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INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
INQUIRY ON PROMOTING DIALOGUE AND PREVENTING ATROCITIES:
THE UK GOVERNMENT APPROACH
WRITTEN EVIDENCE FROM THE FOREIGN, COMMONWEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT OFFICE (FCDO)
1. The United Nations Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes states that atrocity prevention 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’. Atrocity crimes are genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
2. The FCDO leads on mass atrocity prevention policy within the UK Government, with other parts of Whitehall in support. Some examples are included in our evidence. The UK is committed to atrocity prevention in conflict and non-conflict settings. States have primary responsibility for protecting their people from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. This concept was agreed by all United Nations (UN) Member States at the World Summit in 2005 (World Summit Outcome Document paragraphs 138-139). In 2009, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set out the three pillars of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in his report “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect” which recognised that:
3. Resilient societies can help to prevent atrocities. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres confirmed this in May 2021 when he endorsed the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. This approach aligns with the FCDO’s work in championing and defending UK values which include Atrocity Prevention, Human Rights, the Rule of Law, Democratic Governance, Women, Peace and Security, Freedom of Religion or Belief, Freedom of the Media and Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.
4. As most atrocities occur in and around armed conflict, the UK Government has dedicated significant resources to preventing conflict. However, similar tools – including early warning, diplomacy, development/programmatic support, human rights monitoring, and coercive measures such as sanctions - can be deployed in non-conflict settings.
5. It is important to note that external actors seeking to prevent atrocities may not have the necessary leverage, or if they do, there may not be political agreement on credible responses. We have seen this at the UN where Russia, backed by China, restricted UN-mandated cross-border access in Syria in 2021, placing political support for the Assad regime above lifesaving support for the Syrian people. The UK continues to pursue dialogue with all members of the UN Security Council to ensure that the veto is not used in the Security Council to stop credible efforts to end mass atrocities. When there is a lack of political agreement in the Security Council, as with Syria, we will continue to consider alternative action elsewhere in the UN, including the General Assembly and Human Rights Council.
6. We have included examples of UK activity around the world in the body of our response and in Annex A. Annex B provides separate information on Bosnia and Herzegovina given the IDC’s interest.
What role the FCDO should play in convening cross-government work on atrocity prevention
7. FCDO works closely with other government departments to formulate policy on atrocity prevention. Our geographic departments lead this work, in close partnership with UK Embassies and High Commissions overseas, who themselves often include other government department representation. They have the agility and flexibility to respond to particular risks and opportunities in their regions and can access expertise aimed at building safe, inclusive and resilient societies. This can help to prevent conflict, and possible atrocities and their recurrence. Our geographic departments also work closely with thematic policy departments, consulting FCDO and other UK Government Ministers where appropriate.
8. Expert advice and guidance on conflict prevention and reduction is provided by the FCDO conflict directorate (staffed by ex-Stabilisation Unit, ex-FCO and ex-DFID) which is delivering the Integrated Review commitment to establish a conflict centre. Other thematic expertise is available across the FCDO on topics including Atrocity Prevention, Women, Peace & Security, Girls’ Education, Children & Armed Conflict, Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, Freedom of Religion or Belief, and Freedom of the Media.
9. The UK’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (2018 – 2022), jointly owned by the FCDO and the Ministry of Defence (MOD), sets out how the UK aims to reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls and ensure their inclusion in efforts to prevent and resolve conflict. In addition, the UK War Crimes Network brings together the FCDO, Attorney General’s Office, Home Office, Police, the Intelligence Agencies as well as civil society to ensure there is no safe haven in the UK for war criminals.
10. The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) supports cross-government programming in conflict and post-conflict settings. For example, in Libya, the UK has consistently emphasised the need for all parties to respect international humanitarian law, condemned human rights violations and abuses, and raised the importance of accountability to support the prevention of atrocities and to promote dialogue and reconciliation. Our extensive programmatic support - such as for civil society and the promotion of impartial and accurate online media content, including respect for freedom of expression and tolerance of diversity - and our diplomatic work are mutually supportive in working towards these goals.
