Joint Submission to the International Development Committee of the Parliament of the United Kingdom


Promoting Dialogue and Preventing Atrocities


Justice Call and Women’s Regional Network on Prevention (WRNP)


Summary: Justice Call, and the Women’s Regional Network on Prevention (WRNP) have extensive experience of engaging with and mobilising young people across the Middle East and North Africa to promote dialogue among communities and prevent atrocity crimes. Our joint submission to the UK Parliament draws upon our deep-seated belief in youth-led civil society’s ability to form the vanguard in defending human rights, fostering rule of law and preventing atrocities. Our suggestions include means to raise awareness and gather information about the factors of atrocity crime; inform on directions the UK could focus its diplomatic efforts to advance atrocity prevention efforts worldwide; and establish platforms for cross-cultural experience sharing between communities affected by conflict and atrocities. The aim is to bridge gaps between them and build sustainable peace.



Introduction: Who are we? Why did we make this submission?

  1. Justice Call is a regional youth-led organisation based in the Middle East and North Africa (henceforth, MENA) region, founded in Cairo, Egypt in 2018. We work to promote human rights and the rule of law concentrating on the role youth and women-led civil society organisations play in driving sustainable change towards peaceful, democratic, and just societies.


  1. The Women’s Regional Network on Prevention (WRNP) is a thematic network of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) with the objective of advancing women’s role in raising awareness and building capacity in the prevention of atrocity crimes, including advancing awareness on the gendered aspects of atrocity crimes. WRNP is hosted by Justice Call with the support of the UN Office for Genocide Prevention and Responsibility (UN OSAPG) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). WRNP seeks to enhance the work of women-led CSOs in peacemaking processes and the prevention of atrocity crimes in the MENA region.


  1. We work towards prevention of violence and atrocity crimes, armed with the belief that public awareness and accountability are integral parts of prevention mechanisms. We work directly or through partnerships with local organisations in Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Turkey, Iraq, Mauritania and other MENA countries, amplifying marginalised voices addressing the potential of and occurrence of atrocity crimes at the national and regional levels through building youth & women led-organisations capacity on the UN Framework of Analysis of atrocity crimes.


  1. For example, with the support of UN OSAPG, WRNP implemented a series of regional workshops on responsibility to protect and the role of the civil society for 50 women-led and youth-led organisations active in MENA countries. They were later supported technically and financially to implement national workshops in the aim to promote the exchange of resources, experiences, and best practises among women and youth-led organisations that work on the prevention of atrocity crimes.


  1. Complementing this grassroots approach by engaging with policy makers, Justice Call recently addressed the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court (ASP20), speaking about the greater role youth and women-led CSOs should play in the identification and prevention of atrocity crimes. We have also advised the Office of the President of the UN ECOSOC on protections for such organisations and activists in light of the fundamental role they play in ensuring the protection of the rule of law.


  1. At the outset, we would like to express our gratitude to the United Kingdom, its Parliament, and its legislators, for all the work it has done thus far. We commend that it utilized its diplomatic and aid efforts to protect vulnerable communities and enforce the UN-mandated ‘Responsibility to Protect’ across the globe. We admire the humility with which the UK Parliament, through its International Development Committee (IDC), is seeking further advice from on-ground stakeholders on how to further strengthen its approach to preventing atrocity crimes.


  1. Justice Call and WRNP’s suggestions to the IDC are made in good faith, and are the salient points stemming from our organisations’ approaches to preventing atrocity crimes. They are:
  1. Organising MENA-region and national-level training programs for youth- and women-led CSOs, where we disseminate knowledge and strategies on how to use the UN Framework of Analysis for the Prevention of Atrocity Crimes for early identification and strengthening of early warning systems.
  2. Collecting information and preparing publications of case studies of atrocity crimes for training programs on risk identification and use of the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes.[1]
  3. Working in partnerships with international, regional, and local NGOs to build relationships between communities that could potentially be driven towards or are in conflict.
  4. Conducting research on new approaches to monitor and counter hate speech and disinformation disseminated that provokes conflict and violence between communities.
  5. Creating new alliances and strengthening existing grassroots networks of human rights defenders and lawyers that provide information about attitudes, discourses, and behaviours indicating an increase in the risk of atrocity crimes, especially in rural areas.


  1. We believe that capitalising upon the capacity and reach of youth- and women-led civil society organisations improves the identification of risk factors, helps in the collection and dissemination of information, and fosters cross-cultural confidence-building. These actors and their approaches are ideal to complement and operationalize the UK’s diplomatic and aid efforts towards preventing atrocity crimes. We think that prevention can only become reality when those affected are made aware, through familiar and trusted faces, of what atrocity crimes are, understand their multifaceted long-term damage on societies and realise the importance of communities to bridge differences to avoid such situations.


  1. Our approach is congruent with principles defined in the introduction of the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes:


Prevention is an ongoing process that requires sustained efforts to build the resilience of societies to atrocity crimes by ensuring that the rule of law is respected and that all human rights are protected, without discrimination; by establishing legitimate and accountable national institutions; by eliminating corruption; by managing diversity constructively; and by supporting a strong and diverse civil society and a pluralistic media.”

Problem Statement: What are the issues we have identified with ongoing efforts towards prevention of atrocity crimes?


  1. Despite deaths and displacement stemming from atrocity crimes - 500,000+ civilians in Syria, 300,000+ civilians in the Darfur, hundreds of thousands in Yemen and Libya, most of them children, youth and women -  we still do not have an effective early warning system that can track activities and conditions in high-risk settings and provide opportunities for an effective early response by the international community.


  1. This points to the utter decay that has set into national justice systems across the MENA region. It underlines the absence of any degree of seriousness in fulfilling the responsibility to protect, in enforcing systems of early warning and in bringing the perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice. In many cases state authorities themselves contributed actively to them, either by rendering conditions and environments conducive to atrocity crimes or even in carrying them out.
  2. Additionally, many national governments in the MENA region continually deny the existence of risk indicators that indicate the possibility of such atrocity crimes. Their recurrent dismissals of the occurrence of events constituting the risk indicators skew the efficacy and possibility of early interventions by the international community. This shows the need for concerted action on the level of the civil society which our proposal entails.


  1. In brief, general challenges to prevent atrocity crimes in politically unstable, autocratic states are:
    1. Absence of decentralisation in approaches to prevention, and reliance on:
      1. State and state-affiliated authorities that either have vested interests in turning a blind eye to atrocity crime indicators (best case), or fostering violence between communities (worst case);
      2. Some international agencies that operate without considering local contexts, being sensitive to local identities and cultures, having access to informal channels of communication through which communities may be dissuaded from taking up hateful/violent action. Also, lack of suitably detailed and accurate information about potential occurrence of atrocity crimes.
    2. Absence of comprehensive approaches to track, counter, and diffuse negative effects of hate speech and disinformation that is present in public discourses and fosters violence and mistrust between communities.
    3. Absence of collaborative environments where international actors may draw upon knowledge and practises of grassroots organisations. This also includes diplomatic and agency missions who are unwilling to take a stand and fulfil their responsibility to protect, and international organisations (such as UN and its affiliates).
    4. Absence of systemic, community-focused interventions to bridge the ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic, and political differences that lead to atrocity crimes.
    5. Absence of technological and digital-platform driven collaborative operations that achieve the twin benefits of:
      1. More efficient on-ground information collation and consequently faster and more effective action; and
      2. Use of reliable, verified, standardised information networks about (potential) indicators of the likelihood and/or occurrence of atrocity crimes.


  1. CSOs in the MENA region, especially those led by young men and women, play an essential role in:
    1. Monitoring and documenting activities and conditions in high-risk settings.
    2. Strengthening justice systems and human rights aiming to mitigate risk factors.
    3. Bridging trust deficits and knowledge gaps among local communities,
    4. Highlighting the negligence of states vis a vis their responsibility to protect vulnerable communities,
    5. Questioning the impunity of atrocity crime perpetrators.

They carry out all these activities in difficult circumstances. Despite their important contribution, they face grave dangers, including murder, torture, travel bans, and threats to their families, as a result of their bravery.

  1. Problems that make it difficult for CSOs in atrocity crime-prone states to create awareness and participate in identification, early warning, and prevention:
    1. Presence of barriers in the path of funding for projects that aim to create awareness and disseminate information about the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes.
    2. Presence of security risks for CSOs, human rights defenders, activists and participant networks, in terms of threats, harassment, and termination of activities by state authorities.
    3. Absence of networks and platforms for sharing of experiences and best practises (in terms of i. atrocity crime prevention, ii. Strategic and practical aspects of organising awareness and action around prevention; iii. negotiating security risks and impediments to fundraising).
    4. Absence of effective documentation of cases of crimes and those prevented/avoided through innovative and collaborative approaches.





Suggested Solutions: What we think the UK can do to strengthen efforts towards prevention of atrocity crimes.


  1. Our suggestions can be grouped into 3 categories, namely:
    1. Building awareness and strengthening information flows
    2. Lobbying and advocacy at the international level
    3. Bridging gaps and building trust between communities





Role of Aid

Role of Diplomacy

Intersections b/w Aid and Diplomacy


Action: Directing funding and aid towards regional, national, and local CSOs and working groups, attempting to create greater public awareness around the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes, its indicators and responsibility to protect. Simplifying applications, requirements, and selection procedures for related grants to youth- and women-led organisations, with the goal of making them more accessible.


