace helped arrange teams in high-risk areas to assist conflict mitigation efforts, while USAID funded and helped mobilize young Kenyans against violence. International NGOs, funded by foreign governments, investors and organizations (all committed to Kenyan stability) helped organize conflict resolution workshops, pro-peace advertisements, and media campaigns that forwarded pro-peace mass SMS texts to people in hot spots. The international community’s second pillar assistance to Kenya was carefully coordinated, well-funded and ostensibly effective.
The next part of this Case Study for GenPrev series will focus on how social media technology and crowdsourcing played a huge role in delivering peace during the Kenyan 2013 elections.
By JARED KNOLL
Much of your work has focused on ethnic aspects of conflicts, genocides and politicides… do you feel the role of this sort of lens has changed since you started out in the field? Do you see or foresee any potential challenges or problems in the way of this approach?
I co-authored a book on ethnic conflict and suggested that these types of conflicts have the potential to escalate into genocide (as in Rwanda), but so do other conflicts such as revolutions (see Cambodia) and adverse regime change (such as in Chile, which turned into a politicide). During the late 70’s and early 80’s, most genocide scholars (meaning all approx. 10 of us) thought that any combinations or a single factor such as ethnicity, race, or religion were a necessary condition in most genocidal situations, given the wording of the Convention. However, when I began collecting information on the 46 cases that eventually became the data set used by State Failure (now Political Instability Task Force), it became apparent that victims sometimes were members of mixed ethnic groups and that perpetrators targeted them because they belonged to political opposition groups. Cambodia was a classic example, where most victims and perpetrators were ethnic Khmers — only a minority of victims belonged to different ethnicities, such as the Chams, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Cambodia was a reason that I coined the term politicide, which suggests that victims not only could be members of multiple identity groups but were primarily targeted because of their political affiliation. Of the 46 cases that I identified post WWII, many are mixed cases. For example, the Kurds in Iraq and indigenous Maya that supported the left in Guatemala.
Your work has been seminal, influencing an indeterminably wide swath of policy and scholarship… have you been particularly disappointed with any of the frameworks, policies, or concepts that have been built upon your ideas?
There are other scholars who have contributed more. I am especially thinking of my friend and mentor Helen Fein, the late Leo Kuper, Frank Chalk, and others. We have listened to each other, critiqued, cited, and supported one another’s efforts. We have built a discipline and it is now possible to get jobs in good universities, which was not a necessary truth in the 1980’s. As a Northwestern PhD, (according to my professors) I should have been at a major research university but the most frequently asked question at the time during interviews was, “What is that stuff you are doing?”.
How could I be disappointed? Systematic analysis is flourishing in Australia, Canada, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US—the Albright/Cohen report mentions my risk assessment and early warning efforts as something that needs doing and risk assessment is done routinely not just by me but in the US government and others. The UN (I had provided them with a framework and regular risk assessments) is a bit behind despite their talented personnel. That probably has much to do with antiquated opinions about quantitative analysis, as well as politically motivated leadership in related UN offices. When Juan Mendez became Adviser to the UN, he and his two associates visited me at my home in Annapolis to see how we could work together. I am not just a number cruncher but also a case study person and a specialist on the Middle East. Moreover, having been born into a leftist German family, I am also quite familiar about European affairs. A genocide scholar is/should not be bounded by either discipline or approach. My dissertation focused on prevention using legal philosophical arguments, but grounded in international law, and it also included an empirical exercise in which I tested empathy in different societies using fictional scenarios that had a historical base.
My/our work has caught on beyond expectations. Genocide is a household word — we have seen action in many situations and the recognition that systematic risk assessment and early warning are ever more needed is apparent. Aside from an African initiative, other governments have proceeded to establish their own centers. Why not indeed emulate the hard sciences instead of dabbling in case study-based analysis of specific situations? We do it globally based on accepted wisdom regarding dozens of cases. It is not too hard to generate good data, develop hypotheses based on theory, and then test assumptions. We/I have tested dozens of variables (including economic and environmental variables) that purport to support escalation to genocide. In addition, I developed a complex early warning model that used dynamic factors to track that evolution. For example, we tracked hate propaganda, small arms deliveries, etc. on a daily basis.