11. In respect to China, FCDO also funds organisations which work to strengthen and protect human rights, including cultural, linguistic, and religious rights. The UK Government has repeatedly called out the gross violations of human rights occurring in Xinjiang, and in response has led international efforts to hold China to account. In October 2019, the UK led the first formal joint statement on Xinjiang at the UN, which was supported by 23 countries. We have subsequently used our global diplomatic network to press China to change its approach in Xinjiang. This has included a further joint statement led by the UK in June 2020, in addition to statements led by Germany, Canada and France in October 2020, June 2021 and October 2021 respectively. The most recent statement was supported by 43 countries.
12. Our statements have called on China to end the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, and deplored forced labour, the sterilisation of women, and separation of children from their parents. We will continue to reiterate these messages.
13. We have also repeatedly called on China to grant urgent and unfettered access to Xinjiang for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights or another independent fact-finding body. In October 2021, a global UK diplomatic effort helped to secure the support of 43 countries for a joint statement at the UN that called on China to allow ‘immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers’, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In May, under our G7 Presidency, G7 Foreign Ministers also called on China to grant such access. We also regularly raise our concerns about Xinjiang directly with the Chinese authorities at the highest levels. Most recently, the Prime Minister raised Xinjiang in a telephone call with President Xi on 29 October, as did the Foreign Secretary in her introductory call with the Chinese Foreign Minister on 22 October. We remain committed to continue working with our international partners to press China to allow such access.
The role of UK aid programmes in atrocity prevention, including promoting dialogue and reconciliation between communities in conflict, post-conflict and non-conflict settings
14. The UK supports the UN Secretary-General’s Sustaining Peace agenda, and have engaged directly with him, and wider UN reform, helping to build momentum for change by bringing together different parts of the UN system to work jointly to prevent conflict. We are members of the UN’s Peacebuilding Commission and work closely with the UN’s Peacebuilding Support Office. We have committed over £175 million to the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) since its inception in 2006. The PBF is a key tool in addressing conflict risks and investing in prevention, with the UN playing a key role through its access and peacebuilding expertise to support conflict prevention and peacebuilding programmes across the globe. Our contribution has helped the PBF to support conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities in over 40 countries.
15. FCDO has country-led, context-specific work as well as larger centrally managed programmes. For example, development funds (US$9.3m) were used to contribute to a UN Development Programme project working for a peaceful and secure environment during the election process in Sierra Leone in 2018. Through the CSSF, the UK is contributing to a Community Stabilisation Programme (£15.8m ODA and non-ODA) in Lebanon to address key drivers of grievances and conflict at the community-level.
16. Supporting the successful resolution of violent conflict is a priority for the UK. Mediation, the use of negotiations and dialogue facilitated by third parties to support conflict resolution to reach a political settlement, is a core part of this support. The FCDO conflict directorate provides technical expertise and advice to HMG officials, including on programming interventions, to create resilient societies through the promotion of reconciliation and finding sustainable solutions to conflict through dialogue in priority contexts.
17. In 2018, the UK launched the Women Mediators Across the Commonwealth Network. The network consists of women mediators from Commonwealth countries and aims to increase the number of women supporting peace processes at all levels. To date we have provided over £2m funding and the network of 49 members has supported peace efforts in conflict-affected countries including South Sudan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
18. We value Civil Society Organisations (CSO) as an important partner at the forefront of delivering UK aid, as well as a policy partner. Centrally-managed civil society programmes include those awarded through the Jo Cox Memorial Fund, consisting of seven grants amounting to £4.3m. Funding has been awarded to CSOs across eight conflict and post-conflict countries to support the strengthening of civil society capacity for early warning and prevention of identity-based violence. These grants aim to support over 46,000 direct beneficiaries in developing more resilient, violence-free societies.
