The establishment of the interagency Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) last year by the Obama administration was an important milestone in developing a comprehensive policy framework to prevent future atrocities. The work that will come out of APB can help create infrastructure and more possibilities for the work of peacebuilding — with potential to save countless lives and tremendous devastation.
We congratulate the President’s administration for taking this on and encourage them to move it now even further into fruition. While there is continual progress, they are well behind their promised deadlines on some key implementation. We need to encourage further progress.
We are proud to be a part of the Prevention and Protection Working Group (PPWG), a coalition of peacebuilding organizations that advocated for this reform. The Peace Alliance recently signed on to a letter to the President, with other PPWG partners, calling for the administration to move forward in four key areas:
- Release an Executive Order on Atrocities Prevention that articulates the U.S. government’s comprehensive strategy for preventing mass atrocities and the key functions of those overseeing its implementation.
- Consult meaningfully with NGOs, the American public and Congress.
- Coordinate with international partners.
- Recommit publicly to atrocities prevention as a moral responsibility and national security priority.
Please join us by signing our petition, which will generate a letter to the president urging him to engage on these issues, spelled out further below.
Letter Sent to President Obama
Dear President Obama,
On behalf of a growing constituency of Americans dedicated to the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities, we write to congratulate you on the important progress you continue to make with Presidential Study Directive 10 (PSD-10) and the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB). One year since the public launch of the Board and announcement of the still classified PSD-10 report, the APB has created an impressive interagency architecture to spur long-term reforms that increase the United States’ ability to help prevent mass atrocities. Unfortunately, there has been limited information shared with the public about the U.S. government’s overriding strategy for preventing atrocities.
Working with congressional and civil society supporters and engaging the American public will help deflect criticism that misrepresents the purpose of PSD-10 and the APB, and will increase the prospects of these important new structures living beyond your administration. We urge you to take these immediate steps toward greater transparency, including:
1. Release an Executive Order on Atrocities Prevention that articulates the U.S. government’s comprehensive strategy for preventing mass atrocities and the key functions of those overseeing its implementation. The White House Fact Sheet released in April 2012 was a good start, providing steps taken by specific agencies, but the overall function of the body tasked with implementing that strategy remains a mystery. In the Fact Sheet you committed the APB to begin work on an Executive Order within six months. A year since that announcement, the time for an Executive Order has come. It should serve to further institutionalize the structural progress that has been made, but also comprise the next step in public engagement that could be followed by the public release each year of the APB’s Annual Report to the President.
2. Consult meaningfully with NGOs, the American public and Congress. In order to create a constituency for the APB, it is critical to engage a variety of stakeholders. A year after the APB was established, a clear mechanism for civil society to feed into the APB process does not exist. More specifically, we recommend a framework of annual meetings between the APB and NGOs, quarterly meetings with the sub-APB, and an annual public dialogue exploring countries and cases that should be on the APB’s agenda in the coming year. Additionally, Congress has not been consistently consulted or briefed, turning many potential bipartisan allies into growing critics. Our organizations will be engaging Congress, seeking hearings on atrocities prevention and exploring ways to further institutionalize the U.S. government’s atrocities prevention efforts—including through possible resolutions and legislation. Finally, engaging the American public will be essential to shoring up further support in Congress, for securing the resources needed for atrocities prevention efforts to succeed, and toward your atrocities prevention efforts living beyond your time in office. With surveys showing that 7 in 10 Americans think the U.S. should prevent or stop genocide/mass atrocities from occurring in other parts of the world, engagement with the American public is an untapped resource of support. Many of our organizations will be actively messaging to our growing anti-genocide grassroots constituencies on the importance of the right policy to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.
3. Coordinate with international partners. As stated by the Genocide Prevention Task Force, the U.S. has an interest in promoting strong global norms against genocide and mass atrocities, and coordinated international action is needed for effective prevention. Transparency as to the purpose and function of the Board and broader U.S. government efforts will serve to strengthen the U.S. argument to international partners for the need of similar national strategies that can enhance coordination for a strengthened global effort to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.
In addition, developments in atrocities prevention initiatives at the UN, within regional organizations, and in other capitals offer important points for collaboration and shared learning that cannot be leveraged without more direct and open engagement.
4. Recommit publicly to atrocities prevention as a moral responsibility and national security priority. As the crisis in Syria continues, on the occasion of genocide prevention month, one year since the establishment of the APB, 10 years since the genocide began in Darfur, and nearly 20 years since the Rwanda genocide, we urge you to speak to the American public about your continued prioritization of genocide and atrocity prevention efforts.
Our organizations are passionate about the success of the APB because we want to see real and measurable change on the ground. Ongoing atrocities in Syria, attacks on civilians and blocking of humanitarian aid in Sudan, a renewed cycle of violence in Congo, and recent incitement of anti-Muslim violence in Burma are just a few of the many emergencies around the world that continue to shock our conscience. We believe that the APB can play a powerful role in spurring bold leadership and proactive policy attention to these ongoing atrocities, as well as building capacity throughout the interagency to prevent future crises before the killing begins.
Again we thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership and the important accomplishments you have overseen in the U.S. government’s ability to prevent atrocities. The time to secure and build upon those accomplishments is now. It is time to show the American public what progress has been made, to reiterate your continued commitment to atrocities prevention, and to fully engage the many allies you have in this important task. As organizations dedicated to preventing and stopping genocide and mass atrocities, we are eager to support you and your administration in those efforts.
3P Human Security
Alliance for Peacebuilding
Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation Better World Campaign
Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) Enough Project
Friends Committee on National Legislation Genocide Watch
Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide Global Rights
Physicians for Human Rights
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team
The Peace Alliance
United to End Genocide
The Prevention and Protection Working Group is a coalition of human rights, religious, humanitarian, anti-genocide, peace and other organizations dedicated to improving U.S. government policies and civilian capacities to prevent violent conflict, mass atrocities and protect civilians threatened by such crises.