During this time of unprecedented volatility, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) is working to provide the global atrocity prevention community with the necessary tools and other resources necessary to continue its essential work. To this end, our Director of Academic Programs, Dr. James Waller, has produced a Policy Challenge Brief that assists policymakers and other stakeholders in applying an atrocity prevention lens to their work both during, and following, the COVID-19 Pandemic. In “Implications of COVID-19 for Atrocity Prevention,” Dr. Waller provides a framework for essential policy considerations that must be taken into account as a result of this unique atmosphere in order to stop a range of accelerating and triggering factors from enabling the outbreak of mass atrocity violence.
While risk factors for genocide and other mass atrocities can be found in every country around the world independent of pandemic conditions, many of these factors become enlarged or enhanced during times of instability such as this. Categorized as “accelerants” and “triggers,” these enable existing divisions to escalate and transform into violent and/or genocidal conflict. The Brief, authored by Dr. Waller with research assistance provided by AIPG’s Academic Programs Officer Dr. Ashley Greene and Academic Programs Associate Mariana Salazar Albornoz, focuses specifically on the impact that COVID-19 will have on deeply divided, fragile, conflict-prone, or at-risk societies. The resulting recommendations, however, fully align with established best practices for prevention in societies across the spectrum of development.
Dr. Waller’s analysis illustrates the manner in which the COVID-19 Pandemic’s pervasiveness has produced a policy challenge for societies around the world that requires multi-faceted responses in three distinct spheres of risk: governance, economic conditions, and social fragmentation. Taken as a whole, the recommendations provided reinforce the fundamental and urgent necessity of atrocity prevention work at this perilous moment. If any of the risk factors that are being exacerbated by COVID-19 are allowed to proliferate, there is the potential for them to lead directly to genocide or other mass atrocities.