Good news from Washington: Peacebuilding on the Rise
Amidst the noise, it’s sometimes hard to hear good news coming from Washington. But here is some: Support for peacebuilding in Washington is on the rise. And over the last year the Administration has taken some major steps to improve how US agencies build peace. These are all significant accomplishments for the work of peace and will pave the way for future progress. Read more about some of these encouraging developments below, as well as important opportunities for you to take action to help insure success.
First, late last year the State Department released its Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. State acknowledged their Department’s failure to sufficiently prioritize resources for peacebuilding, and committed to “embracing conflict prevention and response as a core mission” of the State Department and USAID. To elevate the State Department’s focus on peacebuilding, it is forming a Bureau on Conflict and Stability Operations. By the end of this year we expect an Assistant Secretary for Crisis and Conflict Operations to be named, who will be in charge of leading this new bureau. (Read the QDDR here.)
Second, in August the White House announced the Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities (PSD-10). PSD-10 states: “Sixty six years since the Holocaust and 17 years after Rwanda, the United States still lacks a comprehensive policy framework and a corresponding interagency mechanism for preventing and responding to mass atrocities and genocide. This has left us ill prepared to engage early, proactively, and decisively to prevent threats from evolving into large scale civilian atrocities.”
A growing consensus in Washington recognizes that building peace cannot be the responsibility of just one Department or one Agency. In the spirit of shared responsibility, PSD-10 declares the formation of an Atrocities Prevention Board mandated to "coordinate a whole of government approach." The Directive calls for an 'institutionalization' of atrocities prevention that will ensure (1) our national security apparatus responds to early indicators of potential conflicts; (2) "that departments and agencies develop and implement atrocity prevention and response strategies in a manner that allows 'red flags' and dissent to be raised to decision makers;" (3) that the training of foreign affairs officers for "smart prevention activities" improves; and (4) that the US optimally engages our allies to join us in advancing atrocity prevention and response.
Since 2004 The Peace Alliance has been calling for bold and meaningful improvements in how our government prioritizes peace and the structures mandated to carry out the work. As the Administration and State Department step up, we need your continued support.
Here’s a great opportunity to help:
Senator Coons (D-DE) and Senator Collins (R-ME) released a Dear Colleague letter this week to the President which will acknowledge the importance of the Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities, and outline the importance of coordination mechanisms between Congress and the Atrocities Prevention Board (we have attached the letter below). They are seeking fellow Senators to join them in writing to the President.
Can you call your Senator, and ask them to: "Sign on to the Coons and Collins 'Dear Colleague' letter on preventing mass atrocities?"
To call your Senator, dial the Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121
We have much more work to be done. But what has happened over the last year here in Washington is truly remarkable, and cause to celebrate.
Thank you for doing your part,
Senator Coons and Collins Mass Atrocities Prevention Dear Colleague Letter
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
As Members of the Senate committed to the protection of human rights, we believe the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities should continue to be a priority of U.S. foreign policy. In order to ensure the promise of "never again" serving as witnesses to genocide, we must develop the necessary tools to successfully avert mass atrocities and prevent the conditions that can lead to violence against innocent civilians.
Last year, the Senate unanimously voted to pass S. Con. Res. 71, a bipartisan resolution recognizing that it is in the U.S. national interest to prevent and mitigate acts of genocide and other mass atrocities against civilians. It encouraged efforts to develop a whole of government approach to prevent and mitigate such acts, and it urged your Administration to conduct an interagency review to evaluate existing capacities for anticipating, preventing, and responding to genocide and other mass atrocities.
We appreciate your leadership on this matter of shared concern, and we welcome the recently released Presidential Study Directive 10 (PSD-10), which reflects several of the recommendations outlined in S. Con. Res. 71. Both S. Con. Res. 71 and PSD-10 clearly state that preventing genocide and mass atrocities is in America's national interest and aligned with our values. As a result, the United States should improve its abilities to help avert such human tragedies and to determine specific steps to coordinate and enhance those capacities.
The recent establishment of a National Security Staff Director focused on the prevention of war crimes and atrocities, the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board, and the mandate for an interagency study to inform the work of the Board all represent important steps in that direction. It is our hope that, through the coordination of a whole of government approach to preventing mass atrocities and genocide, the Board will improve U.S. capacity for responding to warning signs of impending violence against civilians.
We look forward to hearing from you on the next steps your administration is taking to implement the recommendations put forward in S. Con. Res. 71 and PSD-10. We are particularly interested in establishing coordinating mechanisms between Congress and the Atrocities Prevention Board and working with your Administration to consider a whole of government approach to atrocities prevention. We stand ready to partner with you in the Senate to continue to improve U.S. capacity to anticipate, prevent, and respond to genocide and other mass atrocities.
Senator Coons and Collins (and other Senators we can help recruit!)