Yesterday, President Barack Obama announced a series of actions to ensure the United States is better able to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities. The landmark announcement came after years of pressure from activists and organizations working to ensure that the United States’ failure to adequately respond to past atrocities will not be repeated.
In his speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum President Obama stated:
We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities. So I created the first-ever White House position dedicated to this task. It’s why I created a new Atrocities Prevention Board, to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission. This is not an afterthought. This is not a sideline in our foreign policy. The board will convene for the first time today, at the White House. And I’m pleased that one of its first acts will be to meet with some of your organizations — citizens and activists who are partners in this work, who have been carrying this torch.
The creation of these new structures and systems — most notably the Atrocity Prevention Board — will begin to have impact immediately. In the short term, additional tools will provide options as the U.S. government responds to ongoing atrocities in places like Syria and Sudan. In the long term, the government will be better able to recognize warning signs and prevent the outbreak of atrocities before they start. This will be a key development that will save countless lives, in addition to saving the U.S. government money that would have been spent responding to crises.
Critically, this action by President Obama will begin a process that will impact how every administrative agency works from the Department of State to the intelligence community and from Department of Defense to the Department of Justice. It will ensure that atrocity prevention is a priority at the highest levels of the U.S. government. It will eliminate bureaucratic delays and ensure better inter-agency coordination.
However, the effectiveness of these efforts depends on us. Obama’s announcement represents a first step in the right direction, but ongoing pressure from Americans will be critical to ensure successful implementation and application of these new tools and structures.