A new White House Fact Sheet on Atrocities Prevention efforts over the past year lists an impressive set of successes and progress, but leaves many questions unanswered on the U.S. government’s overall strategy for preventing genocide and mass atrocities.
United to End Genocide joined partners in the Prevention and Protection Working Group in a letter congratulating President Obama on recent progress, including the creation of an impressive interagency architecture to help prevent mass atrocities, but also lamenting “the limited information shared with the public on the U.S. government’s overriding strategy for preventing atrocities”.
Recent successes, from the U.S. government’s early engagement to prevent violence in the run up to the Kenyan elections to the expansion of the Rewards for Justice program and the facilitation by the United States of the surrender of Bosco Ntganda, the notorious commander of child soldiers in eastern Congo, are indeed worthy of celebration. The fact sheet does a good job of laying out the development of many important new tools by individual agencies answering the president’s call for improving the ability to respond to and prevent atrocities. What is less clear is how these various efforts fit under a cohesive strategy and how the Atrocities Prevention Board carries out its coordinating role.
One way to address this, as suggested in the letter, would be to release an Executive Order on Atrocities Prevention that articulates the U.S. government’s comprehensive strategy for the prevention of mass atrocities. The President said a year ago that work on such an Executive Order would begin within six months. This could be the first step in increased public engagement both in terms of regular consultations with non-governmental organizations, activists, Congress, and international partners, but also with the American people at large through yearly public reports on progress and Presidential re-commitment to atrocities prevention as both a moral responsibility and national security priority.
President Obama and his administration deserve credit for the progress made in the first year of the Atrocities Prevention Board. And it is heartening that the chair of the Atrocities Prevention Board in a blog accompanying the latest fact sheet welcomes that the U.S. government is “joined, supported, and inspired by the advocates and non-governmental organizations and grass roots groups who have given so much of their energy, talent, vision, and commitment in the service of preventing atrocities.” Finding ways to strengthen such collaboration will be key to further progress in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities.