Released: May 12, 2020
AIPG to Integrate its National Mechanisms Project into New I-GMAP Mechanisms of Atrocity Prevention Policy Paper Series
The Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) has tracked the development and outputs of national mechanisms for the prevention of genocide in several countries around the world over the course of the previous eight years. The last three editions of AIPG’s Booklet on National Mechanisms have documented different aspects of establishing a national mechanism, as well as common challenges faced, lessons learned, and best practices in this state-level approach to atrocity prevention.
In the section below, AIPG provides abbreviated coverage of several significant developments related to mechanisms previously featured in its annual publication. Following this, I-GMAP presents a vision for the future of the study of national mechanisms as one element of a broader agenda.
Below, please find brief reporting on a selection of national mechanisms. Their inclusion reflects the unique character of these developments and their value to the field of atrocity prevention. Many of the other mechanisms that have been included in previous editions of the annual AIPG publication are slated to appear in subsequent Binghamton-led project materials.
The Democratic Republic of Congo National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and other Mass Atrocities
In April of 2019, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ministry of Justice, AIPG, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung facilitated three days of training in Kinshasa, for the benefit of DRCNC members. The curriculum of this workshop was structured to provide foundational education on concepts of mass atrocities and to focus on strategies for institutionalizing and operationalizing preventive approaches, including the mainstreaming of a gender lens and the exchange of practical experiences with other countries in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
While the structure of the DRCNC has not changed since its official launch in November of 2014, a formal decree was signed by the national government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to officially recognize the Committee in 2018. Prior to this, the DRCNC had been rendered largely inactive due to the lack of sufficient authorization by the national government.
The DRCNC has invested in developing partnerships with provincial and local bodies to implement preventive programming and policies. Many of the atrocity crimes that have occurred and are occurring in the country are taking place at the community level. Thus, the Committee has dedicated itself to working closely with local actors to address the ongoing risks.
The DRCNC aims to support the work of appointed provincial focal points to coordinate the local activities of civil society organizations, law enforcement, as well as cultural, religious, women and youth leaders for early warning and risk assessment, especially in areas affected by violence. To this end, the DRCNC aims to develop a volunteer program in collaboration with local civil society to support local Committee activities in Bandundu and Kivu provinces.
The Kenya National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All Forms of Discrimination
Following the “handshake” between H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta and Former Prime Minister Hon. Raila Odinga on March 9, 2018, the nine-point Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) communique was issued. The Committee is working with both state and non-state actors in facilitating the BBI by fostering dialogues, capacity building forums, and engagement with political leadership through various platforms to pursue the implementation of a prevention-centric agenda. Furthermore, the Committee is working closely with Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission to enhance monitoring and control of hate speech and incitement to violence, particularly in the context of elections, which have proven to be flashpoints for atrocities in the past.
The KNC commenced development of a draft Genocide Prevention Bill in 2018. Much of 2019 was spent engaging with stakeholders in order to build political consensus around the draft legislation. The document was presented to a Stakeholders Validation Forum in October 2019. A joint team of policy and legal experts are currently considering the incorporation of input from the Stakeholders Validation Forum into the draft legislation.
The Committee does not directly implement grassroots-level interventions. However, its membership and partners are spread across all parts of the country. This allows it to have a presence at the local level, while providing a flow of information to the KNC on the planning, implementation, monitoring, and documentation of prevention-centric community initiatives.
On January 14, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocity Prevention Act of 2018 (“Elie Wiesel Act”). The Elie Wiesel Act is the first legislative effort within the United States to address the first article of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: the call for countries to act to prevent genocide. Importantly, the legislation emphasizes the critical importance of U.S. Government actions for the prevention of, and responses to, genocide through interagency coordination. The Elie Wiesel Act also created a body known as the Atrocity Early Warning Task Force (“Task Force”) to replace the Atrocities Prevention Prevention Board (APB).
It is important to note, however, that the Task Force has a solely external mandate. Unlike other national mechanisms featured in this publication, the body does not have the authority to analyze and take action to prevent or mitigate atrocity crimes domestically in the U.S., though some of the agencies represented on the Task Force do have domestic mandates of this nature in their other capacities.
Significant Changes from the APB to the Task Force
- The word “prevention” has been removed from the title of the body, which may indicate a change in the substantive priorities of the Task Force from its predecessor.
- The Task Force will only meet four times per year instead of on a monthly basis, as was the case with working-level APB members.
Thus far, the Task Force itself has not issued reporting on actions that it has taken to prevent or respond to atrocity crimes. However, in its first required report to Congress, as mandated by the Elie Wiesel Act, the White House gave an overview of relevant Department of State and USAID programming abroad. This programming includes the development of early warning and response systems; training members of communities at risk to foster peaceful coexistence and to promote reconciliation; and documenting and preserving evidence of human rights violations and abuses to bolster current and future efforts to pursue truth, justice, and accountability.
