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Civil Society Meets in Berlin to Discuss the Future of Atrocity Prevention

Panelists discuss atrocity prevention in the age of Syria. Global Public Policy Institute

The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, in partnership with the Global Public Policy Institute, hosted a convening of Transatlantic civil society organizations on atrocity and conflict prevention April 4-5, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. The goal of the convening was to discuss how organizations could collaborate to maintain prioritization of atrocity prevention among their respective governments.

The need for civil society engagement stemmed from a recognition that in the majority of the Transatlantic countries, governments’ engagement with atrocity prevention is not matched by civil society engagement. The absence of strong civil society interest in this issue means that a number of the governments are lacking constructive bottom-up domestic pressure to help build the political will and space to create concrete ideas on how to operationalize atrocity prevention.  It also means that there is a lack of accountability when governments fail to act or live up to their commitments.

The convening focused on the role of civil society in informing government policies, preserving atrocity prevention as a foreign policy objective in the face of failures such as Syria, and gleaning practical lessons from the myriad of challenges facing organizations who work on these issues. In an effort to nurture a track two process within the Transatlantic region, participants came from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Key Take-aways:

  1. In addition to working in very different policy contexts, organizations approach atrocity prevention from a range of conceptual frameworks

  2. Participants from all countries listed three main challenges to maintaining government prioritization of atrocity prevention: rising nationalist rhetoric, lack of unified messaging from transatlantic governments, and indifference to mass atrocity crimes perpetrated abroad

  3. There is much work to be done in many countries to explicitly link atrocity prevention to the national interest

  4. Collaboration between international civil society organizations is critical, particularly the exchange of best practices and tactical discussions about how to engage parliamentarians and the public