Your term and idea of politicide has not caught on as much as it perhaps could have in the international community. Are policymakers and scholars hamstringing themselves from potentially greater efficacy by not considering the targeting of political groups as a more important factor? Where would you like to see this focus brought to bear in today’s climate of conflict?
Why is there not more international action? Because, to use my old mantra, we do not know what remedies that tap state capacity and interest work in what situations at what time. What worked in Macedonia does not work in Syria. I made that argument many times and have developed response scenarios based on my early warning analysis, but much work remains. Just think of Burma—in the past, it was one of the worst case scenarios. I had argued for lifting sanctions to incorporate that country into the international community of states. There was a huge black market, and sanctions did not work—they more often make it harder for the already poor—and the West had zero influence but ASEAN, China, and Japan did—things are getting better.
Are you optimistic that the genocidal trends you’ve studied for three decades are diminishing? Can you realistically envision a world where we have early warning systems adequate to the task of completely circumventing mass atrocities?
For the time being, the occurrence of genocides are diminishing. But over the long run, I am pessimistic. The West may have a learned a few more lessons after Bosnia but Africans will be challenged by Muslim radicals—see Mali, Northern Nigeria, the 10th century maps of Islamic expansion. I am deeply disturbed by the emergence of right-wing movements in Europe that occasionally spout anti-Jewish rhetoric. In addition, there are indigenous peoples still under threat of annihilation, ethnic cleansing, and extreme discrimination, such as the indigenous peoples of West Papua.
What role do area experts have to play?
Experts need to both show compassion and distance themselves from quick judgment. Most of us are driven by a belief and desire that it is possible to build a better world, based on mutual respect and tolerance. However, given the unequal distribution of resources, lack of access to education, and re-emerging medieval ideas about how women should be treated, I am a profound pessimist. Especially disturbing for me is re-emerging anti-semitism in its most primitive form (blood libel, the Protocol of the Elders of Zion, etc). Are we regressing to superstitions and the caveman mentality that drove Nazis? I see a dangerous trend evolving in the Muslim world—tribalism, sectarianism, radical forms of Islam (Salafis), indoctrination of their unemployed and undereducated youth. Where will it lead?
Regarding Syria, is there an onus on Western actors to intervene, or otherwise impact the conflict? What sorts of missteps are we in danger of making?
It made my list of extremely high-risk cases before the outbreak of violence. The UN was informed—we had pictures of mines on the border with Turkey—their aim was to maim refugees. But the West is tired and sees the Middle East as a cauldron of ever re-emerging conflicts. There is a real lack of enlightened leadership. You cannot build democracies by relying on networks of families, clans, tribes, sectarian and/or religious loyalties. We have always underestimated the strength of these ties. Countries running out of energy, water, having extended droughts and exploding birthrates are endangered to descend into chaos. Of the few that have functional educational systems, meaning they educate their young in the sciences, there are no opportunities. Maybe these countries have to go through these convulsions to find their way into the modern world. It is possible that Yemen, the poorest and most vulnerable (running out of water), has a chance of success through inter-tribal dialogue that includes women to build a stable autocracy or semi-democracy. Syria as of now may divide into Sunni, Alawite, and Kurdish regions under the influence of Iran/Russia/Saudi Arabia, and/or aligned with Salafis in Egypt. Of course, this is speculation.
How did you come to be involved with the Auschwitz Institute? Has your time as an instructor impacted any aspects of your scholarship or views?
What AIPR does is laudable, to put it mildly. As to my two lectures and one interview, the interview went well but the Jagiellonian University’s information system had too few subscribers. One lecture went well; the other, nowhere. I expected the participants to read and they did not. Well, a lesson learned—start on a more basic level. My suggestion is to be bold—challenge re-emerging anti-semitism wherever you find it. Some of our young hosts (Jewish students from Poland) told me that they keep a low profile—it deeply upset me. And then there is Auschwitz—as a German born non-Jewish scholar, it provides all the answers about why I am doing this kind of work—but this place is hell on earth and am I bothered that some visitors show a lack of respect when they walk over one of the largest cemeteries on earth.
Last week, Kai Brand-Jacobsen (pictured here), director of the Department of Peace Operations at the Peace Action Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR), gave a presentation titled Preventing War, Violence and Genocide: Critical New Approaches to Making Prevention Work. The event was jointly organized by Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict, the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (UNDP), the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung New York, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues of the British Parliament, and PATRIR’s Department of Peace Operations.
