Four years after reaffirming the nation’s commitment to genocide prevention, President Obama took action to ensure that stopping atrocities keeps drawing top-level attention when the White House gets a new occupant.
A May 18 executive order puts the work of the Atrocities Prevention Board on a permanent footing. The board keeps watch on worldwide threats to civilians, takes steps to prevent atrocities and, if prevention fails, mobilizes a response.
Representatives from federal agencies meet monthly to review classified and nonclassified information about the potential for mass killings of civilians.
Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, in a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, said the executive action means the focus on preventing atrocities “remains a fixture of American foreign policy into the next administration and beyond.”
— Department of State (@StateDept) May 19, 2016
At the Holocaust Museum in 2012, Obama declared that “preventing atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.”
Blinken said the close watch by the Atrocities Prevention Board has produced results.
“Where we have seen a gathering risk of mass violence in Burma, in Burundi, the Central African Republic, this dedicated prevention process has helped us engage earlier and more effectively,” he said.
Even as the U.S. presses for an end to the bloodshed in Syria, Blinken said, it is also working with local partners “to collect, document, preserve and analyze the evidence of atrocities” by ISIL in Iraq, Syria, Libya and beyond.
“It takes time. It takes perseverance. But the great arc of history does bend toward justice, and so it will for the mass atrocities committed today.”