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  • Mariana Goetz

Why a UK atrocity prevention strategy matters...

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

and what the UK Government should do about it.

In 2021 a record 100 million people fled violence and conflict - one almost every second.

Yet, there is insufficient coordination and next to no investment in atrocity prevention. Unspeakable and widespread human rights abuses are committed in armed conflicts every day - devastating lives and communities. While prime ministers may say that atrocity prevention is morally right and “absolutely” in the UK’s strategic interest, it takes more than words to make an impact. We are calling for a #BudgtToPrevent in 17 November's Budget announcement to give effect to recommendations from the International Development Committee's (IDC) Inquiry Report published on 17 October 2022.

Following the UK Atrocity Prevention Working Group's hard work on the need for a national Strategy in recent years, the IDC in the UK Parliament conducted an Inquiry on how the government responds to mass atrocities. The Working Group, composed of some 35 organisations and individual experts, made a Joint Submission to the Inquiry, drawing conclusions from Myanmar and Bosnia, showing that if we want to prevent mass atrocities:

  • Mass atrocity prevention needs to be a policy priority;

  • There needs to be a joined up strategy that monitors, identifies, communicates and clearly responds to warning signs with high-level engagements or long term interventions, addressing the issues with a range of tools across government;

  • Adequate funding needs to back it the policy.

“To be effective, a UK atrocity prevention strategy must cut cross policy - for example export licencing, education, asylum, border policy, justice and trade as well as foreign policy - and so be a national priority embedded across the new architectures of government, similar to the national strategy on serious and organised crime. Such an approach would see its proper integration throughout departments, risk mechanisms, and policy leading to the mandating of training, enhanced collaboration with local and UK-based civil society organisations and networks. Atrocity prevention is essential for British national security, a collective responsibility, and is economically sensible.”

In summary, the IDC Inquiry Report recommends that the Government:

  1. Give greater priority to preventing atrocities by addressing this at the Foreign Policy and Security Council, using intelligence to track imminent/escalating atrocities and submitting an annual report to Parliament;

  2. Ensure that UK Missions overseas are no longer left without the support they need by mandating relevant training for Ambassadors and introducing an Atrocity Prevention Toolkit;

  3. Strengthen the role of UK aid in tackling the drivers of atrocities, re-assessing whether enough aid is reaching communities in states at risk and introducing a new budget line in the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund whether enough aid is reaching communities in states at risk and introducing a new budget line in the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund;

  4. Allocate appropriate funds and staff to the new—and highly welcome—Office for Conflict, Stabilisation and Mediation.

Will the 17 November Budget announcement provide a #BudetToPrevent?

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