An “Anti-guide”: Difficulties of establishing guides on the Prevention of Genocide

Des étudiants participants au cours de Madame Sandrine Lefranc à la Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) de Sciences Po, ont effectué ce travail collectif et en ont fait un blog. Vous trouverez ci-dessous l’introduction de leur travail.

Pour en savoir plus, visitez leur blog :


Is the creation of a “guide” on how to prevent genocides possible?

After the Shoah and with the adoption of the Genocide Convention in 1948 the world said: “Never again”. The tragedies of the 1990s, particularly in Srebrenica and the genocide in Rwanda, however, spoke another language: It happened again.

In the aftermath, the world vowed again that this would and must not happen again. An international consensus on the need to prevent mass atrocities established and notably the end of the Cold War played into an optimism that conflict resolution was possible and that the UN could finally resume the role that was envisaged during its foundation.

This enthusiasm came along with reports on how to improve UN’s capacities in peacekeeping, peace making and preventive diplomacy. The Agenda for Peace as well as the Supplement to An Agenda for Peace “placed new emphasis on the need for the UN to address not only inter-state but also intra-state conflict, highlighting the UN’s responsibility to mitigate disputes as early as possible through preventive diplomacy, as well as addressing underlying causes”.[1]

Another important document was the Carnegie’s Commission report from 1997 on “Preventing Deadly Conflict”.[2] Amongst others, it clarified and broadened the concept of conflict prevention by differentiating two forms of prevention: structural and operational prevention.[3] This approach was adopted by the UN with the report “Prevention of Armed Conflict” by Kofi Annan in 2001.[4]

“As the concept of prevention began to take shape […] the same framework was adopted for the prevention of mass atrocities”.[5] Most important was the evolvement of the concept of the Responsibility to Protect. In the 2001 report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, this concept was developed referring to three responsibilities: The responsibility to prevent, the responsibility to react and the responsibility to rebuild.[6]

Not only within the United Nations, but generally the prevention of genocides has been object to plenty of research. From various perspectives and field of studies, mechanisms underlying genocidal processes, risk factors, options for prevention and intervention and reconciliation and reconstruction of societies have been dealt with.

While research on the prevention of genocides expanded and guides and recommendations how to prevent it have been developed, the world is still struggling with mass atrocities and the world still seems to lack an idea how to prevent tragedies such as currently in Syria.

Instead of developing new ideas on genocide prevention, on who, how and when to intervene, we take another approach and question the underlying idea, that we can develop something like a “guide on genocide prevention”. Is it really possible to ascribe a recipe on how, who and when to intervene?

The blog thus aims at identifying the difficulties of creating guides on conflict prevention. It is based on the idea that better understanding the challenges of genocide prevention can play is essential for understanding how prevention of genocides and mass atrocities may work.

To answer the question whether the creation of a guide on conflict prevention is possible, we will have a look at the question of whether we can define genocides and difficulties of determining “root causes” of genocides and predict their occurrence. We will also draw conclusions from guides and research that already exist by considering how promising literature and guides on genocide prevention are. In a second step, we will try to get a better understanding about the difficulty to create guides by having a closer look at recommendations and research on the prevention of Genocide, reacting to genocides and rebuilding societies after violent conflict took place.

Citer ce billet
Sandrine LEFRANC (2016, 12 mai). An “Anti-guide”: Difficulties of establishing guides on the Prevention of Genocide. MEMORY: WHAT FOR? Peut-on seulement tirer les leçons du passé ? Consulté le 25 juin 2024, à l’adresse

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