1. Update
  2. Peacebuilding

New Year’s Resolution for Congress

January 6, 2017

The 115th Congress should resolve to make atrocities prevention a priority.

It is a new year and a new Congress has begun its work and foreign policy crises abound from the devastation in Syria to the political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the prolonged armed conflict in Burma. An effective foreign policy response requires a strategy to prevent future crises.

The foundation for this strategy was laid in 2016 through powerful bipartisan steps that were made to sustain and strengthen a growing set of atrocities prevention tools.

  • In February 2016, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (GAPA). By the end of the year, the legislation had gained support from a bipartisan group of 27 senators.

  • Senate appropriators proposed a new $25 million Atrocities Prevention Fund.

  • The bipartisan Experts Committee on Preventing Mass Violence issued their report, A Necessary Good: U.S. Leadership on Preventing Mass Atrocities", which included nearly 40 tangible recommendations for the incoming President and new Congress on how sustain and strengthen tools to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities.

In the New Year, the 115th Congress should demonstrate leadership by making the following three resolutions to sustain and strengthen the atrocities prevention toolkit.

1. Authorize the Atrocities Prevention Board

Resolve to prevent rather than respond late. Prevention of mass atrocities and genocide saves lives, saves money, and promotes U.S. national interest.

The Atrocities Prevention Board engages the highest levels of the U.S. government to coordinate efforts to help stop violence before it erupts. It has mobilized people and funding to prevent violence and reduce harm to civilians in the Central African Republic, Burundi,and elsewhere.

2. Authorize and fund the Complex Crises Fund

The Complex Crises Fund is a rapid response mechanism that enables the U.S. Agency for International Development to prevent and respond to emerging or unforeseen crises. It fills a critical gap and is one of the most highly-demanded tools in the U.S. foreign policy toolkit.

The Complex Crises Fund has been used to reduce violence in 19 countries, some of which were identified by the Atrocities Prevention Board. It was funded at $30 million for Fiscal Year 2016. While this funding is comparatively small, it serves to advance peace and protect U.S. national security interests.

3. Support and fund the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations

The Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) within the Department of State provides critical knowledge, expertise, and strategies to protect civilians and reduce violence. CSO acts as the diplomatic arm of atrocities prevention and works to ensure the U.S. government’s atrocity prevention strategy is grounded in research, analysis, lessons learned, and diplomatic engagement.

The conflict prevention toolkit has been established through decades of bi-partisan cooperation, dating back to President Reagan, who signed the legislation to implement the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The New Year represents new opportunities for the 115th Congress and the incoming Trump administration to demonstrate leadership to better prevent violent conflict and mass atrocities.

It is now the time to put these resolutions into action to better protect lives, save money, and defend national security interests.