Sub-Action: Engaging with civil society organisations by facilitating training programs that build their capacity on using the UN Framework of Analysis for early identification, which they can in turn pass on to the public.

Utilisation of the Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund, through micro-grants funding to local organisations well-equipped to create public awareness and proactive mobilisation around the UN Framework of Analysis.

Officers at UK Diplomatic Posts familiar with the UN Framework of Analysis may act as instructors/guest speakers during these sessions.

The aid efforts mentioned may ease the pressure on international actors, such as the UN or UK organisations and diplomatic missions to create awareness and disseminate knowledge about risk indicators. This suggestion may be considered an outsourcing of awareness creation functions through CSOs.


Action: Utilise experiences and hands-on knowledge of CSO networks to calibrate modules and curricula for training of UK bureaucrats/diplomats on identification and handling of high-risk settings.



i. Creation of platforms for periodic sharing of experiences and knowledge.

ii. Channelising this knowledge into locally relevant and context specific case-studies for risk identification training.

Utilising the Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund to create platforms for CSOs to engage with diplomatic missions.

Engaging diplomats with local contexts and building their capacity to identify risks of atrocity crimes within those contexts.

Using Aid efforts to improve the quality of the UK diplomatic missions’ responses to hate speech, violence, and atrocity-crime related events.


Action: Documentation of experiences, case studies of atrocity crimes, and innovative efforts that led to their prevention.


Sub-Action: Publishing and disseminating documents and public statements to spread awareness and lobbying about high-risk settings and new risk indicators of atrocity crimes in the MENA region.

Utilising UK organisations’ grants to create new publications, or create spaces for voices from countries prone to atrocity crimes in existing press/academic publications.

Providing protection via UK Diplomatic Posts for CSOs, particularly youth & women-led organisations that work on documentation,  mentoring, or tracking of potential atrocity crimes at the national level.

Collaborations between research and advocacy-oriented aid and diplomatic efforts can create a safer environment for locals to bring to the fore crucial information relating to the probability and potential incidence of atrocity crimes.


Action: Encouraging the creation of new or supporting existing local projects aiming to identify, counter, and diffuse misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech - all of which are indicators of the possibility of occurrence of atrocity crimes. Covering information asymmetries in areas with no UK diplomatic presence, and general communications limitations.




i. Encouraging the creation of tech-driven (smart-phone/mobile internet) monitoring and early warning systems through partnerships and collaboration.

ii. Creating guidelines and standards for partnerships with CSOs to build a sustainable structure for regularised inputs from local sources to complement the existing UK diplomatic Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability.

Utilising the Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund to encourage local tech/online network building efforts by local CSOs, Human Rights Organisations and community organisations, an example being Una Hakika, operated by The Sentinel Project[2].

Creating country or region-specific guidelines and standards for engagement with local organisations


Integrating information gathered through these new/alternative sources with the existing Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability.


Tapping into the legitimacy of UK diplomatic posts to make statements and declarations countering misinformation and disinformation that may potentially result in atrocity crimes.

Utilising funding grants to build on-ground intelligence and early warning systems that may substantially improve the UK’s existing risk indicator monitoring efforts.



Action: Advocating for more meaningful, effective, and secure participation of CSOs in support of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice in holding perpetrators of hate speech, violence, and genocidal acts accountable. Pressuring the International Criminal Court and the Assembly of States Parties to ensure independence and impartiality in the delivery of justice. Civil society organisations can enhance these efforts, and help bridge the gap between the ICC and grassroots communities.



i. Emphasising the need for international organisations to develop comprehensive strategies for exchange of information, and sustained engagement and participation with CSOs.

ii. Emphasising the need for the ICC and ICJ to formulate policies to protect CSOs and human rights defenders who are exposed to dangers as a result of their cooperation with the Courts.

Providing financial support to ensure that the voices of local communities and grassroots organisations are heard in the international justice system, through sponsorships of activists and human rights defenders to depose, testify, or provide information to the ICC and/or ICJ.

Tapping into the legitimacy of the United Kingdom in international forums, especially as a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, to enhance the contributions and protection of CSOs to evidence collection, testification, and delivery of due justice to individuals and state actors found guilty of committing atrocity crimes.