19. The programmes work at every level of society, from grassroots with local communities and academics, to helping district and national governments to create innovative, locally-led networks and violence prevention mechanisms. They contribute, for example, to supporting networks of local peace committees and volunteer citizen reporters that have been able to address long-standing tensions between communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UK funding also supports national committees, experts and local leaders to collaborate and coordinate preventive activities in their countries and share best practices and policy recommendations across the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa. This multi-level support, built around communities and their knowledge and capacities, is a critical contribution to establishing more resilient societies.
20. Atrocities can recur if there is a history of widespread impunity. A free, diverse and independent media may help towards preventing atrocities. In 2019 we pledged a total of £3m over five years towards the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Global Media Defence Fund. The Fund focuses on threats to journalists and supports organisations to enhance media protections and improve the access of journalists to specialised legal assistance. Supporting international criminal justice and accountability is a fundamental element of UK foreign policy. We have a £4.8m Rule of Law Expertise UK (ROLE UK) programme that works to strengthen the rule of law in developing countries by supporting partnerships that provide high-quality pro bono legal and judicial expertise.
21. In Myanmar, the risk of atrocities exists in both conflict and non-conflict settings. The UK is working with a range of civil society, religious and humanitarian actors to end the culture of impunity, and signal to those that commit atrocities that they will be held accountable for their actions. Where security and political dynamics allow, civil society groups remain at the heart of our programming as they plan for the future of Myanmar. UK funding of US$1 million will help improve inter-communal dialogue including in Rakhine, with the aim of building greater cohesion for the future.
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.
22. Preventing violent conflict before it starts is essential to preventing mass atrocities, and can be promoted through effective diplomatic and programmatic assistance which supports economic, social and security actions that tackle the root causes of conflict. It requires effective early warning, deep contextual knowledge and a responsive international system able to act in concert when the warning signs appear.
23. Across the network, FCDO has over 90 conflict advisors offering support to UK missions, through work in-country, geographic departments and into the new conflict directorate. Posts can draw on advisors to deliver policy and programmatic support to reduce conflict and build peace, working in close collaboration with other government departments and development partners. Advisory experts ensure our wider interventions and initiatives are conflict sensitive, and support peace and stability alongside poverty reduction. Their specialist skills include expertise in areas such as armed conflict, serious and organised crime, peace processes, violent extremism and security, justice and human rights.
24. For example, the Conflict Adviser at the UK Embassy in Addis Ababa covers human rights, a key part of the UK’s response to the conflict in Tigray. Colleagues there have attended training on Human Rights and Gender, and are drawing on FCDO expertise (including atrocity prevention) in London and Geneva concerning the UN Human Rights Council. Staff at our Embassy in Tripoli manage programmes on equality and gender issues and raise emerging issues of concern to their geographic team.
25. In Myanmar, the UK Embassy has spearheaded work in-country to closely monitor atrocity risks and develop prompt, appropriate responses such as coordinating international action including at the UN Security Council. This is conducted in close collaboration with the UN, civil society and other partners in-country. Lessons learned following the violence in Rakhine State in 2017 help to inform our decision-making, including on improving information flows on atrocity risks. Atrocity prevention is now central to the UK Embassy’s strategy in Yangon, and is an explicit part of the Foreign Secretary’s strategic objectives on Myanmar. We are working to mainstream the consideration of human rights risks across our programmes, where appropriate. In particular, this includes risks of identity-based violence; focusing on resources to verify potential abuses of minorities; and working with humanitarian and health actors to build an understanding of atrocity risk factors and flagging concerns early
26. FCDO’s International Academy offers training to all staff in sanctions and conflict prevention (policy, tools and responses) including a dedicated training module on atrocity prevention. Details of the latest atrocity response module were circulated to all FCDO staff in 2021. Guidance material is provided to geographic departments.
27. Atrocity prevention training provides information on the different options for action with country cases. Human rights training provides a deeper understanding of human rights law, policy and practice: including on human rights analysis and strategy development, delivering effective human rights policies and why and how the UK takes practical action on human rights.
28. In early 2021 we funded the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide to run a cross-government training programme for 23 people on the impact of transitional justice on conflict recurrence, which was effective in providing essential skills and technical expertise to colleagues working on these complex issues.
