The Task Force on the European Union Prevention of Mass Atrocities delivered its assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the EU’s ability to respond to mass atrocities. This effort in many ways parallels the work of the Museum co-sponsored Genocide Prevention Task Force (GPTF), which in 2008 put forward a blueprint for U.S. policymakers to detect, prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities.
Initiated by the Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, the European report’s recommendations seek to augment the capacities of the EU system to respond to emerging crises, and to address existing core problems that currently impede prevention efforts. The assessment recognizes that the EU has a strong self-interest in bolstering its prevention capabilities because mass atrocities negatively impact a wide range of its international priorities. As the report notes, mass atrocities reverse economic development, create refugee flows, destabilize neighboring countries and regions, and contribute to future conflicts.
The assessment also points out that the moral credibility and integrity of the EU is threatened by ineffective prevention efforts, and notes “as Europe is set to decline against other powers economically and militarily, this credibility is an important asset that can easily be damaged.” However, the EU has strong basis for strengthening its ability to respond to mass atrocities, including its existing commitments to international norms, such as the responsibility to protect (R2P), as well as to human rights and conflict prevention.
The Task Force specifically indicates the following challenges within the EU system: the lack of attention to atrocity prevention in core planning documents; the focus on crisis management rather than having a prevention mindset; the absence of a specific focus on mass atrocities while analyzing unfolding events; and limited internal and external coordination on these issues. To address these problems, the assessment outlines recommendations for incorporating prevention into planning processes, cultivating expertise in this area, strengthening warning-response systems, integrating the understanding of mass atrocities into other EU work, making mass atrocity rapid reaction capacities stronger, and coordinating with internal and external actors, including regional organizations.
These themes—similar in many ways to the recommendations for US policymakers presented by the GPTF—demonstrate how complex the challenges are for preventing mass atrocities. This assessment offers a number of concrete proposals that may enable the EU to make atrocity prevention a regular function of its institutions, and hopefully, better equipped to prevent genocide and mass atrocities in the future.