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What does it take to stop genocide?

Compared to other global issues in daily headlines, the violence in conflict-ridden countries and modern-day genocides seem to go by barely noticed without being showcased on the front of a newspaper or televised on the evening news. Both the general public and policy makers remain unaware of the issues occurring in remote countries.

So what does it take to stop genocide? We (i-ACT Interns, Emma, Pauline, and Michael) answered this question through a movement mapping activity. We started by expressing our individual goals, which were as follows:

Emma: Sustainable peace through effective policy making.

Pauline: Understanding of background of conflict and genocide/ Understanding post-genocide environments or why more regions are more prone to genocide.

Michael: Work within existing political systems in order to deal with mass atrocities/ UN peacekeeping force with offensive mandate/ Humanitarian buffer zone.

From here we were able to formulate our collective mission of creating an understanding of genocide by providing educational tools to be later used to create and support policies for lasting peace. When Stop Genocide Now began, it initially targeted civil society in order to trigger action. Genocide prevention was to be brought about by utilizing a sense of compassion and empathy for the victims by putting names and faces to numbers. In turn, a concerned populace would feel the need to urge policymakers into action.

We decided to take this a few steps further and start at the root, asking ourselves, how can we create a real and inherent interest and empathy in a large part of civil society?

We reviewed the significance and level of activity of who we believe are key players in genocide prevention efforts. We consider them to be states and their governments, civil society, the United Nations and the media. This then prompted the questions: Why are mass atrocities still occurring? What is each player missing?

Collectively, we agreed that governments have the tools but often times not the will, while civil society possess the will, they are in need of the tools. The UN has no mandate while it faces the dynamics of international power politics, and the media does not make mass atrocities across the world a priority. We then arrived at the idea to focus on a transcontinental education of students 18 years and younger. Students would be taught the topic of genocide in two different ways:

Workshops: students participate in a workshop during school hours to learn about different genocides and mass atrocities and their effects on people and society.

International and Local Service Projects: students will gain an understanding of global issues and their root causes through hands-on experience within the community and/or by visiting regions affected by genocide.

Why do we believe that this is the right approach?

The complexity and remoteness of genocide makes it extremely difficult to pique the interest of the populace in powerful countries like the United States. Sparking a lasting interest in young minds has the potential to translate into a passion for public awareness and the urge to push policymakers. Our long term goal is for a curriculum to be created and implemented in schools either as genocide-based classes or for genocide to be reviewed in depth in already existing classes such as history. Our hope is that some of the children who have learned about genocide and the effects will go on to pursue a career in government and/or policy making and show a genuine interest in activism. These same students will then create and implement lasting policies that will survive through politically varying administrations. Once an inherent interest and urge to care exists within the general public, the political will to keep genocide-related directives and legislation will stay.



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