Optimistically Preventing Genocide

I agree with Heather Hurlburt’s good feelings about the Genocide Prevention Task Force’s report this morning, particularly this point:

[T]he report’s recommendations are structured in such a way that they — for the most part — build genocide prevention and response into existing structures rather than proposing yet another set of parallel foreign policy institutions to deal with the challenge. This offers a welcome sophistication about how, if problems are linked together, so must solutions be.

Like I said, I agree, and I have not read the full report yet, but at least one recommendation does seem to envision a new organization that will work in some form alongside the UN and other bodies.

The secretary of state should launch a major diplomatic initiative to create among like-minded governments, international organizations, and NGOs a formal network dedicated to the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities.

This sounds good in theory, particularly if there in fact “currently exists no coherent framework for U.S. government engagement” with these actors on the issue of genocide prevention. And the report is careful to state that this network should be “[d]esigned to supplement
(not supplant) the work of the United Nations” and other institutions — another encouraging sign that it bears no shadow agenda.

Questions remain, however. Namely, who joins such a network? Is it open to anyone who want to be a member, or are qualifications required? If so, what are these criteria, and who decides? These ambiguities — which resemble the unanswered questions about any sort of “League of Democracies” — point to my primary concern here: what if countries that perpetrate genocide, or are allied with those that do, use this information-sharing network to their Orwellian best, not as a genuince cooperative endeavor to prevent and halt mass atrocities, but as a forum for cultivating deception and delay?

This fear may be misplaced, or overstated; Sudan, after all, is a member of the UN, as are the countries that have made international action to end its genocide so ineffectual. So I’ll have to be optimistic, and hope that creating a new such network will not replicate some of the problems faced by the UN, but rather, plug a few of its holes.