Foreign Policy and Promotion of Human Rights for Atrocity Prevention

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    Mass atrocities, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, are a persistent reality in many parts of the world today. States have responded to the problem of systematic and largescale atrocities through the development of international laws and norms to prevent and restrain perpetrators. Despite this, most states have not developed a coherent national strategy on atrocity prevention that includes a clear directive for foreign policy responses to mass atrocities. Many states still find themselves caught ‘off guard’ when political tensions or armed conflict escalate into largescale one-sided violence in which civilians are targeted. As a result, in many atrocity situations, foreign policy actors resort to reactive and ad hoc measures, instead of pursuing a developed strategy through which early warning, early actions, high level political backing and international partnerships are coordinated and implemented. This report explains the relationship between human rights protection and atrocity prevention, demonstrating that the promotion and protection of human rights in foreign policy engagements is vital to safeguard populations from future atrocities. The report also argues that states often subordinate human rights protection to other foreign policy agendas, including security, trade and development cooperation. It makes a case for states to develop foreign policy capacity on atrocity prevention that clearly foregrounds human rights to capture the unique risk factors associated with atrocity violence. Key policy considerations for states when formulating a human rights-oriented foreign policy in countries at risk of atrocities are advanced in this report. These include developing capabilities to: 1. Assess patterns of discrimination, internal grievances and internal conflicts to understand how different areas of foreign policy engagement bear on human rights. 2. Distinguish human rights protection and atrocity early warning from strategies aimed at democracy promotion, governance/institution building, trade, development and security sector reform in countries with medium to high atrocity-risk. 3. Maintain a range of levers to employ should the situation in a country deteriorate into a high risk/imminent atrocity situation. This includes a willingness to engage politically on evidence of human rights violations. 4. Employ a phased approach to assessing economic and trade opportunities that emerge as partner states open markets and transition their economies, with measurable benchmarks on human rights and democratic progress that are genuinely inclusive. 5. Invest in development and institution building in partner countries in ways that include proactive measures to advance human rights protections, challenging the assumption that liberal-style institutions will automatically produce peace and the conditions for human rights.
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyBlavatnik School of Government & University of Oxford
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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