What Does It Mean to Prevent Genocide?

June 12, 2012

The handout mentioned in this talk is available as a PDF. See attached.

Introduction

JULIA KENNEDY: It's great to see a lot of new faces here tonight at this Carnegie New Leaders event. I want to welcome you all to the Carnegie Council and welcome those who are joining us on the live webcast tonight.

Given the frightening news that we're hearing out of Syria and Libya, it seems an unfortunate but appropriate time to discuss the difficult options and strategies for policies of genocide prevention.

We are very happy to welcome our Montreal-based Carnegie New Leader Kyle Matthews to moderate this discussion. He is senior deputy director of The Will to Intervene, working under Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who is a good friend of the Council. Kyle comes to The Will to Intervene project from a career as a diplomat. He was stationed in the southern Caucasus, the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC], and Switzerland.

While Kyle and our keynote speaker Tibi Galis may differ in their approaches to genocide prevention, their work is vital and a necessity in a global climate that, unfortunately, seems to have plenty of human rights issues and, unfortunately, atrocities.

With those sunny words, I turn the session over to you, Kyle.

KYLE MATTHEWS: I think it's quite wonderful to actually have the chance to come here to the Carnegie Council and actually leave Montreal and come to the New York scene. I think nothing is more timely than the discussion tonight, to talk about what we can do to prevent genocide, the greatest scourge that has affected mankind.

We look around the world and there are many cases where innocent civilians are being targeted, they're being attacked; and yet, it has now been more than 60 years since we signed the Genocide Convention. I think there is a real need to discuss what can be done to prevent these horrible crimes from occurring.

I can think of no one better tonight to talk to us about what is actually being done in practical terms to train government officials, to work with multilateral actors, to develop policies and capacities to prevent these crimes.

I would first like to pass over to Tibi Galis. He is executive director of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation [AIPR], an organization that is receiving great coverage for their work. I just got an email today from Huffington Post naming Tibi Galis as the Greatest Person of the Day.

Needless to say, there are a lot of people out there working now in different parts of the world—a lot of it is concentrated in New York—to actually make "never again" reality.

I'll turn to you, Tibi, and let you have a chance to tell us about what we can do prevent genocide.

Remarks

TIBI GALIS: Thank you very much, Kyle. Thank you all for coming. And thank you very much to the Carnegie Council for inviting me to speak to you this evening.

While today it seems that there is an emerging consensus that genocide needs to be prevented, that we have to do something about it, at the same time there is still a very big discussion, there is still lots of disagreement, about what preventing genocide is.

From the perspective of the Auschwitz Institute, that's a big problem, because our mission is to prevent genocide and to educate governments and government officials about genocide prevention. That is why I am going to tell you in a few minutes what do we think of when we speak about genocide prevention.

When you walk out of the room this evening, I would like you to remember four points that you can take home:

  • The first one being that genocide is a process, not an event. It's something that doesn't happen out of the blue; it takes quite a while to get there, to see the end-state of genocide.

  • The second point is that genocide can be prevented.

  • Third, that intervention is not necessarily prevention.

  • Fourth, that genocide derives primarily from within a society and, therefore, must be prevented primarily from within a society.

I am going to take you back quickly to the beginnings of genocide prevention as we know it, which is the adoption of the Genocide Convention in 1948. It is very interesting for us people who work in the genocide prevention area to see that that convention was actually adopted previous to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has set into place different thinking that builds very much, though, these days on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I am going to try to make myself a bit more explicit on this later. But now I just want to draw your attention to the UN definition of genocide. Genocide, according to the UN convention, means several things: "Killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

This definition only speaks about the very last moment, when we see genocide fully achieved. So already you see that what we usually think of as genocide, meaning the killing of a group based on its identity, the attempt to eradicate it, is not the only component of genocide as a crime.

This foreshadows a bit my emphasis on genocide being a process, which is one of the essential aspects of working in genocide prevention. Had it not been a process, there wouldn't be chances, moments, when we can intervene, when we can prevent, when we can actually change the course of a process.

In a briefing paper developed for the U.S. State Department in 1996, one of the pioneers of genocide prevention, Dr. Gregory Stanton, mentions that classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination, and denial are all stages of genocide. You see that extermination (the killing) is one of the stages that comes rather late in the process. Everything is about preparation, about getting there.

For example, in our view at the Auschwitz Institute, genocide is not only the moment when people are killed; it's also the moment, if we take, for example, the Holocaust, when people had to wear a star to identify them as being Jewish. That has already set in place the dynamics that were necessary for achieving the killing at a later stage.

