Legal and Policy Tools to Prevent Atrocities

In 2012, at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Obama announced the adoption of a global strategy to prevent atrocities. This strategy is based on a set of recommendations generated by a comprehensive interagency review of the U.S. government’s capabilities mandated by Presidential Study Directive 10 (PSD-10) of 2011. In unveiling this major new initiative, President Obama underscored that

Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.

Foundational to the PSD-10 recommendations was the creation of a high-level interagency Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) to monitor at-risk countries and emerging threats and coordinate the U.S. government’s responses to atrocity situations. The National Security Staff’s Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights convenes the APB. Since being established in 2012, the APB has worked to amass and strengthen a range of legal, diplomatic, military, and financial tools for atrocity prevention. Although the APB is a U.S. initiative, it also aims to build multilateral support around the imperative of prevention, working with the U.N. Offices on Genocide Prevention and on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), regional organizations such as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, committed partner states, and non-governmental entities.

This policy lab has been supporting the APB primarily through one of its constitutive entities, the Office of Global Criminal Justice (GCJ) in the U.S. Department of State. GCJ advises the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights on U.S. policy addressed to the prevention of, responses to, and accountability for mass atrocities. As relevant, our work is shared with other agencies—including the National Security Council (NSC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of the Treasury, and the Agency for International Development (USAID)—as well as other State Department offices, such as the Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy & Labor (DRL), the Bureau of Conflict & Stabilization Operations (CSO), and the Bureau of International Organizations (IO).  The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, a quasi-governmental entity, has recently created a new program devoted to international justice that will also serve as a source of potential projects. This year, we will work with a number of non-governmental organizations dedicated to atrocities prevention and response, such as the Enough! Project, Guernica 37, the Center for Justice & Accountability, Nuru International, the ABA’s Center for Human Rights, and the Clooney Foundation. Many of these organizations are gearing up to carry on this work in the event that atrocities prevention diminishes in priority in the current administration.

Based upon on student interest, the lab will take on a range of projects devoted to (a) strengthening existing tools, (b) building new capabilities, (c) evaluating the efficacy of past efforts in order to glean lessons learned, and (d) gathering best practices from other states and entities engaged in similar endeavors, all with an eye toward developing concrete recommendations for future action. Research will be interdisciplinary and will require students to understand the legal framework as well as the policy context in which the project has arisen. Working with the client entity, the students will need to glean, and potentially help shape, the critical equities of the sponsoring organization.  In addition to classic legal research, students will have to work with, evaluate, and potentially create data sets; undertake structured interviews of key interlocutors within and outside the client entity; and create multiple iterations of the work product for presentation and evaluation.

The Lab will meet for the first time the week of April 10th. From then on, students will work in teams and will arrange sessions with the client, the instructors, and each other. We will meet weekly or biweekly at a mutually convenient time in the Law School.

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