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By MARISSA GOLDFADEN

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (pictured here) gave the keynote address at a symposium hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations and CNN, entitled Imagine the Unimaginable: Ending Genocide in the 21st Century. Foreign Policy blogger and USHMM fellow Michael Dobbs attended the event, of which he writes, “The consensus among the speakers, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was that the most effective kind of intervention is long-term preventive action. Once the killing starts, whether in Bosnia or Rwanda or Syria, it is virtually impossible to prevent it.” According to the USHMM, “In the coming decades, environmental challenges and resource scarcity could aggravate ethnic conflicts, affecting why genocides happen and how they are addressed.” Holocaust scholar and Yale historian Timothy Snyder expounded on this idea at the symposium. According to the New York Times, Snyder said,

“We’ve entered into this moment of ecological panic. Global warming will itself almost certainly directly cause mass killing, but it will likely indirectly cause it” as major states like China and the United States seek to feed their citizens, possibly touching off shortages elsewhere, in places that would then be at risk. China has already begun to act and, in a potential harbinger of future problems, has been investing in farmland in Ukraine and in parts of Africa for a few years.

These views and fears were shared and discussed by AIPR Executive Director Tibi Galis’ talk at the Carnegie Council last month, “What Does It Mean to Prevent Genocide?” All of which leads one to wonder, how is the United States addressing genocide? Here are strategies highlighted by Secretary Clinton:

  1. Creation of Atrocities Prevention Board, “an interagency body that generates strategy and coordinates various agencies’ atrocity prevention work.”
  2. Officers in “at-risk countries” to receive training to prepare them to be more alert to warning signs and provide real-time analysis. Also, expansion of “civilian surge capacity” with new focus on atrocity prevention.
  3. Leveraging innovative technologies to identify and respond to mass atrocities.
  4. Redoubling efforts to work with women to attain information about sexual and gender-based violence, particularly in “at-risk” regions.
  5. Perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities to be pressured through coercive measures and clearly warned that they “will be held accountable.”
  6. Expanded partnerships with governments, organizations, and the private sector to bolster tools to prevent and counter atrocities. For instance, the administration will work to expand “connections with the private sector because companies that respect human rights foster an environment in which atrocities are less likely to occur.”

Photo: dobbs.foreignpolicy.com

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* Yesterday, a Kenyan court ordered the government to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, should he ever return to Kenya. Though al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on genocide and war crimes charges, he was not arrested when he attended a ceremony in Kenya last year. While the African Union does not want its members to enforce the arrest warrant, Kenya is obliged to cooperate as a signatory to the ICC. As such, the ICC reported Kenya to the United Nations Security Council. In response to the ruling, Sudan expelled Kenya’s ambassador and pulled its own envoy from Nairobi. The Kenyan ambassador was given 72 hours to leave the country.

* Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to visit Burma later this week. In advance of the trip, the U.S. Campaign for Burma, in conjunction with 11 other human rights organizations, wrote an open letter to Secretary Clinton, “urg[ing] her to prioritize securing an end to the egregious crimes against humanity the Burmese Army continues to commit against ethnic minority civilians.” The country’s military-backed government recently unveiled reforms but atrocities committed as recently as last month have been reported by aid groups. The ongoing fighting has led to approximately 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons.

Photo: thelondoneveningpost.com

* According to the L.A. Times, at least one unnamed Western government is sponsoring a “fact-finding” mission aimed at gathering the evidence necessary to prosecute President Assad of Syria for crimes against humanity for his brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests. “The fact-finding mission,” the Times reported, “mostly involves assembling testimony from Syrian refugees that conforms to standards of international law necessary to sustain a war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court.”

* Twelve female U.S. senators have requested that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressure the Burmese government to halt its use of rape as a weapon of war. A letter to Clinton signed by eleven of the senators said, “Given the Burmese regime’s unabated use of rape as a weapon of war, we urge you to call on the regime to end this practice and pursue our shared goal of establishing an international commission of inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity…”

* Amnesty International recently published a report calling for reforms in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s justice system to help “combat impunity that has been fostering a cycle of violence and human rights violations for decades.” Citing reports of rapes, arbitrary arrests, murders, and assaults committed by Congolese soldiers on civilians that have went unpunished, Amnesty asks the United Nations, European Union and others to provide funding and “technical support” to help ensure “a comprehensive, long term justice strategy is developed.”

* Villagers in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe have unearthed human remains that are thought to be victims of the Gukurahundi massacre, which took place between 1983 and 1987. The massacre saw an estimated 20,000 people killed when President Robert Mugabe ordered his elite Gukurahundi fighting force to squash political and potential military opposition in the Matabeleland area.

Photos (from top): opinion-maker.org, operationbrokensilence.org, ZimEye.org

This week’s Guest Preventer on the AIPR blog is Elizabeth Dovell:

Power Lectures on “Obama, Human Rights, and the Lessons of the New Diplomacy”

Samantha Power, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning study “A Problem From Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, lectured at Columbia University last Monday on President Obama’s human rights agenda and the establishment of a “new diplomacy.”

Power, who currently serves as Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs on the National Security Council, has become one of Obama’s key advisers on genocide and human rights issues. Along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, Power was one of three women instrumental in the United States’ decision to take part in the intervention in Libya, an act that some consider the most proactive implementation yet of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

In her Monday address, Power recalled the world of crises Obama inherited that required major international cooperation: global economic recession, instability of the Iraqi regime, and a growing threat of terrorism all stood out as issues that demanded a renewed multilateral approach of “burden-sharing.”

By “clearing the brush” around U.S. response to genocide and mass atrocity, Power said, Obama is seeking to establish a framework that will shape U.S. involvement in global human rights concerns in years to come.

Although Power didn’t say so (perhaps in deference to U.S. conservatives’ distaste for the idea?), the establishment of this new framework, rooted in diplomacy and multilateralism, clearly reflects the Obama administration’s acceptance of R2P as the guiding concept in responding to mass atrocities (see p. 48 of the May 2010 National Security Strategy).

Still, despite UN General Assembly approval in 2005, most states have been hesitant to invoke the norms laid out in the R2P framework. As Power pointed out, it is one thing to agree on a moral imperative, another to agree on swift and decisive action in the face of the four atrocities outlined in R2P: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. (Here, it is important to note that the Responsibility to Protect falls first to states, then to regions, and only then to the international community.)

Striking a note of optimism on the UN itself, Power noted that the Human Rights Council, often viewed as controversial for the disproportionate attention it pays to some human rights abuses at the expense of others, has taken several unprecedented actions recently—suspending Libya from the council, creating a Commission of Inquiry in both Libya and the overshadowed Ivory Coast, and authorizing a special rapporteur to investigate human rights abuses in Iran.

Elizabeth Dovell formerly served as Communications and Social Networks Intern at AIPR and Research Assistant at the World Policy Institute. She will graduate from SUNY New Paltz in May with a bachelor’s degree in international relations.

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