Brief introductory remarks were given by Dr. Robert Zuber, Chetan Kumar, and Volker Lehmann. The three spoke of the need for women, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups to be included in the capacity for prevention. They emphasized that we need to be attentive to smoke so as to not have to put out as many fires. They went on to discuss how conflict and intervention have changed as a result of boundaries and borders, climate changes, and rapid change. Rapid change requires rapid response, not allowing time for discussion, which can in turn lead to further conflict. Therefore there need to be standing structures and institutions—traditional (such as parliaments and police forces), those designated to manage conflict, such as the Ghana National Peace Council, and those at the national or local level. Inclusive participatory planning is a key aspect of prevention and moving beyond the short term, from intervention to accompaniment.
Brand-Jacobsen opened his presentation by using statistics to discuss why prevention matters. Over the last 40 years, there has been a “decrease” in war but a 45 percent increase in violence—more than 4,000 people per day die as a result of it, over 90 percent of whom live in low- and middle-income countries. Of those 4,000, approximately 2,300 commit suicide and 1,500 die due to injuries inflicted by someone else. Between 1990 and 2005, armed conflicts in Africa cost $284 billion. 740,000 people die every year as a result of armed violence, the majority occurring outside war zones. The average cost of a civil war is $65 to 125 billion and the global cost of homicides is $95 to 160 billion. Africa loses $18 billion per year due to wars, civil wars, and insurgencies.
Armed violence is defined as the intentional, threatened, or actual use of arms to inflict death or injury, and can occur within the contexts of both war and non-war. Armed violence during war can lead to genocide, mass atrocities, and the killing of civilians. But the impact of armed violence is greater than resultant armed conflict, as it also causes large-scale criminal activity, as well as inter-personal and gender-based violence. However, conflict should not be equated with violence, as the former can exist before and/or after the latter. In fact, global processes have made it so factors can be identified before a conflict becomes violent, namely conditions and structural factors for early warning.
The talk then segued into early warning and conflict intelligence. There are various conflict phases and intervention types and a crucial link between warning and response. Brand-Jacobsen stated that political will needs to be created, and emphasized training and learning, and integrated levels of conflict analysis—local, national, regional, and international/global. A key resource in this area is “Preventing Violence, War and State Collapse: The Future of Conflict Early Warning and Response.” Early warning systems should not stand alone, but be incorporated into existing systems.
The next section of the presentation focused on prevention, the “how” of which can be broken down into three categories: primary prevention, structural prevention (measures to ensure that crises do not arise in the first place or, if they do, that they do not recur), and operational prevention (measures applicable in the face of immediate crisis). The “when” is 1) always/standing and 2) operational, which includes the time not only before a crisis, but also during it. Ultimately, peacebuilding + peacemaking + peacebuilding = prevention. In order to develop an infrastructure for peace, reconciliation must be included under the heading of prevention to overcome entrenched ideologies and interests.
On May 12 and 13 in Brussels, the Madariaga – College of Europe Foundation and the Folke Bernadotte Academy held a conference on the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. The event consisted of 80 participants sharing experiences, lessons learned, and best practices on how to narrow the gap between early warning and timely action on genocide prevention, as well as ways to increase cooperation within the international community. The May workshop was part of a continuum of events focused on atrocities prevention and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).
At the workshop’s conclusion, a final report was issued with the following recommendations to bolster the European Union’s role in preventing genocide and mass atrocities:
- Coordinate Early Action on Genocide Prevention and R2P
- Support the “National Focal Points Initiative”
- Enhance Greater Early Warning Coherence in the EU
- Support an International Network on Genocide Prevention
Karoly Gruber, Hungary’s Ambassador to the EU’s Political and Security Committee, gave the workshop’s opening remarks, centering on the work of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and how Hungary has prioritized the prevention of violent conflicts. Richard Wright, Director for Conflict Prevention and Security Policy at the European External Action Service (EEAS), then spoke about how the EU is undertaking efforts to operationalize R2P and working closely with the UN system. He also discussed integrating conflict prevention into the EEAS before the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward C. Luck, discussed R2P and its application in Libya, as well as the crises in Kenya, Guinea, southern Sudan, and Kyrgyzstan. He praised and encouraged the work of the EU and its member states in the areas of genocide prevention and R2P, and stressed the importance of political dialogue.
