Mass Violence and Atrocities | Analysis and New Insights

Building State Capacity to Prevent Atrocity Crimes: Implementing Pillars One and Two of the R2P Framework

David J. Simon | September 2012


Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) requires a concerted domestic and international effort to build domestic atrocity-prevention capacity. This policy brief focuses on the first and second pillars of the doctrine, namely the aspects of state and local capacity building—assisted where appropriate through international cooperation—that offer the best hope of realizing R2P principles before the prospect of adversarial intervention arises. Working from a simplified model of how mass-atrocity threats unfold, the brief seeks to enumerate the types of interventions best suited to derail that process. It begins with state-level capacity building, consistent with the standard formulation of the first pillar of the R2P framework.

Because state authorities and individual elites are often complicit in mass atrocity crimes, however, a robust capacity-building effort should also reinforce the capacity of a broader cross section of stakeholders, including nonstate actors, to strengthen social and institutional resilience in the face of mass atrocity threats.

The brief then argues that international cooperation should support such in-country efforts, while noting some of the complications that are likely to arise in doing so. Finally, it suggests that domestic efforts and international assistance should be supplemented with ongoing internal reviews, peer evaluations, and monitoring.