We cannot make abstraction of the preparation to commit the act of genocide if we want to prevent it. That, according to Stanton, would be the phase of symbolization, one that comes very early within the process.

From these two illustrations, you will see we really hold the view that prevention is not simply stopping killing. It needs to come a lot earlier.

Genocide prevention most often is equated, especially where we are, in the United States, with military intervention in situations that seem unsolvable in any other way. What we argue is that the work needs to come a lot earlier than that, and genocide prevention is a story that is a lot longer than that.

It's like talking about preventing alcoholism, talking about it as going into the bars and knocking out people's drinks while they are there. It's not necessarily an effective way of preventing alcoholism. In a similar manner, going and putting in the military where a regime is already killing people comes at a very late stage.

Just to continue the analogy with preventing alcoholism, you might have seen a television show called Intervention, where concerned family members, concerned friends, come and confront an individual about his or her problem. Ultimately, it results in that person going into rehab and a process of trying to come to terms with the problem. Nonetheless, we don't even see that on the show, because finding out whether there has been a relapse or not, finding out the history of alcoholism before, is not very interesting as a show, it's not a sexy topic.

In a similar way, genocide prevention is not one of those issues that is very interesting. Many times genocide prevention is dealing with good governance, issues that have to do with making a society work on a daily basis, government offering services and dealing with conflicts that arise from very basic social interaction.

That is why we believe that somehow the whole long-term prevention perspective has not gotten too much of a focus, because it is not easy to capture and because, just like in the case of an alcoholic where the actual solution has to come from that individual staying on track, similarly the long-term solutions to preventing genocide have to come from within the society where the risk is high.

Intervention sometimes adds to the risk of things happening in the future—if not managed the right way, mind you. This is a disclaimer. I'm not talking here against intervention. Of course that's a last resort. But from our perspective, as genocide prevention work, that is a very, very sad last resort. It means we have failed in our job beforehand to prevent mass atrocities from happening.

From this I would like to bring you back and tell you that from our perspective there are two aspects of prevention that we think are key.

First, like genocide itself, prevention is a process. It's something that has its ups and downs. It means long-term engagement. It doesn't mean miraculous, episodic solutions to a problem.

Second, it is up to the country or society itself to make preventive policies stick and to integrate them into each of the societies and make them part of everyday life.

This brings me to the question of: How do we actually get to do this? Mind you, if we had talked about 10 years ago, we would still be wondering about the toolbox of genocide prevention.

I think we have made lots of progress in that by studying situations where genocide/mass atrocities have been avoided when risks were present. We have learned that there are many things we can actually do that are useful to prevent genocide.

Some of the things that we most often quote are:

  • Early warning, which is carried out currently by the NGOs, the media, the UN, civil society, even by states themselves.

  • Then, institutional or capacity building. Here we don't talk only about mass atrocity and genocide-prevention capacity building, but also making institutions stronger in different countries in delivering the social functions that they serve.

  • Then, reducing economic inequalities. Unfortunately, economic inequalities are still very often one of the structural sources for conflict that leads to mass atrocity. That is a very important part of the toolbox.

  • Security sector reform, how to empower those who are supposed to protect to actually carry out their function.

  • Strengthening local protection of disadvantaged groups and their members. Here again, we are looking at a wide range, going from legal ways of doing this to the actual application of the legal instruments we have.

  • Fostering inclusive governance, making sure that everybody has access to decision making and to the carrying out of those decisions, every sector of society.

  • At AIPR we also add to these usually transitional justice, because many times the source of future mass atrocities is, unfortunately, the legacy of the previous atrocity;

  • And weapons control, for a very obvious reason. Weapons are very often used to carry out mass atrocities.

If you hear this, you will think there is nothing new under the sun. It's kind of true, there isn't too much new under the sun when we want to prevent genocide. These are things that we have been aware that our governments had to deliver in the past.

What is new from a genocide prevention lens, mass atrocity prevention lens, is the fact that we actually educate our governments to look at the risk of mass atrocity and genocide.

Many times when we have focused in the past on conflict prevention, we have not been aware that as a consequence of a settlement of a conflict, some groups might be targeted for being victims of mass atrocity. That is just an extreme example. A mass atrocity and genocide prevention lens, we believe, helps us see the consequences of policies that are implemented in also a lot less spectacular ways, but essential for prevention.

When you have a toolbox, the issue is: Who implements it? Fortunately and unfortunately, many times this is left to our governments. We always complain that there isn't sufficient political will to carry out this agenda.