Collaborations between accountability-focused diplomatic interventions and aid efforts can create a safer environment for local stakeholders to bring to the attention of the international justice system, crucial information relating to the probability and (potential) incidence of atrocity crimes.



i. Pressuring national human rights commissions and governments into supporting activities, conferences, training programs, and workshops that aim to implement the UN Framework of Analysis, and by extension, fulfilling their responsibility to protect. This may be done not only at national but also at regional and local levels.


ii. Countering the idea that advocating of the international community for stronger protections for, and awareness and advocacy efforts by CSOs is a breach of sovereignty. Indeed, this argument itself is indicator 8.3 of the UN Framework of Analysis. 

Adding legitimacy to awareness efforts by granting funding to CSOs and awareness campaigns and events organised by them.

Utilising the UK’s legitimacy on the world stage to ensure nation states fulfil their responsibility to protect. Fulfilling the UK’s own extended responsibility to protect, which, as per the UN Framework of Analysis, extends beyond national borders to protect vulnerable communities across the globe.

Using diplomatic action and strategy to create space and foster greater efficacy of UK-aided awareness campaigns, workshops, relating to the UN Framework of Analysis.





i. Tapping into CSO networks to create internationally/UK-mediated platforms for dialogue, cross-cultural and reconciliation among communities likely to enter conflict with each other. Using such dialogue to build trust and understanding among communities dealing with deprivation or exclusion.


ii. Encouraging the creation of permanent multi-ethnic youth and women’s engagement platforms that can act as mediators during future escalations towards mass atrocities.


Sub-Action: Recognising and tapping into the fundamental role that local youth and women-led CSOs can play in fostering such communication, given:

i. their enhanced understanding of, sensitivity towards, and integration with local contexts and cultures.

ii. the higher level of risk exposure that drives them to work harder towards prevention.

iii. relative openness to ideas of collaboration and dialogue.

Utilising the Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund, and channelising private aid from the UK, to fund, through local CSOs, especially those led by women and youth, platforms and networks for dialogue and mediation between communities.

Establishing contacts with local communities, youth & women-led organisations, creating networking and dialogue-focused events, and increasing their public recognition through media statements and international coverage.

Streamlining aid and diplomatic strategy through the lens that constructive engagement between communities involved in conflict is the best method to ensure prevention of atrocity crimes in the long term. Emphasising, through aid and diplomatic channels, the importance of an ethics of mutual understanding, dialogue, and cultural sensitivity in creating robust, stable, peaceful societies.


Action: Financing innovative small-scale infrastructure development projects (for example a National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme[3] operating in a developing country). Empowering local communities to arrive at consensus about the specific projects to work on and fostering active citizenship and participation. Achieving through these measures an element of inter-community collaboration, trust-building and cross-cultural exchange through multi-ethnic worksites. Encouraging communities to work together to build local infrastructure and constructively overcome their differences, and extending social protection

Utilising Official Development Assistance to fund pilot policy research projects and/or conditional grants-in-aid for programs that combine the principles of social protection, small-scale infrastructure development, active citizen participation, and inter-community mediation and engagement.

Lobbying for small investments in improving local employability and infrastructure to both national governments, and to the UK government on a geography-specific, time-bound need basis.

Developing constructive means to intervene in conflict-prone nations and sub-national regions, creating the space through funding and lobbying to bring communities together to do useful work.


  1. We thank the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee for providing a platform for organisations like ours to put across our suggestions on strengthening prevention of atrocity crimes. We state our willingness to testify before the committee regarding our suggestions if the need arises. 


[1] - A framework developed by the Offices of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect, designed to enable integrated analysis and risk assessment tools for atrocity crimes. Regularly revised to reflect new developments and research into the processes that lead to these crimes, it is a seminal document that empowers those who adopt its strategies to analyse the risk of genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. It defines 14 risk factors, and indicators of these factors, facilitating early identification of the probability of atrocity crimes. Its use can therefore increase the chances of prevention.

[2] |  - The Sentinel Project assists communities threatened by mass atrocities worldwide through direct cooperation with the people in harm’s way and the innovative use of technology. Una Hakika is an information service created with support from The Sentinel Project in the Tana Delta region of Kenya, which despite its backwardness in development terms has surprisingly high mobile phone and internet usage. Misinformation and hate speech has been repeatedly mobilied to incite fear, distrust, hatred and violence among the two local ethnic groups - Orma and Pokomo. Una Hakika uses SMS, voice call, and internet communications networks to create a constant source of information, which it proceeds to verify and report back to the community about its veracity, thus preventing the virality of misinformation and the potential of violence.

[3] | - The example cited here comes from a unique labour policy program launched in Asia - India, to be specific - in the year 2005. Their National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme empowers local communities to identify developmental projects that they themselves build, all the while receiving social protection, as the whole programme is government funded. This has been shown to unlock the innovative and collaborative abilities of diverse local communities, while creating fundamental small-scale infrastructure, often in developmentally backward remote areas.