Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

Why We Fail:: Obstacles to the Effective Prevention of Mass Atrocities

Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2015
Pages: 28

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. (pp. [i]-[i])
  2. (pp. [ii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-1)
  4. (pp. 1-3)

    In the twenty years since the Rwandan genocide, the international community embodied in the United Nations system has developed a considerable range of policies, principles, and institutions dedicated to the goal of preventing similar tragedies of equal and lesser scale. With the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and the protection-of-civilians agenda in the UN Security Council, among many other developments, the norm of civilian immunity has made progress in the past two decades. Yet, the specter of mass atrocities has become all too prevalent once again. From Syria and Iraq to South Sudan and the...

  5. (pp. 3-7)

    Preventing atrocities is difficult and demanding. Even if there were abundant enthusiasm, consensus, and resources available for atrocity prevention by the UN, it would likely still prove impossible for the organization to prevent every such crime. This section identifies four general limitations to atrocity prevention. This is done to draw an important distinction between failures that result from inadequacies within the organization itself and those attributable to the reluctance of member states to take the necessary action. It also helps to contextualize the more specific analysis that follows and sound a note of caution about what can be expected realistically....

  6. (pp. 7-13)

    In some situations, such as Darfur (2003), Sri Lanka (2008–9), and, more recently, Libya (2011) and Syria (2011), atrocities erupt in places where the UN has only a limited field presence. Often, in these situations, the UN’s in-country efforts are focused on humanitarian or development issues and are not necessarily configured for responding to the rapid onset of a protection crisis. In these situations, the UN’s capacity to directly influence events on the ground is generally limited to (1) employing diplomatic means to persuade the parties to avoid violations of international humanitarian law, (2) providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable...

  7. (pp. 13-18)

    Studies have repeatedly shown that, overall, peacekeeping operations make a positive contribution to protection. Compared to similar cases where no peacekeepers are deployed, the deployment of peacekeepers reduces the overall number of expected civilian casualties, the duration of armed conflict, the number of battlefield deaths, and the likelihood that violent conflict will reemerge.61 A recent study by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) found that the preventive and political work of UN peacekeeping operations has “notable and positive results” for the protection of civilian populations. Thus: “Civilians invariably attach high value to missions’ physical presence, which evidence suggests...

  8. (pp. 18-23)

    Although UN member states have repeatedly committed themselves to doing more to prevent atrocity crimes and protect vulnerable populations, the reality is that atrocity prevention confronts significant challenges. Not least, it must compete with other priorities for attention and resources. There are many reasons why the UN sometimes fails to prevent atrocities. Sometimes the UN fails simply because a party is so determined to commit atrocities that there is little besides full-scale war that would stop it; at other times, the organization’s member states are unable to reach agreement about preventing atrocities or find sufficient will to adopt the required...

  9. (pp. 24-24)