Work of the Office
The Responsibility to Protect and Non-state armed groups
Where non-state armed groups (NSAG) exert control over territories and populations, governments may be unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in those areas. There may be cases, as well, where officials or political figures have encouraged NSAGs to threaten or commit such crimes. Some NSAGs appear to have a specific policy of targeting and intimidating civilian populations as a way of advancing particular political agendas.
At the 2005 World Summit, Member States did not address the responsibilities of non-state actors or armed groups. In his 2009 report on “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect”, the Secretary-General suggested that such groups should be expected to observe international standards and to refrain from inciting or committing the four specified crimes. They, too, should be held accountable for their actions in this regard. However, a strategy for implementing the Responsibility to Protect in the case of NSAGs has not yet been elaborated.
In September 2011, the Office initiated a project with Dr. William Reno, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison to respond to the need for specific policy guidelines and operational methodologies for identifying, assessing, and responding to situations involving non-state armed groups that control or target civilian populations and put them at risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and/or crimes against humanity.
For more information about this project, please contact email@example.com.
Dangerous speech on the road to genocide
Inflammatory speech often precedes mass atrocities, especially genocide. As such, it is part of the social process that makes genocide possible, as demonstrated by Radio RTLM in the Rwanda genocide. Since then, courts have acknowledged the link between speech and genocide by trying the world’s first incitement to genocide cases. However, the new jurisprudence has not described the crime fully enough to allow consistent identification of new examples of incitement to genocide.
In February 2010, Dr. Susan Benesch and the Office initiated a project to address this gap. The project will result in (1) a blueprint for monitoring dangerous speech in situations at risk of genocide and mass atrocities, (2) a methodology for gauging the dangerousness of specific speech acts, and (3) policy response options to limit the effects of dangerous speech. The research is based on a case study (Kenya ) and builds on Dr. Benesch’s knowledge and expertise on the subject matter.
The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide hosted a well attended event on “Dangerous speech on the road to genocide” on 28 October 2010 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Over 100 representatives from Member States, the United Nations, civil society and academia attended Professor Susan Benesch’s presentation on the project she and the Office of the Special Advisers have initiated to establish a methodology to identify, monitor and limit the catastrophic effects of dangerous speech. For more information on the project, watch the webcast.
Case studies on constructive management of diversity
If genocide is an extreme form of identity-related conflict, genocide prevention revolves around the constructive management of diversity. A critical step is therefore to identify the factors (discriminatory practices) in a given situation that lead to/account for acute disparities in the administration of a diverse population, and to seek ways to diminish and eventually eradicate these possible causes of genocidal violence. On behalf of the Office, in 2010 the NGO Fund for Peace prepared the first of several country case studies based on the Office’s Analysis Framework , looking at lessons learned in states’ management of diverse populations. The case studies completed have focused on Nigeria and South Africa.