The emerging national mechanism from the United States focuses on the national level of government and, given the legislative mandate of the Elie Wiesel Act, does not include local or subnational actors or any domestic focus in its mandate or function.
Previous editions of the annual AIPG publication have featured information about the work of several Latin American countries to develop coordinated state-level approaches to atrocity prevention, including Paraguay’s National Commission for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, the Argentina National Mechanism for the Prevention of Genocide, and efforts made by the Office of the Ombudsman of Ecuador to establish a mechanism. The government offices and ministries involved in the process of establishing each of these mechanisms remain committed to their cause, but political obstacles and administration changes in recent years have slowed progress.
Legislation to codify the Paraguay National Commission remains stalled in the country’s National Congress, following elections at the end of 2018. In Argentina, a strong commitment by the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other offices to formally establish a national mechanism remains. However, the process was placed on hold during the recent election cycle at the end of 2019, with a plan to pursue codification by the Office of the Presidency in the latter half of 2020. This process may once again be affected by the global COVID-19 Pandemic unfortunately.
For its part, the Ecuadorian Office of the Ombudsman has experienced a great deal of administrative and personnel turnover in the past two years. This has led to a delay in the process of establishing a national mechanism, though the Office remains committed to pursuing this approach.
The work of the Commission for International Humanitarian Law of Costa Rica has also been highlighted by the publication. The Commission has been recently active in offering further training programs and conferences on issues related to human rights protection for vulnerable groups, including the LGBTI community, which has contributed to the development of atrocity prevention frameworks and policy output in this area at the national level.
Recent Trend: Localization
While national mechanisms are engaged in the formulation and implementation of a national strategy and action plan for prevention, we have also observed that those plans often manifest as local and/or community level programming. From peace fora and community dialogues to truth and justice activities, seminars, or discussion groups that the mechanisms have organized or taken part in, these events are most often held in a localized environment. As a result, a number of the mechanisms, such as the DRCNC, have established sub-committees focusing on particular regions that they feel are “hotspots” or flashpoints for potential identity-based violence.
Local-level engagement is an aspect that we see frequently across outputs by these bodies and should be recognized as a best practice in the design and implementation of a coordinated national strategy for prevention. Both bottom-up and top-down approaches are essential for effective prevention, particularly in the context of ongoing violence or post-conflict settings.
However, significant challenges exist. All national mechanisms featured in this update face substantial obstacles in obtaining funding for projects with local actors, as well as having the need for additional capacity-building support.
The specific manner in which the localization of atrocity prevention occurs will require prolonged and in-depth research engagement that involves the participation of national and subnational actors in countries working to establish these bodies. To this end, I-GMAP is well positioned to continue this work.
The Future of the National Mechanisms Project
Moving forward, I-GMAP will take the lead on re-envisioning the study of and reporting about national and other mechanisms of prevention. The Institute is beginning to assess research opportunities, tools and methods to expand upon the foundation that AIPG has developed over the past eight years.
I-GMAP plans several changes. These will come through the establishment of the Mechanisms for Atrocity Prevention (MAP) Project. In lieu of focusing solely on national mechanisms, the MAP Project will also examine international and regional mechanisms, local or subnational mechanisms, as well as mechanisms that exist in civil society and the private sector. Including these other types of mechanisms in the scope of analysis offers the ability to compare, contrast, and evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of “whole-of-society” approaches to prevention.
I-GMAP envisions that in place of an annual booklet, the MAP project will produce a semi-annual policy paper series. This series will be created for general release and distribution throughout both the community of atrocity prevention practitioners in both state and civil society as well as interested academic researchers. The policy papers will focus on significant advances or setbacks of the national mechanisms when such developments warrant attention and reporting for the field.
I-GMAP’s new MAP Project will utilize dynamic research teams that will be spearheaded by its directors, affiliated faculty, and resident practitioners, alongside students in I-GMAP’s innovative academic programs. The MAP Project is initially envisioned to focus on particular countries, regions, and populations. For example, MAP projects teams may examine specific mechanisms for atrocity prevention related to indigenous communities, LGBTQI+ populations, or the ongoing international legal cases related to Myanmar and the Rohingya community. The resulting findings and recommendations will be disseminated via evidence-based policy briefs and other public-facing resources available on I-GMAP’s website and other university platforms.
I-GMAP looks forward to continuing our close collaboration with AIPG and other organizations dedicated to the prevention of mass atrocities in developing these policy briefs. If your organization would like to collaborate with I-GMAP, please be in contact with their staff and they will be happy to explore options for possible partnerships.