Report: A Necessary Good

U.S. Leadership on Preventing Mass Atrocities


The report on U.S. leadership on preventing mass atrocities details what should be done to strengthen existing atrocity prevention initiatives, develop new measures, and ensure that the issue is institutionalized within the national security bureaucracy. Preventing atrocities saves lives and advances U.S. national security.

A Necessary Good

U.S. Leadership on Preventing Mass Atrocities

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Why Now?

Media Contact: prevention@fcnl.org

Mass atrocities and genocide in places like in Darfur, Syria, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Yemen, and elsewhere continue to challenge the world’s conscience. As the crisis in Syria so clearly demonstrates, mass atrocities have unanticipated over-the-horizon effects that have a profoundly negative impact on American interests, including “severe economic and resource disruptions, massive refugee flows, weakened national and international institutions, fractured international norms, and the rise of violent extremism.”

As the United States confronts a host of complex global crises and with a new presidential administration as well as a new Congress set to take office in early 2017, it is an ideal moment to formulate a roadmap for the next four years.

About the Experts Committee on Preventing Mass Violence

Convened by the Prevention and Protection Working Group, the Experts Committee on Preventing Mass Violence is a bipartisan group of 16 current and former government officials, academics, think tank experts, and representatives of non-governmental organizations. Experts Committee members participated in a series of policy roundtables, phone calls, and online conversations from May through September 2016 to develop nearly 40 recommendations.

Policy Background and Additional Information

A Necessary Good - Frequently Asked Questions

What is ‘early prevention’?

The report finds that – in addition to initiatives designed to prevent, mitigate, or stop atrocity crimes – a longer-term focus is also crucial. As is defined by the report early prevention consists of “initiatives (including post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction) that aim to reduce social marginalization and conflict, strengthen legitimacy, accountability and resilience, and promote respect for human rights.” Too often what is called atrocity prevention is little more than last-minute response. Longer-term early prevention policies can help “fragile societies develop the capacity and resilience to reduce the risk of mass atrocities,” and more effectively limit the human, financial, and security costs of extreme violence.

What is the Atrocities Prevention Board?

The Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) is a governmental working group comprised of administration officials that includes representatives of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Treasury as well as the Joint Staff, United States Agency for International Development, United States Mission to the United Nations, Federal Bureau of Investigation and more. Established in August 2011, the APB met for the first time in April 2012. The APB is convened out of the National Security Council at the White House, which enables it to most effectively prioritize and coordinate “an interagency approach to preventing mass atrocities and genocide.”

What are the current funding levels for prevention work?

Funding for atrocities and violent conflict prevention is included in several different accounts with specific and complementary goals that support broader prevention efforts. These include the following accounts at their funding levels in Fiscal Year 2016:

  • Complex Crises Fund (USAID) at $30 million;
  • Human Rights and Democracy Fund (State) at $88.5 million;
  • Democracy funds managed by the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (USAID) at $62 million; and
  • Transition Initiatives (USAID) at $67 million.

Compared to the overall budget, these initiatives are incredibly small. For example, funding for USAID is less than 1% of the federal budget, and the Complex Crisis fund represents 0.13% of the entire USAID budget.

When considering the ongoing risk of violence around the world, as well as the cost of intervention compared to prevention, it becomes clear that increased funding for prevention efforts is necessary and more cost effective. The report recommends the creation of dedicated funding through a new, overarching $2 billion Early Prevention and Response (EPR) account that serves to better prioritize and support dedicated funding for early prevention.

What is the cost of prevention compared to the cost of violence?

Investing $1 in prevention saves the world $10 in post-conflict recovery costs, and preventing a war is 60 times cheaper than fighting one. Violent conflict leads to refugees crises, reduced GDP, inflation, lowered educational opportunities, reduced trade and tourism, increased welfare, greater likelihood of corruption, and a loss in health and safety.

In 2014, the global economic cost of violence amounted to $14.3 trillion, and after a conflict, individual countries can expect to see a 2% to 8% decrease in GDP. In 2015, there were fourteen armed conflicts that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people, and currently, 65 million people are displaced, largely because of violent conflict, which is the largest number of displaced persons, surpassing even post-WWII. Learn more about why investing in prevention is a smart security decision.

A Necessary Good

U.S. Leadership on Preventing Mass Atrocities

Download the Full Report