The first panel, “The Latest Developments and Challenges in the Prevention of Genocide,” consisted of remarks by James Smith, CEO of Aegis Trust; Simona Cruciani, UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide; Thordis Ingadottir, Associate Professor at the University of Reykjavik; and Gyorgy Tatar, at the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, and Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Foundation for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. The discussion concluded that international courts act as a deterrent to committing atrocities, because they hold individuals responsible, rather than entities. Even so, international and national courts need to work together to achieve maximum efficiency.
The second panel, “Identifying and Overcoming Obstacles to Preventive Action: From Early Warning to Policy Options to Response,” was headed by Jan Jarab, Regional Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Veronique Arnault, Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the EEAS; Jonathan Prentice, Senior Policy Adviser at the International Crisis Group; and Luis Peral, Research Fellow at the EU Institute for Security Studies. The panel discussed 1) how the 2011 “Arab Spring” underscored the root causes of problems in countries such as Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia—authoritarianism, high unemployment, entrenched elites, corruption, and economic inequalities—and 2) how to strike a balance between respecting the rights of civilians and the proportionality of international military interventions. It was also explained that broader preventive approaches yield weaker responses.
The third panel, “Enhancement of International Cooperation: The Role of the EU,” heard comments from Catherine Woollard, Director of the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office; Michael Sahlin, Sweden’s Special Envoy to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement/Sudan; Olivia Swaak-Goldman, International Cooperation Adviser for the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; and Sapna Chhatpar, Deputy Director of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. The participants discussed the lack of a numerical definition for genocide and how that impacts the actions, or lack thereof, of the international community. This further stresses the need for prevention at the early stages of potential mass atrocities. Like the first panel, this group also talked about the impact of statements put out by the ICC, which are widely circulated to governments and officials. The ICC is developing a methodology to measure the impact of their statements. Other topics touched upon included the role of multinational corporations in preventing/contributing to genocide and mass atrocities, since they are not states and therefore not governed by the Rome Statute, and the need for consistency in making R2P a recognized and accepted norm.
Lastly, there was a “Dialogue Forum,” in which Andrea Bartoli, Director of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, and Mo Bleeker, Head of the Task Force on Prevention of Mass Atrocities at the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, talked about envisioning the end of genocide and how dealing with past instances of mass atrocities is essential in moving forward. Participants were asked for suggestions on what they would like to see the EU do to further prevent genocide and mass atrocities in 2015. Answers included a closer look at how gender relates to these crimes, the EU having a focal point on R2P to increase cooperation and effectiveness with the UN, and the need to further develop the EU’s early warning capacities.
On September 13, Julius Malema, president of the African National Congress Youth League, was found guilty of hate speech for singing “Shoot the Boer,” an apartheid-era song. South African High Court Judge Collin Lamont ruled that singing the song was an incitement to commit murder against white farmers.
Malema has continually called for the nationalization of mines and the seizing of white-owned farmland. On September 10, he declared economic war on the “white minority,” claiming that there would be casualties, and that “they [white Boer farmers] are criminals, and they must be treated like that.
This and other developments have led Dr. Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch to issue alerts regarding the status of whites in South Africa, using an eight-stage model of genocide he developed for the U.S. State Department in the 1990s. Stanton recently said the situation had progressed from Stage 5 (radicalization of leadership and use of hate propaganda) to Stage 6, actual preparation for genocide, including isolation of the target group into specific areas and the drawing up of death lists. In an August 20 statement, Stanton said 800,000 of the 3 million white Boer farmers were already “being forced into marginal land sites where they are denied food-aid by the regime.”
According to Stanton, it is not only Boer farmers who are at risk now, but all whites and women in South Africa. At Stage 6, according to Stanton’s model, “a Genocide Emergency must be declared” and preparations should begin for “armed international intervention.” Otherwise the target group should be offered “heavy assistance . . . to prepare for self-defense,” or “at least humanitarian assistance should be organized by the UN and private relief groups” for refugees.