29. On tools available to the UK, the FCDO’s Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability (JACS) is particularly useful in helping the UK government to understand what is happening in countries including the emerging risk of mass atrocity. In Myanmar a 2019 JACS has helped to shape policy in areas such as the UK Government’s approach to dealing with identity-based and gender based violence. The analysis deepened HMG’s cross-departmental understanding of Myanmar’s conflict drivers, actors, and dynamics and assessed HMG’s on-going programming. It examined the historical causes of conflict, how they have evolved over time, and how they were driving conflict up to the present; interests of and relationships between key conflict actors, and how these drive and shape conflict drivers; and the effects of key contextual changes on conflict dynamics.
30. In March 2021, JACS guidance was updated to include a section to analyse and assess the risk of atrocities occurring or recurring. These reports should take into account a country’s record of atrocities, human rights violations and tensions between population groups.
Opportunities to bring the UK’s diplomatic and aid work together in atrocity prevention
31. The FCDO, launched on 2 September 2020, brings together development and diplomatic expertise. Prior to that, the FCO and DFID regularly collaborated closely – in London and with UK missions overseas - to maximise the combined impact of aid and diplomacy. Our work has become even more closely integrated since the merger. As an example, in Myanmar, the UK utilises our close partnerships with local and international aid actors to flag escalating risks to the diplomatic community. UK Aid in Myanmar funds a range of programmes including organisations which provide up-to-date risk/atrocity monitoring on the ground. This information allows us to respond quickly to unfolding events and uses our leadership, in-country and in the UN, to raise and pursue these issues. For example we have been able to coordinate international action on Myanmar and keep Myanmar on the UN Security Council’s agenda. On 8 November, the UK convened a private meeting of the UN Security Council on the situation in Myanmar and secured a Council statement calling for the protection of civilians.
32. Another demonstration of the close integration of our diplomatic and development work can be seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where conflict frequently takes the form of inter-communal and identity-based violence. State security forces and non-state armed groups are the primary perpetrators of violence and human rights violations and abuses, particularly in eastern DRC. As part of our work to prevent violations and abuses of international human rights law and breaches of international humanitarian law the UK contributed £52m in 2020/21 to the peacekeeping mission, UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), which has protection of civilians as its primary tasking. We are proactively supporting MONUSCO through our engagement in DRC and in New York at the UN Security Council. In addition, our bilateral engagement with the DRC Government and our conflict ODA programme further supports dialogue and stabilisation initiatives which complement the activity of MONUSCO and contribute to promoting dialogue and preventing atrocities.
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’
33. Diplomatic engagement plays a crucial role in helping to prevent atrocities and conflict through, for example, active support for mediation initiatives either directly or through third parties, visits to risk-prone areas, and the use of international fora to cast a spotlight on potential flashpoints. Where there is a risk of atrocities, the UK uses diplomacy to highlight our concerns: bilaterally with the countries concerned and with regional neighbours, and multilaterally through international organisations such as the UN and the Commonwealth, as well as with smaller likeminded groups.
34. The UN is the primary organisation for the maintenance of international peace and security. We support the deployment of all appropriate tools available to the UN when dealing with potential mass atrocities and conflict such as calling for a special session on an emergency situation at the UN Human Rights Council and using the Universal Periodic Review, Special Procedures comprising Special Rapporteurs, Special Representatives, independent experts and working groups to express concern over a situation, as well as measures such as sanctions (diplomatic, travel bans, asset freeze, and arms embargoes). Depending on the issue and the political context at the UN, the UK will consider action in fora including the Security Council, the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly.
35. As a signatory of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group's Code of Conduct declaration in 2015, the UK has committed not to vote against a credible draft resolution on timely and decisive action to end, or prevent, the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
36. We support the UN principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). However under Pillar 3, it can be difficult to mobilise the political will of the UN Security Council to intervene. Where there is no consensus in the Security Council we work bilaterally (diplomacy, programmatic support) and multilaterally to help resolve situations where there is a risk of atrocities. The UK is a member of the Group of Friends of R2P in New York and Geneva. We fund the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect with which we are in regular contact.
