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Improving the Use of Lessons Learned and Other Evidence for Atrocity Prevention in the US Department of State

September 2023

Virtually every report on US government efforts to prevent mass atrocities has called for greater investment in lessons learned efforts. At the same time, recent legislation and policy initiatives demonstrate that the US government is increasingly committed to using evidence in policy making across the board, including in atrocity prevention. Yet, no study has analyzed the obstacles to using lessons learned and other evidence for atrocity prevention and how they might be addressed. This report seeks to help fill the gap.

Julia Fromholz, a former State Department official, began the project during her time as a Leonard and Sophie Davis Genocide Prevention Fellow. Along with Simon-Skjodt Center staff, she interviewed current and former State Department officials to understand the obstacles they faced in the use of lessons learned. 

Based on interviews and a review of relevant literature, the report offers 19 specific recommendations to advance priority goals, including promoting a stronger learning culture, strengthening internal knowledge generation and sharing, enhancing the use of lessons learned and other evidence in training, and increasing accountability for using lessons learned and other evidence in atrocity prevention decision making.