The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) welcomes President Obama’s announcement today of the establishment of an interagency Atrocities Prevention Board (APB). This important initiative, which follows the issuance of a Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities in August 2011, institutionalizes the U.S. government’s ability to respond to and prevent genocide and mass atrocities worldwide.
“This important act will elevate the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide to a core national security interest and create a mechanism to address prevention of genocide,” said E. Robert Goodkind, Chair of JBI.
JBI staff participated in early meetings on the implementation of the August 2011 directive and provided recommendations on the structure and functions of the APB. JBI welcomes the Administration’s adoption of some of those recommendations, including comprising the APB of senior officials and ensuring that the APB will prioritize engagement with civil society. JBI congratulates Samantha Power, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council, on her appointment as Chair of the APB.
In his remarks, delivered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Obama also outlined a new comprehensive strategy for preventing and responding to atrocities, including an Executive Order he signed yesterday that authorizes targeted sanctions against those who commit or facilitate serious human rights abuses in Iran and Syria using information technology.
President Obama’s speech underscored how the creation of the APB and placing the prevention of atrocities as a key focus of the Administration’s foreign policy will help the U.S. remember the Holocaust and honor the pledge of “never again.”
Genocide prevention has long been a priority issue for the Jacob Blaustein Institute. In April 2011, JBI published Compilation of Risk Factors and Legal Norms for the Prevention of Genocide. This compendium, assembled at the request of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Dr. Francis M. Deng, presents a set of risk factors for genocide and their normative bases in international law.