How to Stop Genocide and Prevent Atrocities

CONFLICT RESOLUTION - MEDIATION, 6 Nov 2023

Taylor O’Connor | Everyday Peacebuilding - TRANSCEND Media Service

 “The law of violence is not a law, but a simple fact which can only be a law when it does not meet with protest and opposition. It is like the cold, darkness and weight, which people had to put up with until recently when warmth, illumination and leverage were discovered.” – Leo Tolstoy

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Learn creative actions and approaches to end genocide and prevent atrocities in Palestine or anywhere in the world.

3 Nov 2023 – In his resignation letter shared publicly just a few days ago, former director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) writes, “Once again, we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the Organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it.” He goes on to explain that with Western leaders providing weapons and diplomatic cover for the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, the only hope we have is that people around the world stand up and demand that governments and international institutions to stop Israel’s ongoing atrocities and put an end to Israel’s apartheid system.

I suppose many of us knew this intuitively already, but seeing it written out so clearly like that from such a high-level person in the UN seems to make it official. So it is on us, activists, human rights advocates, peacebuilders, and people of conscience all around the world to stop this ongoing genocide.

Learning how to stop an ongoing genocide

But beyond the slogan of ‘stop genocide’, what are we to do, and what are we to demand, specifically? Well, a lot of what I’ve seen from peace and human rights groups leading protests around the world is that we must first demand a ceasefire, and to stop arming Israel. Going further to address root causes of this violence, many also advocate for dismantling Israeli apartheid. But there is more.

I’ve noticed that what is growing is a broad-based coalition of groups mobilizing actions together. And this is what is needed to make a difference! But there is something missing. Many individuals and organizations in our global network at Everyday Peacebuilding too are getting involved by putting out statements, sharing on social media, organizing or joining protests, and the like. Among us, we are peace educators, we are dialogue facilitators, we are artists and activists, we are faith leaders, we are students and academics, and we are many things, but most of us are not experts on strategies for genocide and atrocity prevention.

So to support you and all those involved in mobilizing to stop this ongoing genocide across broad-ranging coalitions I’ve searched through my databases and curated some resources that I hope will be helpful, that we collectively can help put an immediate end to this horrific violence and build a justpeace for all.

Resources on genocide and atrocity prevention

I have organized resources into 4 categories of learning, each with links to downloads and resources:

  1. Educate yourself about the causes of genocide and mass atrocities
  2. Educate yourself about international mechanisms for atrocity prevention
  3. Consider creative actions and approaches to stop genocide and prevent atrocities
  4. Use resources to help prevent violence against civilians and negotiate for humanitarian access

Educate yourself about the causes of genocide and mass atrocities

Understand key terms and concepts associated with genocide and mass atrocities

On the website of The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum you can find an explanation of what is genocide as well as definitions of types of mass atrocities often associated with genocide.

Learn some background information about genocide and mass atrocity prevention

On the website of Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC) you can find  a brief overview of internationally recognized definitions of key terms associated with atrocity prevention. Terms included include genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing.

Learn the ten stages of genocide

In 2019 Genocide Watch published a great 2-page overview of The Ten Stages of Genocide.

Learn about the 14 factors that contribute to atrocity crimes

The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect published a Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes: A tool for prevention. This is a more detailed resource covering 14 factors that contribute to atrocity crimes. I think it can be useful for groups making advocacy messages, to highlight the presence of specific factors and how to transform them.

Educate yourself about international mechanisms for atrocity prevention

Learn about international treaties and standards for atrocity prevention

The Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC) provides a great overview of international treaties and standards for atrocity prevention.  It includes links to key treaties they describe such as the Geneva Conventions , the Convention to Prevent Genocide, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Responsibility to Protect, the Protection of Civilians agenda, the Women, Peace and Security agenda, and the Principles Against Impunity.

Learn about the responsibility of all governments to take action to stop genocide and atrocities

The Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect describes The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle that was unanimously adopted in 2005 at the UN in their 2023 report A Framework for  Action for the Responsibility to Protect A Resource for States.

