Genocide Prevention Task Force

August 4, 2011

Allison Sturma (202) 429-4725

Statement of Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen on the
Announcement of the Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities

As co-chairs of the Genocide Prevention Task Force, we welcome with enthusiasm President Obama’s directive to strengthen our government’s response to actual or threatened mass violations of human rights.  The administration’s bold new initiative conforms closely to recommendations made by the Task Force to recognize genocide prevention as a presidential priority, emphasize early action, and stress the need to work closely with allies and friends. 

We are particularly pleased to see the efforts of our bipartisan task force reflected in the presidential call for a high-level Atrocity Prevention Board to bring to bear the full range of our government’s assets and skills in the effort to deter, prevent and halt genocide.  The president’s directive represents an unprecedented commitment on America’s part to implement the internationally-agreed upon “responsibility to protect” civilian populations threatened by massive violence and to ensure that genocide prevention and response become integral components of America’s national security strategy.   Today’s action is a major step forward for our country’s long-term interests and national security and contributes to international leadership on genocide prevention. This is a forward-thinking plan that if fully implemented, should eventually save countless lives.

The Genocide Prevention Task Force was launched on November 13, 2007 and released its report to the public on December 8, 2008. It was jointly convened by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, The American Academy of Diplomacy, and the U.S. Institute of Peace.  It was funded by private foundations.  Its goals were: (1) To spotlight genocide prevention as a national priority; and; (2) To develop practical policy recommendations to enhance the capacity of the U.S. government to respond to emerging threats of genocide and mass atrocities.


For Immediate Release
December 8, 2008

Contact:  Andrew Hollinger, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  202-488-6133
                Lauren Sucher, United States Institute of Peace.  202-429-3822

Genocide Prevention Task Force Delivers Blueprint for U.S. Government to Prevent Genocide and Mass Atrocities
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and other leading figures call on new administration and Congress to make preventing genocide and mass atrocities a national priority

(Washington, DC) – The Genocide Prevention Task Force today released its final report on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  The report makes the case for why genocide and mass atrocities threaten core American values and national interests, and how the U.S. government can prevent these crimes in the future.

Jointly convened by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, The American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace, the Task Force began its work last November with the goal of generating concrete recommendations to enhance the U.S. government’s capacity to recognize and respond to emerging threats of genocide and mass atrocities. 

“The world agrees that genocide is unacceptable and yet genocide and mass killings continue,” said Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State and Co-Chair of the Genocide Prevention Task Force.  “We believe that preventing genocide is possible, and that striving to do so is imperative both for our national interests and our leadership position in the world.” 

“This report provides a blueprint that can enable the United States to take preventive action, along with international partners, to forestall the specter of future cases of genocide and mass atrocities,” said William S. Cohen, former Secretary of State and Co-Chair of the Genocide Prevention Task Force.  “There is a choice for U.S. policymakers between doing nothing and large-scale military intervention.  We hope this report will help us utilize those options.” 

Other Members of the Genocide Prevention Task Force include:  John Danforth, Thomas Daschle, Stuart Eizenstat, Michael Gerson, Dan Glickman, Jack Kemp, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, Thomas R. Pickering, Anthony Zinni, and Julia Taft who passed away earlier this year. 

The report, which is entitled “Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers”, asserts that genocide is preventable, and that making progress toward doing so begins with leadership and political will.  The report provides 34 recommendations, starting with the need for high-level attention, standing institutional mechanisms, and strong international partnerships to respond to potential genocidal situations when they arise; it lays out a comprehensive approach, recommending improved early warning mechanisms, early action to prevent crises, timely diplomatic responses to emerging crises, greater preparedness to employ military options, and action to strengthen global norms and institutions.

 “We are keenly aware that the incoming president’s agenda will be massive and daunting from day one,” Secretaries Albright and Cohen noted.  “But preventing genocide and mass atrocities is not an idealistic add-on to our core foreign policy agenda.  It is a moral and strategic imperative.”

The Task Force calls for the development of a new government-wide policy on genocide prevention, which would include the following specific actions designed to better equip the U.S. government to prevent genocide and mass atrocities:

  • Having the president himself demonstrate that preventing genocide is a national priority, for example by an early executive order, and continuing public statements on genocide prevention.
  • Creating an interagency Atrocities Prevention Committee at the National Security Council to analyze threats of genocide and mass atrocities and consider appropriate preventive action.
  • Making warning of genocide or mass atrocities an “automatic trigger” of policy review.
  • Developing military guidance on genocide prevention and response and incorporating it into doctrine and training.
  • Preparing interagency genocide prevention and response plans for high-risk situations.
  • Investing $250 million in new funds for crisis prevention and response, with a portion of this available for urgent activities to prevent or halt emerging genocidal crises.
  • Launching a major diplomatic initiative to create an international network for information-sharing and coordinated action to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.
  • Providing assistance to build capacity of international partners—including the UN and regional organizations—to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.

The report concludes that “a core challenge for American leaders is to persuade others—in the U.S. government, across the United States, and around the world, that preventing genocide is more than just a humanitarian aspiration, but a national and global imperative.”

The Task Force was funded by Humanity United and other private organizations.

About the Convening Organizations:
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a living memorial to the Holocaust,
inspires citizens and leaders to confront hatred, promote human dignity and prevent genocide.  Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanence, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by donors nationwide.

The American Academy of Diplomacy is dedicated to strengthening the resources and tools America brings to managing its diplomatic challenges, and accomplishes this through outreach programs, lectures, awards, and writing competitions. In doing so, the Academy promotes an understanding of the importance of diplomacy to serving our nation and enhancing America’s standing in the world.

The United States Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan, national institution established and funded by Congress. Its goals are to help prevent and resolve violent international conflicts, promote post-conflict stability and development, and increase peacebuilding capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide. The Institute does this by empowering others with knowledge, skills, and resources, as well as by directly engaging in peacebuilding efforts around the globe.

The report may be downloaded for free at:

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