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By MARISSA GOLDFADEN

The Genocide Prevention Advisory Network recently issued a conference report from their advanced workshop at The Hague on March 14-15, 2012. Focusing on the emerging global and regional architectures aiming at the prevention of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, the conference addressed the following questions:

  • What guiding principles are emerging to shape the architecture and community of genocide prevention and its relevant fields?
  • What can GPANet offer to articulate those principles and strengthen these emerging capacities?
  • How can GPANet work in partnership to support and facilitate local, national, regional and international prevention networks?

The papers presented at the conference dealt with the topics of early warning and data gathering and verification systems, case studies on Somalia, linkages with terrorism, and lastly, perspectives on genocide prevention. This final subject is what we’ll focus on, given the work of AIPR.

Discussing Holocaust education and genocide prevention, Yehuda Bauer spoke of the “problematic” text of the Genocide Convention and the resultant inefficacy of the United Nations to prevent or halt instances of genocide post-World War II: two examples being Rwanda in 1994 and Sudan at present. Given the structure of the Security Council, geopolitical interests often trump those of the humanitarian variety. Moreover, Bauer argues that race and ethnicity are modern social constructs, given the singular origin of the human species. This leads to the common “us vs. them” framing that serves to precipitate genocide. All of this is compounded by the fact that, “There is a dialectical development one can discern in international politics, reflecting two contradictory global trends: a tendency towards greater unification on the one hand, and an opposing tendency towards greater autonomy and independence of ethnic and/or national groups on the other hand.”

Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch and formulator of the Eight Stages of Genocide model, noted Genocide Watch’s early warning system and how “[r]apid response by regional alliances has prevented or stopped several genocides: in East Timor, Kosovo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia , and Sierra Leone.” He also spoke of the success of international tribunals and the creation of the ICC. Having worked against genocide for 30 years, Stanton says he has learned two things about genocide prevention. He states:

  1. The first lesson is the direct result of our own human incapacity to comprehend or feel sympathy for large groups of people halfway around the world. Because individuals cannot do that, we need permanent institutions established that will watch out for precursors of genocide, take action to prevent it, intervene to stop it, and arrest and prosecute those who commit it.
  2. The second lesson I have learned is that genocide prevention must start and be led by people from countries at risk. It cannot be led by an American organization in Washington, DC, led by a pacifist director, that is unwilling to advocate the use of force to stop genocide. Prevention must especially begin from the ground up in countries at risk of genocide. A true International Alliance to End Genocide can support such local efforts and create an international mass movement to end genocide.

Daniel Feierstein then offered “A Critique of the Hegemonic View of the Current Genocidal Conflicts: A Perspective from the Latin American Margin.” His understanding of genocide seeks to dismantle a simplistic “Good People vs. Bad People” scenario and instead puts forth a perspective where genocide is “a technology of power used very successfully to destroy and reorganize social relationships and identities.” He believes “this would be a better explanation of why it continues beyond our collective calls of ‘never again.'” He went on to point out three different initiatives as possible alternatives to the military intervention model:

1. The UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) Experience

Since the UNASUR Constitutive Treaty was signed on May 23, 2008, UNASUR has helped four countries in the region that have experienced the possibility of new violent conflicts: Bolivia (2008), Honduras (2009), Ecuador (2010), and the conflict between Colombia and Venezuela (2010). In each case there was a major crisis with strong potential to trigger atrocity crimes.

2. The Regional Fora on Genocide Prevention

Writes Feierstein, “The idea was to meet all the governments of a region to create an open exchange and debate on how to prevent possible genocidal conflicts. As every government is involved in the discussions, there is a possibility (only a possibility, but we should have little utopias, which are more possible to achieve than the big ones) that the real problems of the regions will appear. It is even possible that some approaches to resolve them will emerge, as there are few instances in which the governments are invited to debate on regional perspectives to analyze and prevent genocide.”

3. The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation

AIPR has organized several meetings with mid- and low-level representatives, with the idea that governments change but there are some kinds of officers who continue in their key positions as professionals and/or bureaucracy. The objective of the AIPR is to train those people in early warning and genocide prevention as a challenge for the future.

The  workshop concluded with a concept note by Alice Ackermann on emerging genocide prevention structures in Europe and Liberata Mulamula discussing the same in the context of the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Last Wednesday, Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, gave a public talk on genocide prevention at the University of Oregon School of Law’s Appropriate Dispute Resolution Center. The talk was held to mark the launch of an interdisciplinary initiative called Genocide and Mass Atrocities: Responsibility to Prevent, whose goal is to develop strategies to motivate citizens and governments to help prevent genocide and politicide. (A 104-minute video of the talk is available online, but much of it is unintelligible.)

In his talk, Stanton mentioned plans to add two stages to his existing model of genocide (Eight Stages of Genocide), originally conceived as a briefing paper at the U.S. State Department in 1996. However, due to the video’s poor sound, it was difficult to understand much more than that, so we contacted Stanton directly in order to learn more.

Stanton, who is also a research professor in genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University, was quick to give credit to the urging of a few thoughtful individuals, some of whom have taught genocide using his Eight Stages model for years.

In particular he named Alan Whitehorn, an Armenian genocide expert of the Royal Military College in Canada; Chris Scherrer, a teacher of genocide in Japan for many years; and Daniel Feierstein, an Argentinian genocide scholar, each of whom in different ways suggested the addition of more stages to the existing model. For instance, Scherrer’s suggestions would have resulted in an 11-stage model, while Whitehorn suggested that the leap from Symbolization to Dehumanization was too far, that Discrimination be added as an intermediary step, and that Preparation included too much.

As Stanton wrote in an e-mail: “I realized there are two types of preparation. One is preparation by the perpetrators—‘Planning (Conspiracy)’—for which I kept the name ‘Preparation.’ The other is the preparation of the victims through what [Whitehorn] called ‘Extreme Victimization,’ but which I prefer to call ‘Persecution,’ because that word is a direct descendant of Raphael Lemkin’s thinking about genocide as the most extreme form of persecution. That stage includes concentration of the victims into ghettoes, trial massacres, expropriation of their property forced displacement, etc. Both of these stages had previously been encompassed under ‘Preparation.’ ”

Stanton said he hopes to issue his new model officially later this year.

Image: Youtube.com

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