Preventing atrocities is a complex and dynamic challenge, particularly in societies marked by conflict, grievance, and distrust.  Efforts by domestic and international actors to prevent atrocities can take many forms – ranging from long-term upstream prevention, to immediate crisis responses, to post-atrocity response. 

Prepared by Freedom House, ABA ROLI, Global Rights, and Internews for USAID, this report provides a valuable overview of five critical subjects – including hate speech, early warning, documentation, transitional justice, the justice sector, and national human rights institutions  – and outlines the role they can play in atrocity prevention.

Click here to read the report. (PDF 1.4 MB)

Introduction

Atrocity crimes – including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity – which are marked by the large-scale and deliberate targeting of civilians, are violations that particularly offend the collective consciousness and are acts that countries around the globe have agreed to prevent and punish. Unfortunately, notwithstanding international treaty commitments, or the 2005 affirmations by heads of state of their “responsibility to protect” against these offenses, these crimes continue to happen all too often, both during and outside armed conflict.

The diverse circumstances that lead to atrocities are often rooted in grievances that escalate to drivers and immediate triggers of atrocity. Core grievances vary across societies and may include ethnic and religious divisions, resources and border disputes, income inequality, lack of access to justice, legacies of past conflicts, impunity, systematic inadequacy of government response, authoritarian or dictatorial government and the oppression or neglect of vulnerable communities. Unaddressed grievances that fester may escalate to become “drivers of atrocity” such as hate speech or particularly conspicuous cases of impunity.

Preventing atrocities is a complex and dynamic challenge particularly in societies marked by conflict, grievance, and distrust.  Efforts by international actors, such as USAID, to prevent atrocities can take many forms – ranging from long-term upstream prevention, to immediate crisis responses, to post-atrocity response.  The five chapters presented in this toolkit (1) introduce foundational topics such as hate speech, early warning, documentation, transitional justice, justice sector interventions, and the role of national human rights institutions and paralegals; (2) provide valuable case studies and lessons learned for USAID missions; (3) and outline opportunities for future USAID atrocity prevention programming.  Together, the topics discussed in this toolkit are intended to help raise awareness among USAID staff of these disciplines and their vital linkages to atrocity prevention. 

This report was prepared by Freedom House, ABA ROLI, Global Rights, and Internews drawing upon their unique technical expertise to outline tools and approaches to support atrocity prevention.  Each chapter presents a different critical aspect of atrocity prevention designed to inform the development of an Atrocity Prevention Toolkit for USAID field missions.