Mass Violence and Atrocities | Discussion Takeaways

Assisting States to Prevent Atrocities

October 2012


The Responsibility to Protect as affirmed at the 2005 United Nations World Summit detailed a series of shared commitments to protect civilian populations from mass-atrocity crimes—among them the responsibility of the international community to “assist states under stress” to “build capacity” to prevent and protect at the domestic level. Since 2005, the concept of reinforcing state responsibilities through international assistance has enjoyed consistent political support but lacked clear policy directives for implementation.

As part of its 53rd annual Strategy for Peace Conference, the Stanley Center convened some 30 government and international officials, mass-atrocity specialists, and civil society representatives near Washington, DC, on October 17–19, 2012, to explore the strategic and policy dimensions of assisting “states under stress” to prevent atrocity violence. Participation reflected a diverse range of global perspectives and incorporated voices from across the Global North and South.

The dialogue aimed to link conversations gaining momentum in national capitals and key multilateral organizations on building “state protection capacity” and the role of international assistance in supporting such efforts. Participants were invited to consider how an atrocity lens might focus broader objectives for structural prevention and to share experiences in navigating the political and institutional challenges of applying atrocity priorities to development assistance, crisis stabilization, and peacebuilding policy.