37. We are also an active member of the UNSC Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, where the UK applies diplomatic pressure to listed parties conflict to enter into concrete UN action plans to verify and release any children associated with armed groups and forces, to prevent re-recruitment and ensure the provision of appropriate reintegration and rehabilitation assistance. We also press for the inclusion of child protection provisions in UN peacekeeping mandate renewals and resolutions.
38. The Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, established on 6 July 2020, gives the UK a powerful tool to deter and provide accountability for serious human rights violations and abuses around the world. Under the regime, the UK has imposed targeted sanctions on 81 individuals and entities for their involvement in serious human rights violations or abuses, including in Belarus, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Ukraine, The Gambia, DPRK and Venezuela. Wherever possible, we have collaborated with partners, including the US, the EU and Canada, to take joint action when using the Global Human Rights Sanctions.
39. In Russia, NGOs, independent media, political opposition and religious groups are targeted through prosecutions and repressive legislation. Chechnya and the illegally annexed Crimea remain of concern given their human rights situation.
We have used our diplomacy to hold Russia accountable to its international obligations on human rights. During the UK’s G7 Presidency, G7 Foreign Ministers issued a statement in response to the politically motivated arrest of opposition politician Alexey Navalny. Elsewhere, we have issued a joint statement with members of the Media Freedom Coalition on the treatment of journalists in Russia, we raised concerns about the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and called on Russia to guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for all its citizens. We also sanctioned seven Russian nationals directly responsible for planning the 2020 chemical weapons attack on Mr Navalny. Last July, we imposed sanctions under our Global Human Rights Sanctions regime on 25 Russian nationals responsible for appalling human rights violations in the case of Sergei Magnitsky. In December 2020, we announced designations on Russian individuals and entities responsible for the torture and murder of LGBT people in Chechnya.
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
40. The UK Government takes a whole-of-government approach, using our diplomatic, development, defence and law enforcement capabilities as appropriate, to support UK objectives including Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). Reflecting the priority the UK places on this issue, the UK remains the only government in the world with a Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, and a dedicated policy team and funding. Atrocities are less likely to occur in safe and resilient societies where there is respect for human rights and the rule of law, equality, inclusivity and strong and accountable institutions.
41. The formation of the FCDO has enabled closer integration of teams working on atrocity prevention and other agendas. For example, the establishment of a new conflict centre in FCDO allows for greater integration of various strands of conflict prevention work (including WPS and PSVI) and more effective analysis of data, lesson learning and the sharing of expertise. The formation of the FCDO also facilitates joint working across wider thematic areas (including open societies, multilateral and conflict), helping to provide an integrated approach to policy development and support to geographic departments. Thematic teams routinely work together and with relevant geographic departments, and other government departments on issues of mutual interest. This includes, for example, consulting each other on draft statements, UN resolutions and the development of FCDO and cross-HMG strategies where relevant for atrocity prevention.
42. Through work to mainstream WPS, the UK aims to build security and stability overseas, protect the human rights of women and girls, and promote their meaningful participation in conflict prevention and resolution. The UK fulfils this commitment through its National Action Plan (NAP) on WPS (2018-2022), which is jointly owned with the MOD. To inform development of the new NAP, due to commence 2023, extensive stakeholder engagement will be undertaken, including with cross-government teams working on these cross-cutting agendas.
43. We are also upholding efforts to mainstream WPS in international initiatives which contribute to atrocity prevention. For example the UK played an instrumental role in NATO’s development of its first policies on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) in 2019 and 2020. We continue to lead the defence of WPS at the UN Security Council against attempts by some States to weaken the agenda.
