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Inquiry seeks to prevent atrocities in Bosnia and beyond

1 December 2021

The International Development Committee (IDC) is starting an inquiry into the effectiveness of the UK government’s approach to atrocity prevention within and outside conflicts, including its work in promoting dialogue and reconciliation between communities. The inquiry will be called Promoting dialogue and preventing atrocities: the UK government approach.

Bosnia and Herzegovina as a case study

The inquiry will use Bosnia and Herzegovina as a case study, looking to the past and at the future. Atrocities took place there in the early 1990s, during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Although a peace agreement was signed in 1995, there is a continuing emphasis on ethnicity in the political life of the country and, recently, tensions between ethnic groups have been rising.


In 2005, United Nations member states, including the UK, committed to work to prevent mass atrocities. They pledged to use diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This common undertaking is known as the ‘Responsibility to Protect’. The current IDC inquiry will focus on the effectiveness of UK government tools and strategies to bolster the ‘Responsibility to Protect’.

This inquiry is part of the Committee’s wider work to monitor humanitarian crises and strengthen the focus on their prevention. For example, the IDC previously recommended a more thorough approach to atrocity prevention in its recent report on the current conflict in parts of northern Ethiopia, The Humanitarian situation in Tigray. This called for atrocity prevention training for British Embassy staff in the capital Addis Ababa and for UK diplomats in neighbouring countries.

The inquiry launch coincides with a Parliamentary Backbench Business Committee debate tomorrow on ‘Stability and peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina’.

Chair's comments

Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP said:

“Atrocity prevention is cheaper, quicker and more effective than trying to deal with the consequences of conflict. The UK is in a prime position through our Embassies to spot early warning signs and encouraging dialogue at every turn. It is so obviously a good investment, not least because we could prevent human suffering and stop situations spiralling out of control.

“After events like the genocide of the ethnic Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 or the atrocities that took place in Bosnia in the early 1990s, politicians around the world said “Never Again”. But saying that is not enough – we should actively contribute to stopping future atrocities taking place.

“The UK has highly skilled civil servants and diplomats who can lead on this work. My committee will seek to help them by recommending which tools and techniques could strengthen the government’s approach”

Scope of the inquiry

The deadline date for submissions to this inquiry was Wednesday 19 January 2022, However, the Committee will strive to consider written evidence submissions that arrive before Friday 6 May 2022

In your written evidence, please state if you wish for it to be anonymous and/or confidential.

A general guide on how to submit written evidence is here. The call for evidence for this specific inquiry is here. The Committee will also invite witnesses to public evidence sessions, to answer questions.

Written submissions are invited on one or more of the following topics:

  • What role the FCDO should play in convening cross-government work on atrocity prevention
  • The role of UK aid programmes in atrocity prevention, including promoting dialogue and reconciliation between communities in conflict, post-conflict and non-conflict settings
  • How atrocity prevention can be embedded in the work of UK Posts – for example, who should lead; what do staff need to assess and escalate when a risk is identified; what support/training should be provided to Posts; the effectiveness of current working tools available such as the Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability (JACS).
  • Opportunities to bring the UK’s diplomatic and aid work together in atrocity prevention
  • The effectiveness of UK diplomatic engagement on atrocity prevention at multilateral level, especially in relation to the UK’s responsibilities under the UN-agreed ‘Responsibility to Protect’
  • How the UK Government’s approach to atrocity prevention interacts with other government policies and areas of work, such as the FCDO’s approach to conflict prevention, the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative
  • Lessons learned in atrocity prevention from Bosnia and other contexts since the 1990s (particularly lessons for the UN system and relevant international law)


UK government policy on atrocity prevention is led across Whitehall by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The inquiry by the Committee, which scrutinises the international development work of the UK government on behalf of Parliament, will consider the practical tools civil servants and diplomats use in atrocity prevention work. These include: UK aid-funded peacebuilding programmes (largely undertaken through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund); multilateral international engagement (such as through the United Nations); and cross-government working tools used by civil servants such as the Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability.

Further information

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