Educate yourself about challenges of engaging with international mechanisms for ending genocide

The website of End Genocide Now includes a great primer on ending genocide which provides a brief overview of genocide in world history, the effects of genocide, genocide prevention and international mechanisms for seeking justice, and on the responsibility to protect. At the end it shares some reflections on the reality of ending genocide when international systems fail us.

Consider creative actions and approaches to stop genocide and prevent atrocities

Learn the fundamentals of genocide and mass atrocity prevention

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also has a great report called the Fundamentals of Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention which covers the history of atrocity prevention, a mapping of the causes of genocide and mass atrocities, and also actions to take to prevent or stop atrocities and genocide.

Learn about specific human rights violations associated with genocide and atrocities, and approaches to advocate to stop them

The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights has a Manual on Human Rights and the Prevention of Genocide. The report covers 21 specific human rights violations that are associated with genocide and atrocities. It provides one chapter per human rights violation, each covering the human rights principles and norms that parties can advocate for to stop atrocities and prevent genocide. Each chapter also maps specific actions that can be taken to advocate for the protection of the specific human rights abuse.

Consider advocacy points for genocide prevention messaging

The Oxford Programme on International Peace and Security has a newer resource called Mainstreaming Atrocity Prevention: Foreign Policy and Promotion of Human Rights for Atrocity Prevention. The report structure is a bit more academic, but the appendix is interesting and I think can give good inputs for advocacy messaging. It maps about 20 foreign policy tools for promotion of human rights related to atrocity prevention.

Learn actions and approaches to end genocide and prevent atrocities

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum you also has a great interactive resource which maps 23 actions and approaches for atrocity prevention. Each is shown with a brief description, then you can click on each one to get more information.

Review tips and approaches from peacebuilders on how to prevent atrocities

In 2018 Peace Direct conducted a collaborative research project, and from the findings they produced a resource on  Atrocity prevention and peacebuilding. This report covers the linkages between peacebuilding and atrocity prevention, and it provides insights for strategies that local groups around the world use to prevent atrocities on the ground and how the advocate most effectively at the international level.

Use resources to help to prevent violence against civilians and negotiate for humanitarian access

Learn approaches to prevent violence against civilians

The Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) published Interpreting Violence: Anti-civilian thinking and practice, and how to argue against it more effectively In 2007. It is a short report with tips to help shape public discourse to stop political and military actors from harming civilians. It covers reasons why political and military attack civilians and use civilian suffering to advance political agendas, elements of an anti-civilian movement in society, how to challenges anti-civilian thinking and practice, and how to shape pro-civilian dialogue.

Learn strategies to negotiate for humanitarian access

Mercy Corps has a great resource called A Playbook for Negotiating for Humanitarian Access which can be used as a resource for those advocating to open humanitarian access.

Do what you can to take action to end genocide

Recognizing the failure of international institutions and complicity of North America and European nations in the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, it is up to we peacebuilders, activists, and all people of conscience to force action to stop this genocide. We must demand action from governments and international institutions to put an immediate end to the violence and to dismantle the system of Israeli apartheid.

Use these resources I shared to form advocacy messages and generate ideas for actions you (and any organization you are involved in) can take. No one person or group is able to stop this, but by mobilizing together, each doing our part, we can put a stop to this ongoing genocide and build a justpeace for all people in Palestine and Israel. We can build a world where all people enjoy the benefits of peace and where the conditions that produce genocide and atrocities no longer exist.

If you like this article, you might like our other article on resources for creative nonviolence. Find more resources like these on the resource page of Everyday Peacebuilding. And subscribe to our newsletter to get new resources on building peace to your inbox weekly.

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This article was written in response to the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, but the resources can be applied to any situation where there is risk of genocide and/or atrocities.

Taylor O’Connor, MA Peace Education, UN Mandated University for Peace, 2009. Taylor is a rebellious peacebuilder, peace educator, and founder of the blog Everyday Peacebuilding. Freelance Peacebuilding Technical Specialist by day, he’s working to make insights from peacebuilding practice relevant and practical to wider audiences. If you’d like to learn some creative and strategic ways you can build peace in your life and in the world around you, get his free handout 198 Actions for Peace – also good for educational settings.

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