Mass Violence and Atrocities

The Stanley Center believes societies can be made more peaceful through inclusive, collective, sustained commitments to prevention-focused policy.

We focus on the structural prevention of identity-based mass violence and atrocities.

Mass violence is a process, but not an eventuality. At each stage in the devolution toward it, steps can be taken to respond to or prevent further degradation. And while prevention measures are important at every stage—from the early efforts to address systemic factors to those midstream that prevent further acceleration amid violence to downstream efforts that repair, bring justice, and prevent recurrence—the Stanley Center fosters innovation and collaboration on strategies for early, structural prevention within societies.

No society is immune to large-scale and systemic violence, the impacts of which have devastating consequences that last generations. But by working collectively, we have the tools and strategies for all actors, at all levels, to prevent mass violence and build more peaceful societies. Effective prevention requires a collective, whole-of-society approach, engaging a range of stakeholders from government, civil society, and the private sector. Marginalized or minority groups must be engaged in leading roles in prevention, as they are the most essential agents of change.

Making societies more resilient—in the face of rising tensions and disputes—is key. Decades of research and peacebuilding efforts show that certain structural conditions can make societies more vulnerable. We believe the best path to address these conditions is through genuine and effective partnerships led by local expertise and complementary to other fields of practice.

How We Work

At the Stanley Center, our work is rooted in strategic partnerships and critical analysis. To improve policy and governance, we work across sectors and through collective action to build on existing knowledge and draw out new, creative approaches to prevention and resilience. When choosing where to focus our programming, we consider where we can best apply these approaches to create the most impact.

We know preventing violence is a process that requires ongoing, sustained attention with solutions from local, subnational, national, and regional actors and from across sectors. After a decade of working on preventing genocide and other forms of violence, we continue to facilitate progress in prevention because we believe all people deserve to live in just and peaceful societies.

Key Strategies

Leveraging locally led civil society action and expertise

Inclusive and sustained cooperation among civil society is an essential component of long-term peace, as it ensures diverse viewpoints are incorporated into local, national, regional, and multilateral policy solutions. We work to bring those actors together and amplify their contributions.

Engaging at city and subnational levels in prevention

Nine of 10 instances of lethal violence take place outside of conflict zones, most often in cities. City and subnational actors tend to be better connected to the local experience, making them more agile and nimble service providers. With an increased understanding of prevention, strengthened capacity for collaborative efforts, and multipurpose solutions that build on existing priorities for city leaders, real progress can be made that complements prevention efforts at all levels of governance.

Understanding digital technology’s potential

Offline conflict is often started or fueled online, and tech and social media platforms can be used to divide, repress, and mobilize; they may also be useful as tools to identify, track, and address risks for violence. The role of technology platforms in prevention and the policies that shape the tech industry require deeper exploration that we are working to enhance.

Disrupting cycles of identity-based mass violence

A society is more likely to experience mass violence if it has a history of violence or division. We are working to build an understanding of prevention-focused solutions that address societal trauma and intersectional social identities.

Questions about our work? Interested in collaborating?

Follow us on Twitter (@StanleyConnect) or contact a member of our team working to prevent mass violence and atrocities.

Are you a journalist or in media?

In addition to our efforts to drive policy progress, the Stanley Center creates media trainings and forums, facilitates reporting fellowships, and regularly invites journalists to share their unique perspectives in policy conversations. Learn more about how to get involved.

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