44. The Foreign Secretary has launched a major global campaign to stop sexual violence in conflict. All options are on the table to strengthen the international response to this, including a new international Convention. This work contributes to delivery of the Home Office’s cross-government strategy to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls, involving the FCDO, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence and other government departments
45. Responding to the ‘shadow pandemic’ of gender-based violence that followed the outbreak of COVID-19, we have provided £22m in humanitarian funding in Syria to strengthen the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) which is reaching over two million women. The UK Government has launched Gender-Based Violence helplines in Myanmar and funded shelters for survivors in Uganda and the Foreign Secretary announced in November 2021 her high ambitions for multilateral cooperation on PSVI.
46. The UK Government has committed over £50m since the launch of the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) in 2012. We have funded more than 85 projects across 29 countries to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). We have trained over 17,000 police and military personnel and UK funding launched the PSVI Team of Experts, a group of independent experts deployed to help support the work of national and international bodies and NGOs. We have deployed the UK Team of Experts over 90 times since 2012 to help build the capacity of governments, the UN, and NGOs. Deployments have included Mali, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Uganda. We deployed one of the UK’s Team of Experts to Ethiopia to investigate how to strengthen justice for sexual violence crimes and scale up the UK’s response to CRSV. We are now implementing the Expert’s recommendations with partners in Ethiopia.
47. In November 2020, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, launched the Declaration of Humanity by Leaders of Faith and Leaders of Belief. The Declaration calls upon leaders from all faiths and beliefs to prevent sexual violence in conflict and denounce the stigma faced by survivors, including children born of sexual violence. We have driven forward this initiative to engage with international leaders, bringing together a diverse range of groups and directly challenging erroneous faith narratives that contribute to the stigmatisation of survivors. More than 50 faith and belief leaders, civil society organisations and governments have endorsed the Declaration. In FY21-22, the PSVI has funded community dialogues on the principles of the Declaration in communities affected by conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Lessons learned in atrocity prevention from Bosnia and other contexts since the 1990s (particularly lessons for the UN system and relevant international law)
48. Kofi Annan’s report on Srebrenica in 1999 accepted that “through error, misjudgement and the inability to recognise the scope of evil confronting us, we [the UN] failed to do our part to save the people of Srebrenica from the Serb campaign of mass murder”. These failings were in part rooted in a philosophy of neutrality and nonviolence wholly unsuited to the conflict in Bosnia. He talked of how the UN had viewed the conflict through a “prism of moral equivalency”, essentially taking the view that all sides were as bad as each other, and therefore refusing to take sides until it was too late. He concluded “The cardinal lesson of Srebrenica is that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorise, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means, and with the political will to carry the policy through to its logical conclusion”.
49. Many lessons on preventing atrocities have been drawn in the UN and beyond from the experiences of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other contexts since the 1990s. Some of those have been incorporated over time into the ways that UN missions operate, in the regular process of adapting missions to meet the demands of new mandates. Other lessons have been identified and expressed in public reports and reforms
50. Notable examples include, on peacekeeping, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s report pursuant to the fall of Srebrenica, and the subsequent Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations. These, allied to other experiences from UN peacekeeping operations in the 1990s – particularly in Rwanda – led to the development of Protection of Civilians mandates and activities, starting with the UN Mission in Sierra Leone. Outside of peacekeeping contexts, notable lessons have been drawn at the UN in the Report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on UN Action in Sri Lanka (November 2012), and likewise in Myanmar, focusing particularly on events in Rakhine State, by former Guatemalan Ambassador Gert Rosenthal.
51. Other important institutional and political developments at the UN in response to these lessons have included: agreement at the World Summit in 2005 on the Responsibility to Protect, drawing in part on the experiences of Kosovo in 1999 and of the subsequent Canadian-initiated International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty; the creation of the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, and the Special Advisers on each of these; the development of early warning methodologies within the UN and of horizon-scanning by the UN Security Council; the imposition of atrocity - and human rights-related sanctions in many Security Council sanctions regimes, in part to respond to but also to deter future atrocities; and notably the authorisation of the use of force to prevent atrocities in Libya by Security Council resolution 1973 in 2011.
52. In order to respond to atrocities but also to deter them in future, accountability mechanisms have developed significantly from the 1990s onwards. These include the international tribunals on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the International Criminal Court, hybrid mechanisms including those for Sierra Leone and Cambodia, and more recently evidence-gathering mechanisms for Syria (International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism) and Myanmar (Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar).