Well, it's very important to make ethical arguments in the sense of genocide prevention, but at the same time it is not enough. If it's not somebody's job to think in these terms, we have learned from history it is very easy to not focus on it and to expect the other department to do it. Then nobody is responsible for the atrocities that have happened under our watch.

In this sense, we believe that accountability is essential, and the creation of structures that are enduring, that have as their role the actual prevention of genocide and the analysis of everyday policy from the perspective of genocide prevention, are essential. For this reason we at AIPR very much approve of the tendency to create focal points within institutions, within governments, that have as a task to do this job.

Now I'm about to close. But I want to repeat to you, summarize to you, what from our perspective it means to prevent genocide.

Here is a long, long sentence that we have come up with to sum up what genocide prevention means. It means: (1) government decision-makers (2) with identified points of accountability (3) committed to long-term solutions (4) using existing tools, (5) viewing every situation through a genocide-prevention lens, (6) focusing their efforts on their own societies.

This is the thinking that supports our work in engaging governments to develop their genocide-prevention capacity. There is nothing really heroic about genocide prevention in action. There is no drama. But, as my colleague Alex says, this is not about Nielsen ratings; this is about saving human beings' lives and making them better. This is the job we are supposed to do.

Thank you for your attention. Now I am ready to talk to you.

Discussion

KYLE MATTHEWS: My first question, Tibi, or comment, is I think you're absolutely right to talk about the difference between preventing a genocide and reacting to a genocide.

I held a conference in Montreal this past October, and we had Irwin Cotler, who is our former Canadian minister of justice, who basically made the statement that genocide begins with words—not with killing, but with words.

I'm curious to know from you, what do you teach the people that go through the Auschwitz training programs about what early warning signs they should be looking for and how to act upon them?

TIBI GALIS: In terms of our approach to the introduction to genocide prevention, which we carry out several times a year in Auschwitz with the participation of several UN member countries, their mid-level government officials who work on mass atrocity-prevention issues already, what we talk to them about when looking at risk factors are a few common points that have emerged from the past.

Greg Stanton's approach is one that is rather interesting. It summarizes some of the red flags: classification, symbolization, dehumanization. These first few steps are very much about language, about creating categories, and then creating a political discourse that tries to remove them from the universe of moral obligation.

But the way these red flags work is very different from one society to the other. We recognize dehumanizing language mostly using our own cultural references. What could be dehumanizing in one place is not necessarily dehumanizing in another. At the same time, we do use dehumanizing language for other purposes than preparing for genocide.

Sometimes we use dehumanizing language for humor. Just think about all the jokes we make about lawyers. They are very dehumanizing. At the same time, nobody is concerned that a genocide is preparing against the lawyer population.

But what we engage our participants in is recognizing the red flags through the study of several case studies from the past, drawing on some of the models—Stanton's is an excellent one. We also talk about the UN Analysis Framework, which is a model that is very detailed in its evaluation of the situation of a certain country. We also talk about minimal models, like the one developed by Barbara Harff, that give you a glimpse only on certain factors and red flags, and then you can do your digging to find a solution for them.

I hope this answers your question. It's a process of learning about expertise developed in the past. Many times it involves dealing with hate language, hate discourse, and learning how to react to it. But there are also many other elements that come into play.

KYLE MATTHEWS: Now I'm going to take the gloves off and ask a more difficult question. Tibi, you talk about red flags and about how sometimes messages in different cultures can be interpreted differently. I was wondering if you could comment on the NATO intervention in Libya, whether that has made your work easier or more difficult, particularly in reference to when Gaddafi went on the radio and basically said he was going to go household to household to clean up the rats, get the cockroaches. Were those terms of incitement to genocide, and how has that affected your work?

TIBI GALIS: The intervention in Libya has affected our work, I believe, especially in terms of awareness. It has brought up the debate around what is genocide prevention to the actual doorsteps of many ministries of foreign affairs around the world. So I think it actually helped us reach out to new partners, to new states, that were interested in learning more about how they can actually build their capacity for genocide and mass atrocity prevention.

Of course, the intervention in Libya is a very disputed one, and it has created nightmares for our colleagues who work on responsibility to protect [R2P], because of the implications for the entire R2P agenda. Nonetheless, from the perspective of genocide prevention, the entire discussion around it has shown the importance of preventing atrocities like the ones that were preparing to happen in Libya and the importance of, again, trying to avoid intervention through genuine genocide-prevention work.

