Genocide Prevention Task Force: Update six months after release of the final report
July 2009 | Six month update
U.S. government actions in response to Task Force recommendations:
- Statements by the Obama administration: In commemoration of the Holocaust Days of Remembrance on April 23, President Obama spoke of his "commitment as President" to "[do] everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place in Rwanda, those taking place in Darfur." Vice President Biden gave a speech at an event hosted by USHMM on April 22, echoing key themes of the Task Force report, including asserting that preventing genocide is a high national security priority for the United States. In a speech in Vienna on June 15, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice described the Task Force report as "crucial work" toward the prevention of atrocities in the future. These statements represent progress, but remain short of the clear demonstration of presidential priority that the Task Force report urged.
- On June 10, the House passed HR 2410, the House Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which included language from Rep. Berman specifically referring to the Task Force report and requiring the administration to submit a report “outlining specific plans for the development of a government-wide strategy and the strengthening of United States civilian capacities for preventing genocide and mass atrocities against civilians.” Led by Sen. Kerry’s office, the Senate is currently considering options for promoting genocide prevention through the authorization bill.
- In response to a letter from Sen. Feinstein accompanying the Task Force report, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair committed to action on a number of the recommendations on intelligence and early warning, including preparing this year a coordinated national intelligence product addressing countries at risk of genocide in the next three-to-five years, and agreeing to highlight countries at risk of genocide in his annual threat assessment testimony to Congress. The National Intelligence Council is also in the early stages of organizing a major international conference to explore the development of a network to enhance early warning, which is in direct response to Task Force recommendations.
- The President's budget requests increased funding for diplomatic capacity and expanded contingency funds that could be used for genocide prevention, consistent with the Task Force report's recommendations.
Continuing activities by the convening organizations and others to promote the Task Force recommendations:
- Genocide Prevention Working Group: USIP, USHMM and AAD are organizing a series of private roundtable discussions to serve as an ongoing forum for dialogue between U.S. government officials and other experts related to preventing genocide. The first session looked at a Hungarian proposal for a new genocide prevention center in Budapest, and the second examined the upcoming debate at the UN General Assembly on "responsibility to protect."
- Outreach to key administration officials to brief them on the report and its recommendations.
- The American Bar Association is preparing for a vote to formally endorse the Task Force report at its annual meeting in August, which would pave the way for greater engagement on promoting the recommendations, and particularly those with an international angle.
- Outreach beyond Washington: Members of the Task Force executive committee have organized public events to spotlight the Task Force findings and recommendations in Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, as well as in London, Paris, and Brussels.
- In a speech on April 19, former President Bill Clinton said, "We have a heavy obligation to prevent future genocides to keep others from dying before their time. As two of my former cabinet secretaries, Madeleine Albright and Bill Cohen, wrote in their recently released Genocide Prevention Task Force report, 'We must honor the memory of past victims by encouraging future action. Preventing genocide is possible and striving to do so is imperative.'"
- Article by Tod Lindberg, "The Only Way to Prevent Genocide," in Commentary and on WSJ.com in April 2009.
- Opinion piece by John Heffernan, "Genocide Prevention Rather than Response Gains Favor in Policy Circles," on HuffingtonPost.com in May 2009.