31 July 2015
Helping the EU to prevent genocide and mass atrocity
Recently, the twentieth anniversary took place of the atrocities committed in 1995 in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, during which over 8,000 Bosniaks lost their lives in ethnic violence – the worst massacre in Europe since the Holocaust. Despite these horrific events in the past, mass atrocities and genocide still occur in many armed conflicts. In order to prevent these horrors from happening and to deal with the devastating aftermath when these atrocities have been committed, governments around the world are increasing their policy coordination efforts and putting educational and relief programs in place. The European Union, however, needs to step up its efforts and become a dominant contributor in this field, complementing its role as the world's biggest development aid donor. We at H+K Brussels are supporting efforts to prevent future atrocities, as initiated by the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.
The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) is a non-governmental organisation that supports states to develop or strengthen national mechanisms for the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities through education and technical assistance. AIPR also aims to encourage states to cooperate for the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities by forging networks across the globe.
AIPR seeks to promote the development, and the putting into practice, of the UN’s principle of the Responsibility to Protect (or ‘R2P’) that was established in 2005 as a commitment by UN Member States to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Among the three-pillar strategy for implementing R2P is the establishment by Member States and regional organisations of "Focal Points", in order to focus government attention and resources on R2P early warning, assessment and policy development at the national level.
Since the launch of the R2P Focal Points initiative in September 2010, 49 countries, representing every region of the world, have appointed a national R2P focal point. In the EU, 22 Member States have established a focal point and are meeting regularly to discuss the issues at stake. However, despite the increasing signs of intensified cooperation between national focal points, the EU still lacks a unified platform for R2P.
With the support of Hill + Knowlton, AIPR is pushing for the creation of a Focal Point at the EU level, to act as an effective, unified policy platform for the prevention of mass atrocities and to provide a coherent mechanism for the implementation of preventive efforts both domestically and internationally by the EU.
We are mobilising the necessary support amongst politicians in the European Parliament, officials in the European Commission and the Council, and other relevant stakeholders for the establishment of an EU Focal Point.
We are putting our knowledge of the EU decision making processes, and our messaging and outreach capacity, at the disposal of the AIPR because we are convinced that we can contribute to this intensive project and its huge and noble aim. Offering our services on a voluntary basis to organisations such as the AIPR results in mutual benefits for both these organisations and our company. The consultants involved enjoy a rewarding experience. Firstly, pro-bono work provides new opportunities and challenges to consultants by switching their focus from daily corporate and business work to humanitarian efforts, such as conflict prevention. Furthermore, it is a great occasion to learn new skills and competences as well as to develop professional contacts. Above all, we are proud to be the eyes and ears of public opinion to push for the eradication of genocide and mass atrocity, and we are proud to be working alongside the Auschwitz Institute.
Update: It was announced in August 2015 that an EU Focal Point for the Responsibility to Protect had been created. We welcome the appointment of Mr Popowski from the European External Action Service as the EU Focal Point for R2P, and look forward to the EU increasing its role in preventing genocide and mass atrocities.