KYLE MATTHEWS: I think one thing that's very interesting is that there has been, as you said earlier, a lot of leadership shown lately. There has been a growth in civil society groups that are working to become a permanent constituency for genocide prevention. There have also been certain national governments that have actually taken this task more seriously than others.

Just this past April, at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Barack Obama announced the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board. I mention this because I was in Montreal but I watched it live, and the first person to ask a question to the Atrocities Prevention Board was you. I was wondering if you could comment whether this is something you'd like to see established in different national jurisdictions across the globe and whether that is something that demonstrates that we should be following the U.S. lead on this.

TIBI GALIS: We at the Auschwitz Institute were very happy to see the Atrocities Prevention Board being formed because it actually creates the institutional support for genocide-prevention work within the U.S. government. We were very excited.

We are still looking to see how the Prevention Board becomes real. At this point we are aware that it has started its work. Nonetheless, we still need to learn about its performance. We are very watchful. We would like it to turn into the actual institution it promises to be.

At the same time, in terms of its serving as an international model, we believe, in discussing with many other state partners who are looking for solutions on how to institutionalize genocide prevention within their own governments, it is one of the models that might seem very powerful, very effective, since it involves almost all levels of the administration that could have a say in genocide prevention policy.

At the same time, things happen differently in different states. The ones who seek a capacity to engage the executive at all levels to cooperate on this issue and who have a strong executive will probably lean towards a similar approach.

Nonetheless, there are other models that seem to emerge that focus the actual responsibility for the issue within one person. That has been tried in several European countries with mixed results. And also, like in other regions, where the responsibility seems to lie within the cooperation at working level of mid-level government officials, that is again another model that comes into play when there isn't that high a commitment to the genocide prevention agenda, but nonetheless the bureaucracy feels that it is one of the issues it needs to take up on.

What we believe is that all these models should be studied and presented as options for the ones who are looking for a structure. What they decide will ultimately depend on how their government works.

KYLE MATTHEWS: I understand, immediately after your presentation today, you are getting on an airplane to go to Addis Ababa and to engage the African Union. Tell us about that work and what you hope to accomplish.

TIBI GALIS: The Auschwitz Institute has this far mostly worked with capitals, with governments, in engaging them through an initial opening seminar to send their genocide prevention bureaucrats who already have that title or that view in their work to increase their capacity through our training. After those trainings, we started different programs to support each participating institution in developing its capacity.

What we have learned, though—and this we learned from our amazing network of alumni who stay in touch and constantly engage and learn from the institute and the institute learns from them too—is that one of the levels of engagement that is essential to make everyday working-level genocide prevention a reality is the regional one. While we always emphasize that the solutions need to come from within societies, nonetheless the help to see that those solutions need to come many times comes from within the region and is not much appreciated when it comes from outside the region.

So we have engaged in a process of gathering Latin American governments into a network for mass atrocity and genocide prevention. This started three years ago under the leadership of Argentina and Brazil, our alumni countries, with the support of our other alumni countries, Chile and Panama, in the region. After a long dialogue with the institutions that would be relevant, a network emerged that was created this March in Buenos Aires. It is the first world region network that is solely dedicated to mass atrocity and genocide-prevention capacity building, and ultimately policy cooperation.

What we have been very lucky with is that this process was observed by the African regional organizations. We have invited the African Union, ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States], and ICGLR [International Conference on the Great Lakes Region] to observe each of the steps of this process. The African Union observers have come to us with a proposal to engage in a discussion about how to develop the capacity both of the African Union to implement its strong obligation to intervene (and interpreted also as to prevent) and the member countries' capacity to set up structures that would prevent genocide domestically.

We have started this consultation, and tonight I am traveling to Addis to meet tomorrow with the commissioners and members of the African Union bureaucracy to discuss how AIPR can assist in this process.

KYLE MATTHEWS: I think that's wonderful work. If you're going to make an inroad to the African Union, that I think will make "never again" more of a reality.

TIBI GALIS: I hope so.

QUESTION: My name is Andrew Blencowe. I'm affiliated with the University of Ottawa in Canada.

In the area of operationalization in your toolbox, it seems to me that probably five of the eight points on the handout are just as ambiguous right now in terms of being operationalized as the idea of prevention is. So I'm curious to see how you see these areas going forward and being directed towards genocide prevention.

TIBI GALIS: Ambiguity is a result of generalization. In this case, in our genocide-prevention work, many of these tools are ambiguous when called this way because they look very different, again, from place to place.