53. The lessons of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other contexts have been instrumental in the developments above and more. The lessons have emphasised the need for, amongst other things: (a) early action, rather than just early warning; (b) targeting the key high- and mid-level perpetrators who order and plan large-scale atrocities; (c) context-specific knowledge; and (d) coordinated and concerted information–sharing and action within international organisations such as the UN, and amongst States and other international actors more broadly.
54. The results of this lesson-learning remain mixed, however. Amongst the many reasons, two stand out. First, that outside actors – including the UN itself – often lack the leverage required over those who would commit atrocities to prevent them doing so or sometimes that they possess such leverage but lack the will to exercise it. And second that in situations where atrocities occur, or appear to be possible or even imminent, there is often international disagreement over what, if any, measures are appropriate to take to prevent them.
55. The FCDO is learning lessons. Over the last two years the UK has applied lessons learned from the Rohingya crisis to the ongoing atrocity risks in Myanmar. A key lesson from the Rohingya crisis was that reporting from the ground was not getting to London and New York quickly enough to respond. We therefore invested in better reporting and created a working group with staff from the UK Embassy in Myanmar and the FCDO, and an atrocity risk tracker to ensure we were following developments almost in real time. We have worked with civil society experts, including Protection Approaches, to hone our approach to monitoring atrocities.
56. An example of the UK’s holistic and broad approach to atrocity prevention concerns our work with Rwanda to assist its recovery from the genocide against the Tutsi during which Hutus and others who opposed the genocide were also killed. Through our development partnership the UK supports Rwanda on its path towards long-term and inclusive growth. We are working to help build effective government institutions, provide social assistance to the most vulnerable, invest in education to improve learning outcomes, and support the transition to a vibrant, private sector-led economy.
57. Poverty is a root cause of conflict and deepens divides within societies. UK aid has helped Rwanda to lift almost 2 million people out of poverty since 2005. Education is another means to foster cohesive societies. Our Learning for All Programme (£96.7m; 2015-23) is working with all government schools to ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality and inclusive basic education, with a special focus on improved learning outcomes in English and Mathematics.
58. Remembering past atrocities can help to raise public awareness and prevent future atrocities. Managed by the Aegis Trust, the Kigali Genocide Memorial opened in 2004 and is the final resting place for more than 250,000 Genocide victims. UK Government support to the Aegis Trust between 2013 and 2017 has helped develop a digital repository of information relating to the genocide and influenced a range of government reconciliation policies. The UK is also funding academic research into strengthening cultures of peace in Rwanda, including building inclusive civil society and an education system.
59. In addition, the UK is playing a leading role in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) which unites governments and experts to strengthen and promote Holocaust education, research and remembrance. We will be chairing the IHRA in 2024 which will coincide with the opening of the UK Holocaust memorial in London ahead of the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 2025.
60. The UK Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues (PHI), Lord Pickles, continues to engage with the issues relating to Holocaust denial and antisemitism and heads the UK delegation to IHRA.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
24 January 2022
ANNEX A – Further examples of UK activity
ANNEX B - Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)
More detail on the UK’s role on reconciliation in BiH
Detail on UK programmatic support in BiH
CSSF-funded work with NGO TRIAL International has secured landmark changes to BiH’s judicial system which better protect the needs of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) during trials. This also supports the implementation of a UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) decision that makes the BiH State responsible for compensation claims for CRSV when the perpetrators are unable to do so.
Our work on rule of law reform has created new rules of procedure for the appointment of senior judicial figures. These rules will ensure greater transparency of appointments and reduce corruption.
With GGF support, BiH approval of a national Energy Strategy in 2018 ended a decade-long blockage thanks to swift UK intervention. It unlocked millions of Euros in EU funds and commercial investment in a priority sector for UK business.
Detail on UK diplomatic engagement
 UN document A/54/549
 UN document A/54/549
 the ‘Brahimi Report’, A/55/305