Mass Violence and Atrocities

Red Flags or Resilience? COVID-19’s Impact on Atrocity Risks

September 2020


New multimedia commissioning project seeks to explore the connections between the coronavirus pandemic and the factors for risk and resilience to mass violence and atrocities.

In January 2020, the World Health Organization called the COVID-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern; by March 2020, they had declared the viral disease a pandemic. As an organization focused on upstream prevention of mass violence and atrocities, we very quickly recognized that the massive disruption caused by the pandemic contained similar characteristics to the kinds of “shocks” that can trigger risks for violence. As countries and communities around the world began responding to the virus, however, we could also see examples of resilience and collective action for the common good emerging.

This raised several questions for us at the Stanley Center, which we began to consider alongside others working across the fields of peacebuilding and mass violence and atrocity prevention:

  • How is COVID-19 impacting factors of risk or resilience for mass violence and atrocities?
  • What can history and recent developments related to COVID-19 tell us about pandemics as a triggering factor for mass violence?
  • Where are there opportunities for strengthening structural elements of mass violence and atrocity prevention during and after COVID-19?

With these questions in mind, the Stanley Center is organizing a multimedia project that examines how the pandemic itself and government responses can either mitigate or contribute to risk factors for atrocities.

Drawing on our experience and networks in both atrocity prevention and journalism and media, we are commissioning a series of pieces that use the UN’s Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes and Alex Bellamy’s five factors for strengthening resilience as lenses of analysis.

By delving into the pandemic’s implications for peace and resilience from various perspectives, this project will build a shared understanding of atrocity prevention for media and policy experts, including those working in the related fields of peacebuilding, human rights, and justice. These commissions also seek to spark conversations among and between these different communities, illuminating how prevention-focused responses to COVID-19 can create mutually beneficial policy solutions across all levels of governance.

We anticipate commissioning authors with experience in journalism, academia, atrocity prevention, and related fields. Through this project, we intend to incorporate a variety of media formats—including written work, photography, podcast episodes, and more—to integrate rich and diverse perspectives on these themes. The Stanley Center will publish and aggregate all of the project’s content on our website, while encouraging authors to pitch and publish their content on other platforms and outlets as well.

Use the form below the FAQ to pitch a commission idea to us, or to simply suggest a topic, angle, or author you’d like to see involved in this project. We encourage submissions from authors from underrepresented groups or regions.


Who would make a good author?

We’re looking for pitches and suggestions for authors who might be a good fit for this project. Strong candidates will include freelance journalists, photographers, and/or subject-matter experts from within the atrocity prevention field. Authors should have examples of published work (e.g. media articles, research articles, op-eds, or other relevant content).

What are you looking for in a pitch?

Pitches should be for new analysis that applies the UN’s Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes and Alex Bellamy’s five factors for strengthening resilience in local contexts or geographies to examine where COVID-19 has created or exacerbated risks for mass violence, or that analyzes the ways in which prevention-focused policies or community-based approaches are working to build more resilient, peaceful societies. We are looking for pitches around 300 words.

We are especially interested in journalistic investigation of—or expert commentary on—existing evidence, or analysis that includes the lived experience of authors in their own communities. We welcome ideas from around the world.

We cannot consider simultaneously submitted or previously published articles.

Are there any guidelines for length or style of the commissioned work?

For written commissioned work, the target length of published articles will be 800 to 1,500 words. Photographers pitching photo essay ideas will not have the same word count specifications.

Works should be evidence-based, but written in a style that is accessible to a non-expert audience. Please avoid overly technical language or jargon.

We cannot accept research grant proposals, as our organization does not make grants.

Will I be paid for my work?

Yes, we offer competitive rates for works we commission, and we process payments promptly.

Additionally, the center will reimburse reasonable expenses incurred for necessary travel related to reporting or research (e.g. hotel, airfare, taxis, etc.), so long as these expenses are pre-approved by the Stanley Center and itemized receipts for such expenses are provided.

How will I be credited?

Works will be commissioned using a work-for-hire agreement. Authors or photographers will be credited anywhere their work appears on the Stanley Center website.

Where will the commissions be published?

Commissioned pieces will be published on the Stanley Center website, although authors can also coordinate with us to publish in media outlets or other publications. We work with authors from story conception, through reporting, editing, and publication on our site, as well as pitching to outside publishing partners. We reserve the right to decline publishing works that do not meet our editorial standards.

Is there a deadline?

We are accepting submissions on a rolling basis, but we can pursue only a limited number of pitches. If you are interested, we encourage you to apply now.