Genocide prevention

Genocide Prevention is any act or actions that works toward averting future genocides. One of the main goals of the United Nations with the passage of the Genocide Convention after the Second World War and Holocaust is to prevent future genocide from taking place.[1] Since genocides take a lot of planning, resources, and involved parties to carry out, they do not just happen instantaneously.[2] Using risk assessments, policy makers and NGO's can predict how at risk a country is for genocide. From this assessment of the risk, appropriate steps can be taken to stop a situation from evolving into a genocide. The overriding aim of genocide prevention is to prevent genocide entirely before a crisis or violence begins.

Responsibility to protectEdit

With the introduction of Responsibility to protect in 2001 nations have been given more leeway in the prevention of genocide or other mass atrocities. This international norm was signed by all member states of the UN. It gives any other nations the right to step in any way necessary if the state in question fails to protect its citizens from genocide or other crimes.[3] This means that state sovereignty can be violated for the protection of a population if the state is unable or willing to. This norm has enabled the international community to more easily step in for the prevention of genocide. However, there has been some question of the abuses of this norm as an excuse to intervene or create regime changes.[4]

Early warning projectEdit

The Early Warning Project is an early warning tool developed by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Dartmouth College. This early warning system was a "first of its kind" designed to aid policy makers in determining the risk that a state faces for genocide.[5] The Early Warning Project aids policy makers by determining which states are the most likely to experience a genocide. From this, preventive steps can be taken against states that pose a risk to falling into genocidal actions.

Genocide task forceEdit

The Genocide Task Force was created in 2007, with the purpose of developing a strategy to prevent and stop future genocides. The Task Force was co chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, and former US Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen.[6] In 2008 the Genocide Task Force came out with a report for policy makers on the prevention of genocide. This report claimed that a well rounded "comprehensive strategy" would be required to prevent genocide. This strategy would need to include early warning systems, preventative action before a crisis, military intervention, strengthening of international institutions and norms, and a willingness for world leaders to take decisive action. While the report states that military intervention should remain an available option, upstream preventive measures should be the focus of the United States and the International Community. [7]

Types of preventionEdit

Upstream preventionEdit

Upstream prevention, is taking preemptive measures before a genocide occurs to prevent one from occurring. The focus in upstream prevention is determining which countries are at most risk. This is mainly done using risk assessments which are quite accurate predictors. These assessments are used by both NGO's and Governments around the world. Scholars in the field have developed numerous models, each looking at different factors. Arguably one of the most accurate model comes from Barbara Harff. Her model uses factors such as political upheaval, prior genocides, type of government, and infant mortality, among others. [8] These assessments of risk are then used to aid nations and take action to stop a mass atrocity from happening. Scholars generally agree that prevention before the genocide is the cheapest and most effective.

Mid-Stream preventionEdit

Mid-stream prevention takes place when a genocide is already taking place. The main focus of Mid-stream prevention, is to end the genocide before it progress's further, taking more lives. This type of prevention often involves military intervention of some sort. Intervention, often is very expensive, and has unintended consequences. Scholars tend to disagree on the effectiveness of military intervention. Some claim that military intervention promotes rebel groups or that it is too expensive for the lives it saves.[9] [10]Scholars tend to prefer upstream prevention because it saves lives and doesn't require costly intervention.

Downstream preventionEdit

Downstream prevention takes place after a genocide has ended. Its focus is on preventing another genocide in the future, thus re-building and restoring the community is the goal. Justice for the victims also plays a major role in repairing communities to prevent a future genocide from occurring. This justice can take various forms with trials being a common form, like Nuremberg trials. Justice and healing of the community is imperfect and some scholars criticize the imperfections, especially those of trials. Some common criticisms of trials are the retro-activity, selectivity, highly politicized nature trials often have.[11] Due to the imperfections of trials, healing, and the lifting of taboos when a genocide has been committed in a community, there is an increased risk of atrocity reoccurring. [8]


  1. ^ "Background Information on Preventing Genocide". Outreach Programme on the Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations. UN. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Background Information on Preventing Genocide". Outreach Programme on the Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations. UN. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Office of The Special Adviser on The Prevention of Genocide". Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  4. ^ Cliffe, Sarah; Megally, Hanny (2016-02-19). "Rwanda should have been a wake-up call. Why do the crises continue?". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  5. ^ "Early Warning Project". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  6. ^ "Genocide Prevention Task Force". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  7. ^ Albright, Madeleine K.; Cohen, William S. (2008). Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers (PDF). Genocide Prevention Task Force. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Harff, Barbara (2003). "No Lessons Learned from the Holocaust? Assessing Risks of Genocide and Political Mass Murder Since 1955". American Political Science Review.
  9. ^ Kuperman, Alan (2008). "The Moral Hazard of Humanitarian Intervention: Lessons from the Balkans". International Studies Quarterly. 52: 49–80. CiteSeerX doi:10.1111/j.1468-2478.2007.00491.x.
  10. ^ Valentino, Benjamin (2011). "The True Costs of Humanitarian Intervention". Foreign Affairs.
  11. ^ Minow, Martha (1998). Between Vengeance and Forgiveness. Beacon Press Books. pp. 25–50. ISBN 978-0-8070-4507-7.

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