Genocide Watch has listed Boer farmers as being at Stage 5 risk since 2002. On the current situation Stanton said, “Julius Malema must be removed as leader of the ANC youth league.”
A new report by the Council on Foreign Relations gives a useful analysis of the potential benefits and inevitable problems that will accompany the Obama administration’s Aug. 4 presidential directive to establish an Atrocities Prevention Board.
Taking a look at the country’s past, Andrew Miller and Paul Stares cite previous failures by the United States to prevent mass atrocities. Numerous administrations have been hamstrung by the lack of a truly comprehensive prevention framework. Miller and Stares contend that these past failures were not necessarily due to lack of will, but rather that high-level policymakers were not receiving information about small incidents that were indicative of a potential escalation in conflicts. Rwanda and Darfur, they say, serve as two stark examples in which high-level policymakers were unaware of the situations until the killing started and the only viable options were “sending in the Marines or doing nothing.”
Miller and Stares highlight the new plan’s potential for effective prevention in three key ways: 1) guaranteeing political and material support from the military and civil society, 2) establishing an early warning system, and 3) providing policymakers a structure that is capable of decisive action.
First and foremost, by framing the prevention of mass atrocities as “a core national security interest,” the Obama administration has given both the military and civil society “mandates” to prepare for prevention. As Miller and Stares point out, this gives agencies extra incentive to build their budgets in such a way that they can carry out this mission.
Next, the intelligence community must improve its early warning system. This system will be an interagency endeavor, allowing the government to develop adequate, timely responses—which Miller and Stares believe will include the use of economic, diplomatic, and legal tools.
Still, this information is useless unless relayed to the upper echelons of the policymaking community. The Atrocities Prevention Board is meant to do just that: It gives the intelligence community access to influential policymakers whose sole duty is to prevent mass atrocities, providing a much-needed link that was missing in the past.
The second section of the report examines pitfalls facing the system. Miller and Stares ask a few questions, the first being whether “the new atrocity-prevention structures and processes [will] become ‘mainstreamed’ within the national security apparatus?” This is critical, given how many other well-intentioned initiatives have been pushed to the wayside, including the Interagency Management System (now defunct) and the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), both created by George W. Bush but since relegated to the periphery.
The report also raises the issue of whether or not subsequent presidents will support the Atrocities Prevention Board at all, given that each new administration tends to dismantle the initiatives of its predecessor.
Finally they ask whether or not in a time of financial crisis and an increasingly unpopular intervention in Libya, the American public will support the allocation of resources to finance future interventions worldwide.
Despite much initial praise from a number of organizations and governments worldwide, it stands to be seen whether Obama’s directive will yield a lasting and effective system for the prevention of mass atrocities. The Presidential directive ordered an “interagency review” to prepare relevant agencies for additional duties that would be required of them before the Atrocities Prevention Board would be up and running. According to the timeline set by the directive, the Board should be fully functioning by the beginning of December.
In the paper “Psychic Numbing and Mass Atrocity” [click where it says One-Click Download], University of Oregon psychologist Paul Slovic and his four co-authors examine the phenomenon of “psychic numbing” and its implications for genocide prevention policies.
Psychic numbing proceeds from the role of affects—positive and negative reactions to stimuli that influence our decision-making—in the dual-process theories of thinking. The dual process is composed of System 1 and System 2, the former emphasizing emotions, experiences, and intuitions and the latter based on analytical deliberations. Both are important components of our ability to think that arose out of the long process of evolution, but each has distinct effects on our decision-making. Affects are central to the System 1 mode of thinking, which “evolved to protect individuals and their small family and community groups from present, visible, immediate dangers.” However, this also means that “this affective system did not evolve to help us respond to distant, mass murder. As a result, System 1 thinking responds to large-scale atrocities in ways that System 2 deliberation, if activated, finds reprehensible.”
Studies have shown that “constant increases in the physical magnitude of a stimulus typically evoke smaller and smaller changes in response.” Applied to human lives, this means that “the importance of saving one life is great when it is the first, or only, life saved but diminishes marginally as the total number of lives saved increases.” Related to this revelation is the research showing that one specific victim with a name and a face compels a much stronger response from the public than simply a number of victims or a group of victims. As Slovic et al. state: “Our capacity to feel is limited . . . the emotion or affective feeling is greatest at N (number of victims) = 1 but begins to decline at N = 2 and collapses at some higher value of N that becomes simply ‘a statistic.’ ” This means that “faced with genocide and other mass tragedies, we cannot rely on our moral intuitions alone to guide us to act properly”—instead we need to depend on our ability to think analytically to guide our actions.