In our building capacity for genocide prevention, we do not deliver recipes. We do not come with a solution, a silver bullet that will make problems go away. Our role, as we see it at the Auschwitz Institute, is to educate government officials to operationalize, themselves, in the best way possible for their own societies and for their own international neighborhood, these processes.

We offer support in the sense of delivering to them models of how this has been done in the past and how many times how this was successful and, most interestingly, how initiatives were not successful and why they weren't.

We are catalysts for thought and for social practice within societies. That is why we do not go into actual policy recommendations.

Also, this was a 10-minute overview of what we do sometimes in processes that last years. We do get into detail and talking about what has been done in a certain case. But then we never make policy recommendations that are solid and never to be challenged.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Haris Hromic. I'm from the Carnegie Council.

I would like to try to touch upon the eight stages of genocide, particularly denial. In my mind, it seems when somebody has committed genocide and is willingly denying—at least in history, that has been properly documented through the judicial process—it seems to me that it demonstrates a willingness to accept acts as being okay, and, more alarmingly, it seems to me that it certainly sets the stage for it to repeat again. I think you used the phrase "removing from the moral framework" such acts.

What specifically do you think is your top recommendation to deal with such threats, particularly when they come from the government establishment in the post-conflict countries, including the region? As a case in point, for example, we can use Bosnia.

TIBI GALIS: In terms of risk for genocide, it seems from all studies we have that the best predictor for genocide or mass atrocity to happen again in the same society is if genocide/mass atrocity happened before. So the history of a previous atrocity is many times very strongly linked to the next atrocity emerging.

Denial plays a huge role in this, we believe. Denial is the last stage of genocide, also because it continues the process of victimization and the lack of recognition of victim status of the actual people who suffered from the process.

What we recommend, and we talk very much about with our participants, is a rigorous process of transitional justice. Here it means engagement both at the level of governmental structures, institutional governmental reform, and trying to find legal solutions, within of course the limits of the political capacity of the new regime, and also engaging society in a symbolic process of transitional justice that reaches to the grassroots levels and that reaches to societal groups that are usually removed from government.

There we talk about all the policy options that one has, ranging from domestic trials to international ones, truth commissions, rehabilitation, restitution. Economic issues also are very often overlooked when we deal with denial. Nonetheless, they are central often to how regimes see their capacity to oppress a former victim group.

So we discuss about all the transitional justice policy options. That is, of course, both a domestic process, and also, in the case of a regime that is stuck, hasn't opened up, has not experienced any change since the actual perpetration of the crimes, the responsibility to challenge that denial lies within the region and within the international community. There it is again a discussion about diplomatic processes and civil society challenges to this denial.

I hope that answers your question.

QUESTION: Ted Perlmutter. I work with the Genocide Prevention Project down in Washington. I just have some questions for you about the early-warning components of your toolbox, because we're actually trying to figure out what that looks like in some of the regions that we work in. It has been a very difficult and challenging process, particularly if you think about it in terms of the regional issues.

We agree with you, or I agree with you, that regions is definitely the way to go. But the efforts to set up a regional program in West Africa under ECOWAS or in the Horn of Africa under IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] have not been, shall we say, sterling successes. So I'm just curious as to what you see as the best modes of doing it and if you see any other sorts of cases which you think are more successful.

TIBI GALIS: Yes. This is more often an individual response than an AIPR response. From an AIPR perspective, it is very important for different models to develop for early warning, because they serve different functions. Again, standardized, quantitative models will never serve a universal function. We have learned that.

From my perspective, early warning has become one of the big concerns of the genocide-prevention community, again because of focusing too much on intervention. I believe early warning is a process that develops naturally out of a strong process of risk assessment, looking at those sectors of society, those policy areas, that pose risk and show red flags for the emergence of genocidal processes.

Once we have identified those, early warning needs to be not a standardized model of engagement with the whole of society, but an actual engagement, observation, of how the risky processes develop. That's why I shy away personally from recommending quantitative solutions to early warning, and I think that nothing can replace the actual learning process that constant qualitative analysis of a developing situation can give.

Then, early warning ends up being mostly an administrative process, of passing on to those who can do something and should do something the relevant information.

The big question, I guess, is what we all ask ourselves: What do we warn for? Do we warn for the latest possible moment when we can still do something without intervening militarily? If that is what we are trying to warn for, that's a very problematic question already for doing effective genocide-prevention policy.

If what we want to warn about is dangerous policies that can facilitate and actually accelerate the degradation of a society into a genocidal society, then we have many early-warning systems that are already in place and that are sometimes overlapping with our assessment of the fulfilling of the traditional human rights agenda.

