The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) welcomes and applauds the recent Executive Order made by US President Barack Obama on May 18, 2016 entitled “A Comprehensive Approach to Atrocity Prevention and Response.” The Executive Order represents a significant step towards the institutionalization of the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) and its integration into the federal government of the United States. It also reiterates the President’s declaration that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.”
The Executive Order outlines the mandate, structure, priorities, functions, and objectives of the APB, which works to “coordinat[e] a whole-of-government approach to prevent mass atrocities and genocide.” The APB was created as a result of the Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities – known as PSD-10 – in April of 2012 and, in the words of a Senior Administration Official, functions with the primary goal of “mov[ing] upstream in the prevention realm.” The APB accomplishes this goal by convening high-level officials from nearly a dozen government agencies to “scan the horizon” by considering the state of at-risk country cases and ensuring that critical information makes its way through the relevant apparatuses of the United States Government. The APB is dedicated to developing tools that work to alleviate the consequences of mass atrocities and is also actively working to institutionalize the knowledge and lessons learned as a result of these efforts.
In addition to this, the second section of the Executive Order defines “mass atrocity” for the first time under U.S. law. It delineates mass atrocities as “large scale and deliberate attacks on civilians” and “includes acts falling within the definition [of] ‘genocide’ as defined in international law and under U.S. domestic statute.”
AIPR recognizes this Executive Order as an important step towards the continued institutionalization of this mechanism for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. In addition, AIPR strongly urges members of the United States Congress to support the President’s action by passing the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016 (S.2551) into law. The successful adoption of this legislation would make the Atrocities Prevention Board a permanent part of the country’s Comprehensive Approach to Atrocity Prevention and Response.
The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation produces an annual Booklet on National Mechanisms for the Prevention of Genocide and Atrocity Crimes, which features updates on the APB and other officially established Mechanisms from around the world. Each of these bodies is made up of representatives from different areas of government relevant to the prevention of mass atrocities who come together to work towards the development of a coordinated national strategy for prevention. The 2016 edition of this publication is available here.