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Leonard and Sophie Davis Genocide Prevention Fellowship

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The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum seeks a fellow to contribute to its research project on “Lessons-Learned in Preventing and Responding to Mass Atrocities,” made possible by a grant from The Leonard and Sophie Davis Fund.

The Simon-Skjodt Center’s “lessons learned” project aims to improve atrocity prevention strategies by strengthening their linkages to an expanding and increasingly accessible body of policy-relevant knowledge. The first element of the project is to collect, distill, and organize existing policy-relevant knowledge—defined broadly to include theoretical and empirical research as well as the insights of experienced practitioners. The second element is to help expand the knowledge base via retrospective studies of US policy in relation to major atrocity crises. The third element is to analyze how “lessons learned” could be more effectively integrated into US government atrocity prevention policymaking processes.

This fellowship will support work on the second element of the project: retrospective case studies of US policy in relation to mass atrocity crises. The fellow will help refine research questions and select appropriate methods, conduct primary research, write at least one report on their findings and recommendations, and help organize seminars or other events to solicit feedback from and present results to policymakers, scholars, and other interested audiences. The fellow will work closely with the Simon-Skjodt Center’s research director, other staff, and other outside collaborators.

The fellow should be equipped to use social science and policy research methods, especially semi-structured interviews, to research US actions with respect to one or more atrocity crises in the recent past. The principal goal of this research is to draw lessons about US government actions and inactions in helping prevent and respond to mass atrocities. For example, where there was a failure to prevent mass atrocities, the analysis should explore multiple possible roots of failure, such as lack of perceived interest, failure to develop policy options for consideration, or misjudgment is choosing a policy option. This kind of analysis requires identifying alternative policy actions that the US government might plausibly have taken and assessing their likely effects. We recognize that findings from this research will not be definitive, but believe it has potential to improve understanding of important cases and recommend ways to avoid past mistakes.

Specifically, the retrospective case analysis should address the following questions:

  • At what points or short periods of time was there a relatively heightened chance that US government action in relation to the atrocity crisis might have been significantly different?
  • Which alternative US government actions in relation to the atrocity crisis were most plausible (e.g., as evidenced by having been seriously considered but not adopted at the time)?
  • In retrospect, what were the likely consequences for levels of violence against civilians had the US government taken these alternative actions in relation to the atrocity crisis?

Cases that could be suitable for study in this context include, among others, include Sri Lanka (2009), Libya (2011), Burundi (2013-pres.), and Nigeria (2012-pres). Applicants should justify their case selection. For an example of this type of retrospective case study, see From Independence to Civil War: Atrocity Prevention and US Policy toward South Sudan by Jon Temin.

Terms of Fellowship

  • Duration: The Simon-Skjodt Center is seeking a fellow for approximately 12 months, but will consider exceptional candidates for a shorter or longer period. Fellows will be non-residential, but will be expected to visit the Museum at the beginning and end of the fellowship and to keep in regular contact with the Simon-Skjodt Center research team during the term of the fellowship. A full timeline will be agreed upon before the fellowship begins.
  • Publication: The fellowship will result in at least one written report for the Simon-Skjodt Center on the results of the research. The fellow may also be requested to present their work at appropriate convenings which they may help organize. In addition, the fellow will be encouraged to publish findings based on fellowship research in scholarly journals, relevant blogs, and policy journals.
  • Support: A competitive stipend will be provided, commensurate with experience. The Simon-Skjodt Center will also support certain pre-approved travel, research, and administrative costs associated with the fellowship.

Selection Criteria 

  • Knowledge of and prior research on mass atrocities, atrocity prevention strategies and tools, US foreign policy, or closely related topics;
  • Knowledge of the country to be researched and a network of contacts among relevant current/former US officials and country specialists;
  • Previous policy and/or foreign assistance program experience, especially in the US government, is preferred;
  • Advanced degree or at least seven years of professional experience on related topics;
  • Strength of the proposed research plans and their alignment with the goals of the Simon-Skjodt Center;
  • Ability to communicate information in a clear manner to a variety of audiences.

How to apply

Interested parties should submit the following materials to Kyra Fox at kfox@ushmm.org:

  • A 1-2 page cover letter outlining qualifications, describing how you propose to pursue the research questions articulated above, and how it will advance the goals of the Simon-Skjodt Center.
  • CV and contact information for three references.
     

About the Simon-Skjodt Center

The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide is dedicated to stimulating timely global action to prevent genocide and to catalyze an international response when it occurs. Our goal is to make the prevention of genocide a core foreign policy priority for leaders around the world through a multipronged program of research, education, and public outreach. We work to equip decision makers, starting with officials in the United States but also extending to other governments, with the knowledge, tools, and institutional support required to prevent—or, if necessary, halt—genocide and related crimes against humanity. For more information, visit ushmm.org/confront-genocide

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