February 28, 2018
The Ferencz International Justice Initiative is the newest pillar of the Simon-Skjodt Center's atrocity prevention work. While the Center has long worked on early warning and "upstream" prevention, as well as responding to mass atrocities when they break out, the Center is now adding a third critical component to our work. We know that when societies fail to effectively deal with past atrocities, the cycle of violence continues and atrocities are far more likely to occur again.
Now, through the work of the newly launched Ferencz Initiative, we are concertedly addressing the need for post-conflict accountability. The Ferencz Initiative aims to increase the political will for justice in order to deter atrocities and redress victims by (1) empowering and equipping victims of atrocity crimes and their representatives to become agents of change by developing and implementing long-term and holistic strategies to pursue justice; and (2) strengthening decision-makers' commitment to the role that justice can play in preventing mass atrocities and developing the ecosystem in which justice can thrive. In all of our work, we draw upon the Museum's full platform to utilize all the tools we have - research, outreach, education - to create the ecosystem where political will for accountability will take root and victims can realize their quest for justice.
The Ferencz Initiative launched this strategy at its inaugural convening in November 2017, which brought together over 70 civil society actors, victims who have previously pursued justice in situation of mass atrocity, and leading international justice experts. This convening was one in a series of events and workshops that the Ferencz Initiative has hosted and will continue to host in order to shed light on the importance of building momentum and political will for justice from the ground up.
Last fall, the Ferencz Initiative co-hosted a film screening of the documentary film Finding Oscar, which shares the remarkable story of the tireless efforts of victims and their representatives in Guatemala to seek justice for crimes committed during the country's brutal civil war. More recently, in late January 2018, the Ferencz Initiative co-hosted a panel discussion on promoting justice for mass atrocities with the National Endowment for Democracy. The panel, which featured Yasmin Sooka, Frances Harrison, Carlos Castresana Fernández, and JS Tissainayagam, and was moderated by Ari Bassin, focused on empowering affected communities and local civil society organizations to pursue accountability, even where political will is lacking.