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United States Announces Initiative to Prevent Genocide and Mass Atrocities


The White House has announced a new presidential directive aimed at strengthening the U.S. Government's ability to prevent mass atrocities and impose consequences on serious human rights violators.

The Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities will orchestrate a comprehensive interagency assessment of how best to accomplish the prevention of genocide, and creates an Interagency Atrocity Prevention Board to coordinate the government's approach to engagement.  The Atrocity Prevention Board will have the authority to develop prevention strategies and to ensure that concerns are brought to the attention of high-level officials.

The Presidential Directive also instructs the administration to undertake a 100-day review in order to take an inventory of the full range of economic, diplomatic, and other tools available to U.S. policymakers, to develop the appropriate governmental organization to ensure early preventative action, to improve the collection and processing of indicators of mass atrocities, to provide a channel for dissent to be heard during a crisis, and to train and prepare diplomats, armed forces, and international development professionals, among others.  The directive recognizes that the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities is an international effort, and thus calls for a strategy to engage key regional allies and partners.

The Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities marks the first time that entry to the United States will be explicitly barred for persons who organize or participate in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of human rights.

The presidential statement and a new interagency process for preventing mass atrocities were key recommendations of the 2008 Genocide Prevention Task Force, which was co-chaired by Madeleine Albright and William Cohen.  Other recommendations already adopted include the creation of a White House position dedicated to preventing and responding to mass atrocities and war crimes, greater planning for mass atrocities at the Pentagon and State Department, and an increased focus on indications of genocide in the intelligence community.

Several organizations applauded the initiative, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was involved in the Genocide Prevention Task Force and continues to contribute to follow-up efforts such as the working group on the Responsibility to Protect.