Preventing Genocide: Difficult, but Imperative
Report Back from a Mass Atrocity Simulation
The difficulty of preventing mass atrocities and genocide took on new meaning for me when I was part of a simulation at Vanderbilt University on the hypothetical risks of mass atrocities in Zimbabwe.
The simulation exercise made clear the inherent real-life challenges associated with prevention, including anticipating risks, responding to fast-moving developments, and working effectively with other members of the international community. It was constructive to get a bit of a sense for what policy makers face in real time when working to prevent violence, and it reinforced for me the importance of passing the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (S.1158, H.R.3030).
It takes dedicated coordination among the various agencies of the U.S. government to bring all the relevant tools to the table as early as possible. A high-level interagency working group – in the form of the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) – helps to make prevention a priority and creates a critical platform for engagement with non-governmental experts. In support of the work of the APB, attention by the intelligence community in gathering and assessing information from the ground is imperative. So, too, is training for Foreign Service Officers to help alert decision makers to early warning signs and dedicated funding to enable the U.S. government to take action in the face of the warnings. All of these critical functions are protected in the Elie Wiesel Act.
While the U.S. government has an important role to play – and supporting the structures, tools and resources embodied in the Elie Wiesel Act is necessary – prevention also requires collaboration with partners around the world. One cannot understate the importance of diplomacy and the breadth of outreach required. The United States should bring everything we can to the table, but we cannot be effective in preventing and mitigating complex international problems unless we work effectively with our allies.