Understanding Past and Deterring Future Atrocities

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Sep 19, 2012
by Marie-Louise Ryback
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Understanding Past and Deterring Future Atrocities

SGS and partners meet in DC to discuss genocide prevention Participants of the Holocaust Education meeting in Washington, DC (photo credit: USHMM)

When should external actors respond to what may be a potential genocide?  What considerations are parts of the decision-making process?  Conversely, what do we know about decision-making on the side of the perpetrators?  What influences their actions?  Can effective measures be taken to deter a potential genocide? If yes, how can these measures be determined and implemented?

These are some of the questions that experts and senior policy makers grappled with at a meeting in Washington, DC from September 9 to 11. 

Chaired by Edward Mortimer, Senior Adviser of the Salzburg Global Seminar, Michael Abramowitz, Director of the Committee on Conscience at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Thomas Blanton, Director of the United States National Security Archive, this initial planning meeting was convened to frame a larger, long-term joint project on genocide prevention.

Bosnia and Rwanda were tentatively proposed as pilot studies to test which approaches including oral histories, archival documents, witness testimonies, and other primary source materials may provide the most effective means toward formulating a methodology in studying other genocides.

There were keynote speeches from Francis Deng, formerly Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to the Secretary-General, and now ambassador of South Sudan, to the United Nations, and Don Steinberg, Deputy USAID administrator and a member of President Obama’s new Atrocities Prevention Board.

A follow up meeting is planned for July 2013 at the Salzburg Global Seminar, at Schloss Leopoldskron, Austria.

The objective of the initiative is to provide up and coming policy makers, journalists, social scientists, NGO activists and other stakeholders practical recommendations for countering possible future genocides.

The meeting was funded by the Sudikoff Family Foundation and organized jointly by USHMM, SGS and USNSA.