In my opinion, early warning is very much about engagement, studying of a certain situation and trying to create a framework in which that situation can move away from the course it has.

QUESTION: Collette Mazzucelli, New York University. Thank you for your presentation and for your comments.

As I engage in crisis mapping, what I notice is that we have tremendous challenges, objectively speaking, with verification. That is really, I think, the crux of the matter. It comes back to what you just said about the need for qualitative analysis.

As we map, we are certainly building social capital, but what we're not really as successful at doing is what I would call breaking the local conspiracies of silence, to use Zerubavel's term.

I think one way we need to begin to think about that is, first, in terms of building local capacity as we do it. The locals need to be trained, but they need to map for their purposes, so that the training itself is neutral; the way they use it is according to a specific context.

I would be curious to hear from you, though. We acknowledge there needs to be some type of a triangulation of things that we do, so mapping, satellite imagery analysis, field monitoring—everything needs to kind of fit together.

So this toolbox that you have on the handout, that first early warning piece of it, we need to figure out exactly what we need to do with the technology so that the pieces fit in ways that verification is enhanced and local capacity is enhanced. That in my mind is one of the challenges we face. In your trainings does this come out?

TIBI GALIS: It does, very much so, especially in the case of governments that see a mandate for being keepers of a good international behavior within their neighborhoods. They are very interested in learning about what is potentially happening in crisis societies.

This is still one of those issues that is very much up for discussion: How do you go about obtaining this?

What we have learned is that there is great potential for achieving the triangulation through engaging other actors than governmental actors in the process and comparing the results, of course, of the outside satellite observance process with data coming from sometimes what are essentially different parts of the same government. That's why in all our engagement with each UN member state we try to involve as many institutions as possible, because that helps realize where the codes of silence are and where the codes of silence can be broken.

I think also what was one of the big challenges in our genocide prevention movement was to realize that governments are not monolithic and that very often different structures within the same governments pursued different objectives. You always have a ministry of human rights that is marginalized in a perpetrator regime, for obvious reasons, but that is rather willing to sometimes be helpful with accurate information in a whistle-blowing manner.

But beyond that, beyond looking at the government, what we have learned—and we have been actually trying to test a bit of this in our office with some internships—is how can we engage either local civil society to verify information or just citizens interested in communicating with the outside. None of these is 100 percent proved to the code of silence. Especially when things get very bad, those channels are likely to be broken quickly. But they would open up our capacity to verify information a lot earlier in the process. That's my suggestion.

But please, this is again one of those discussions that we all have and we'd be happy to hear any of your opinions.

JULIA KENNEDY: I'm curious if you can get specific with us for a second and tell us a story about maybe a place where you admire how they identified these early warning signs. I know you're not about making policy prescriptions and there isn't a "one size fits all" solution. But it might be interesting for some of us to hear an anecdote, a story of a government that has done this well, or one that has used some of these tools in your box.

TIBI GALIS: In terms of giving stories from specific participating governments, that is one of the very difficult issues, because all our programs are under Chatham House Rules.

In terms of historical situations and situations that develop in the present, if we look at successes, I would recommend our looking to a certain extent not so far, for example, from the perspective of past views, to Argentina. It's one of the societies that has engaged very actively in identifying what the social problems were that supported the regime that was a perpetrator.

They have engaged in an extensive process of transitional justice that has gone through different phases, from reparation and amnesty, to now all-out judiciary procedures that try to remove from within society the reserve domains of what the previous regime meant in action.

The factors that could have been identified there would have been the persistence of the leadership that has been the perpetrator and its general influence on society's development of its values and of its everyday policies. They have opted to go towards separating themselves, not actually going for a reconciliation model, and have been, we believe, rather successful in removing the risk of mass atrocities happening in the present.

On the other side—and again to show you how different it looks from place to place—we have South Africa, in which any judiciary process was seen as both an impossibility from the regime stability perspective but also as not desired culturally.

We all who work in this field are always very inspired by Desmond Tutu's approach to the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa. That was a different path. That was a path of identifying the actual historical evidence of suffering and how that suffering was inflicted, a path in which the leadership has not actually been removed that obviously from economic/social/policy leadership positions, but where a change has become evident, and the risk of mass atrocities is very low currently.

This is just again to give, from the perspective of reconciliation as one of the big words that we use in terms of dealing with the past, getting rid of denial, and finding solutions after conflict. These are two polar opposite models. "Reconciliation" is such a bad word in Argentina and is such a great influence in developing today's South African politics.

QUESTION: My name is Kate Coy, and I am here from the University of Oregon.

The University of Oregon's School of Law has recently launched a genocide initiative to raise awareness about preventing genocide. We had Gregory Stanton come and speak this past April. I'm here at the UN, and unfortunately I missed that talk.

But this looks very familiar. A lot of what's being said is something also that I heard at a talk earlier today at the UN, where Kai Brand-Jacobsen talked about basically these things. His talk was about preventing more violence and genocide, critical approaches to making prevention work. So I think there's a lot of buzz around the topic from a lot of places.

If I can really just kind of call out the elephant in the room, this morning on my way to work I heard about children in Syria being strapped to tanks to prevent them from being blown up. So there's something missing. We're doing a lot of great things, and I appreciate that, but what's the missing link?

TIBI GALIS: I think that the missing link is that we talk a lot about the things we are supposed to do and very often don't really do them. We end up in situations where governments are behaving just like they used to before we had started talking about genocide and mass atrocity prevention. I believe that shows a failure of us to reach out everywhere.

At the same time, looking from the other perspective, we have had the chance to influence the way governments operate and governments relate to their citizens so much more than we have had the capacity to do in the past, thanks to a genocide-prevention responsibility to protect agenda, that many mass atrocities, it can be argued, have been avoided.

I am the first one to call out how bad we are still at preventing mass atrocities and how many crimes happen around us. This is not to say, though, that the work that we need to take forward is not already being done. It takes time. It took time for the convention to become anything else than a piece of paper. It took so much time for it because of the Cold War. It took time for anything that approaches an international criminal justice system to come together. But we are there. We are making serious advances in this field.

But we need to continue pushing and, at the same time, realize that these atrocities that happen today are great indicators of how badly our governments are still doing their job and how much help they need in doing it better.

QUESTION: I think you're right. I think that it's wonderful to acknowledge what—I think it's hard to measure success when success is something that is prevented.

But something was brought up by Mark Simmons, whom you may know, who has done a lot of work in Sudan. He made the comment this afternoon that stuck with me. He said, "The Sudanese government doesn't want peace." That's a real barrier, that state sovereignty issue, where if you have a government that has no interest in preventing genocide, how do you overcome that?

TIBI GALIS: Again, my response would be not a very radical one. Governments don't operate in vacuums. Governments operate in this world that is getting rather small. In order to operate, they have to interact with other governments, with other parts of society. It's time to actually engage with what makes a government change its mind about mass atrocity and genocide.

Mapping efforts beyond the actual mapping and gathering physical data are also expanding into mapping social relationships within each society to see which of the sectors of society can be mobilized to stop that society's government from committing mass atrocities.

At the same time, whenever a government fails to protect its citizens at home, that is a grand failure also of the other governments who were supposed to create an environment in which that failure to protect shouldn't have materialized.

So what I am telling you is it's about engagement, it's about engagement with each and every situation. It's not a small process, it's not an easy process, and it's a resource-intensive process.

But, you know, we have engaged with interstate conflict for centuries, dedicating huge resources for that problem—war. Our wars today don't look the same. It's time that we rededicate resources to the wars that affect us—internal wars, mass atrocities—and we dislocate resources from our defense budgets potentially. This is just an example, but there are so many ways to engage with a government that is criminal.

I hope this answers the question.

QUESTION: I'm Jaclyn Streitfeld-Hall. I'm with the Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect.

Obviously, responsibility to protect, prevention of genocide, we have very similar toolboxes. But looking at the list of tools, with the exception of early warning, which early warning itself is quick but the response to it often isn't, they are all sort of really long-term processes. So I'm wondering if you can say anything about what we do in situations where the dynamic on the ground in a country is moving at a faster pace than the prevention tools will allow. I'm thinking personally of my own experience researching DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] with security sector reform going on for years and years, and now the situation in the East is deteriorating rapidly. But obviously other situations have similar dynamics.

TIBI GALIS: Right. All of these processes are long-term. Whenever a crisis accelerates, it is time for more radical responses that are also within the toolboxes of states and of partners.

In this sense, what we overlap very much with in terms of conceiving of our agenda with R2P is the different pillars of action. There is a time when we end up needing to engage in a manner that is different than pillars one and two, which are about domestic policy and about good neighborhood and international policy, and when we have to acknowledge that somebody is failing their obligations. For that the R2P agenda has identified, often very clearly, what options there are that are not only military options.

Preventing disaster is part of genocide prevention, of course. And in the case of a rapidly deteriorating situation, those tools are part of it too.

Nonetheless, very often a low-intensity diplomatic action can be as effective as military intervention in a situation and avoid the disaster that we are all afraid of.

So again, it needs to be evaluated case by case and from the perspective of each of the actors that have the capacity to intervene and to prevent, ultimately.

KYLE WALLACE: You talked about looking at different tools. I know most recently some have argued—the debate is not completely closed on it—that the response to the electoral violence in Kenya in 2008-2007 was one of the best models of how to react quickly.

On one side, the African Union took a pretty public stance, in sending Kofi Annan and some other former African heads of state to negotiate a political settlement of the violence. Behind the scenes, the UK and the U.S. imposed very coercive threats against the political elite, saying, "If you don't back off from going to the radio stations and inciting your tribal groupings to commit violence, then we we won't let you travel to the U.S. or to Europe, and we'll also revoke the student visas of your children studying at Harvard and Oxford."

Do you see those measures as perhaps one of the better ways to really target the elite in those moments where it's right on the verge of actually turning into a full-scale genocide?

TIBI GALIS: Yes, of course. Just like you mentioned, in situations that deteriorate rapidly, these are examples of things that have worked and are rather efficient.

What we are concerned of when talking about these and the international engagement is what happens after the Kenyan government reacts to these and the violence stops. But most of the causes are still in place, and every time there is an election looming in Kenya, the international community is panicking.

These tools are excellent, of course, to prevent the short-term bloodshed. Our role is to also mention how important it is to go deeper than this and to help USAID [United States Agency for International Development] and other institutions that offer development support to channel the support they offer to Kenyan society also through the lens of mass atrocity and genocide prevention, and begin programs that are addressing problems in a different way than threats. Threats work, but only up to a point.

QUESTION: I have actually a follow-up on the Kenyan example because I think that's a very good one. I think you correctly point out that every time they have had multiparty elections since the early 1990s there has been violence. To some extent, regardless of what the international community is going to do, there will be violence again.

But I think that this is really a very interesting case because everybody sort of took note in 2007, and not only did the kinds of immediate things that you've described, but every German foundation, every aid agency in the world, I think is trying to deploy something into Kenya. I think this is a very interesting example of what types of prevention actually work, because I think you are going to see a lot of the kinds of processes which we think should help, and if they don't help I'm going to be very depressed.

But I think this is the way the learning works. It works at two levels. I think it works in the broader kind of 40-year time span that you are talking about, of long-term instruments, and then it works in the short term—in other words, the fact that the Konrad-Adenauer foundation put $2 million to train people to do Ushahidi-style learning, or the USAID has put in a lot of civil-society-strengthening money. It's very interesting and very persuasive as to what we can do in a case where we know violence is going to happen. The question is: How much can you mitigate?

So I think the important part is to keep your eyes on the prize at a certain level, and that is the long-term goal, and that is going to be a task that is going to at least outlive my generation. But also think about what are the various ways that you can bring these kinds of civil society groups together in what seems to be actually a relatively intelligent patterning, given all the challenges, of course, of working in Kenya or anywhere in East Africa.

I applaud your work and applaud your thinking on this.

TIBI GALIS: Thank you. I completely agree with you. So it's very much about coupling these different time-focus-oriented policies.

Again, we also spend time in our programs talking about crisis management and about dealing with pre-genocidal and genocidal situations. Those engage a certain type of responses.

We are also very keen on emphasizing how much more time there is to do something before we get to the looming lateral violence and how we should use the windows of calm in order to put in place longer-term policies.

We are very happy to see that also parts of the Kenyan government are engaged into this and they are part of the dialogue and they are coming up, with the help of many civil society actors, and on their own, with things that they are trying. We are here to learn from it.

Thank you.

KYLE WALLACE: Ladies and gentlemen, I was told that the event is actually running out of time, so I'm going to cut it here.

But on a positive note I just want to mention that a fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations by the name of Micah Zenko has recently written about the genocide prevention industrial complex. I think that just means that in the last 10, 15 years you've had a growth in civil society groups, leaders in government, that are actually realizing that it is now time to act on our commitment to the Genocide Convention.

The work being done by you, Tibi, and the Auschwitz Institute I think is testament to that, that you are really thinking, to train people and give them the skills and knowledge to actually make "never again" a reality, one of the great legacies of the 20th century that we are dealing with today.

I want to thank the Carnegie Council for inviting me to speak here.

JULIA KENNEDY: Thank you so much. Thank you both for your contributions. This has been wonderful.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Read MoreRead Less