According to the authors, based on their research, if the international community were to pursue policies and institutional and legal arrangements to prevent and react to genocides, mechanisms to “overcome cognitive failures” would need to be implemented. As institutional arrangements and legal system are decision-making instruments based on analytical deliberations, the authors believe that any effort to mitigate the effects of psychic numbing should focus on: 1) “insulating institutions from the effects of psychic numbing”; 2) “removing or restricting institutional features that foster psychic numbing”; 3) “promoting System 2 deliberation directly”; and 4) employing System 1 to channel actors toward System 2 processes.”
In order to shield institutions from psychic numbing, the authors advocate changes to the current system of enforcement and reaction to mass atrocities, such as employing pre-authorization and pre-commitment for military intervention or economic sanctions. Rather than scrambling to react to a situation, their focus is on having rules in place that would allow countries and institutions to simply follow a procedure in place and bypass the inaction arising from psychic numbing as the casualties mount. They also support greater early warning and preventive diplomacy efforts, as well as giving more authority to regional institutions, which because of their physical proximity are less susceptible to psychic numbing than larger international organizations.
The authors call for changes to human rights reporting to emphasize personal stories and use more images, and to human rights indicators to place less weight on quantitative factors. They also believe that human rights law, such as the definition of crimes against humanity, should emphasize crimes against individuals rather than against groups. Lastly, in order to put greater emphasis on System 2-type thinking, the authors urge international institutions and national governments to deliberate more, and more open-mindedly, about possible courses of action, such as conducting cost-benefit analyses of intervention versus non-interventions in cases of genocide.
Image: Paul Slovic
Discussion Paper #5 published by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme is “The Holocaust as a Guidepost for Genocide Detection and Prevention in Africa,” by Dr. Edward Kissi of the University of South Florida. The paper looks back at atrocities perpetrated against the Jews during the Holocaust to draw lessons from them for the prevention of future mass atrocities, especially in Africa.
Looking at the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, Kissi concludes that a state seeking to commit mass atrocities will generally succeed in doing so, and that society’s responses to the killings tend to be tepid. The key to preventing future genocides, he believes, is to get bystanders to do more than just stand on the sidelines and watch. And the three areas Kissi focuses on in this paper are early warning, regional and local initiatives, and education.
One way to do this is to closely monitor volatile situations that have the potential to devolve into genocide. Civil and ethnic conflicts—as well as related phenomena such as hate speech, demonization of target groups, and massive migrations of particular groups—are valuable warnings of future mass killings, since perpetrators of mass atrocities often use war or domestic power struggle as cover for their actions. Leaders who plan mass atrocities often look at past genocides and emulate their rhetoric and tactics, believing they will go unchallenged because past perpetrators of mass killings were not stopped. Kissi points out that hatred and prejudice sparking violence, while often targeted at ethnic or religious groups, may also be directed at groups defined in other ways, such as sexual orientation.
Kissi goes on to discuss the importance of the Responsibility to Protect and the practical means of achieving it. He notes that outside actors, such as the United States or the United Nations, have not had much success in preventing or intervening in genocides, especially in Africa, and that smaller initiatives led by neighboring countries and subregional organizations have a better track record in implementing rescue missions and civilian protection. Empowering civil society, especially local and community leaders, to speak out and exercise their traditional authority against hate speech and other warning signs of genocide may also help to build a local culture that does not condone mass killings.
While international actors can play a role in helping to develop these capacities, Kissi argues that local and regional initiatives, rather than international intervention, may be better suited to implementing the Responsibility to Protect. At the same time this may prevent perpetrators of mass violence from hiding behind criticisms of neocolonialism and accusations of meddling by foreign powers.
Another important component of building capacity to prevent future genocides in Africa is educational programs grounded in examining past atrocities like the Holocaust. The point is to teach children about respect and toleration so it is more difficult for them to accept prejudice against and dehumanization of other groups later on, encouraging them to be more than just bystanders if mass atrocities break out again.
Photo: The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme