Never Again: The UK’s Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond Contents

6The UK’s approach to atrocity prevention

60.When we began this inquiry, we believed that finding effective solutions to the crisis in Xinjiang also demanded an assessment of the Government’s broader approach to preventing mass atrocities. Through evidence taken from atrocity prevention experts, we heard that there are still major shortfalls in the Government’s approach in this area. The atrocities in Xinjiang are a salient example of the failure to predict and prevent atrocities in a non-armed conflict situation. While we welcome the fact that the recent Integrated Review placed greater emphasis on atrocity prevention, we remain concerned that the strategy and resourcing in this area remain unfocused and inadequate.

Box 15: Nicola Reindorp, CEO of Crisis Action, on non-conflict mass atrocities

There is that sense that it is in Britain’s interest to prevent atrocities. It is also core to our values and is part of our history, as with tackling the genocidal regime in the second world war. Let us remember that the worst of the atrocities, Kristallnacht, was outside of the context of an armed conflict at the time. The Rwandan genocide was kicked off not in the context of an armed conflict.

Source: Q54 [Nicola Reindorp]

61.Our predecessor Committees and a multitude of civil society actors have criticised the Government’s approach of conflating atrocity prevention with conflict prevention.104105 History tells us time and time again that these are distinct issues, demanding distinct approaches, each with a clear strategy.106107 We recommend that the Government introduce a national, cross-departmental strategy for atrocity prevention.

62.A clear strategy will require clear direction from across Government, developed by the newly announced Conflict Centre.108 Dr Kate Ferguson, Co-Executive Director of Protection Approaches, told us that various departments are required to be involved in atrocity prevention:

The Treasury needs to be involved because of sanctions; the Home Office needs to be involved because of asylum applications; the Department for Education needs to be involved to ensure that the kids know how to approach material that denies genocide and spreads division.109

While the FCDO is the lead department for mass atrocity prevention, we recommend that the Government issue clear guidance and training to all relevant departments about their specific responsibilities for mass atrocity prevention. The departments involved should have senior staff members designated as atrocity prevention leads. The newly announced Conflict Centre should coordinate these departmental leads and ensure it offers departments access to experts in international law, sanctions, multilateral coordination, intelligence, aid programming, and so on.

63.When running its global campaign to promote freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), the Government provided a ‘FoRB Toolkit’ to FCDO staff in the UK and in-Post. If atrocity prevention is to be a higher priority following the Integrated Review, then adequate training for staff is needed. The Government should provide atrocity prevention ‘toolkits’ and atrocity prevention training for FCDO staff, with a mandatory refresher course every three years for all staff in diplomatic, programming, or policy-related roles.

64.It is deeply regrettable that the UK Government, like others, failed to recognise and prevent the atrocities in Xinjiang before they reached the level we are currently seeing. The Government’s current early warning systems are too slow and in clear need of improvement.110 Having an effective, highly networked and reactive system of early warning mechanisms, using intelligence from allies and local entities, will be critical in preventing future atrocities of this scale.111 Likewise, the new Conflict Centre should also prioritise mass atrocities like Xinjiang, which take place outside the context of armed conflict. The Government should implement additional early warning tools specifically focused on predicting mass atrocities, and mainstream non-conflict atrocity prevention thinking in the newly announced Conflict Centre. The Conflict Centre should be renamed to the Conflict and Atrocity Prevention Centre, to ensure atrocity prevention thinking is prioritised in its operations.

65.Bureaucratic resourcing will be essential in improving the UK’s response to mass atrocities, but not in itself sufficient. There must be leadership at a political level to ensure atrocity prevention is prioritised in decision-making.112 The FCDO makes regular use of Special Envoys to demonstrate commitment to issues, including in relation to LGBT Rights,113 and Freedom of Religion or Belief.114 We recommend that the Government appoint a Special Envoy on Atrocity Prevention to ensure that the prevention of mass atrocities is consistently championed in Parliament and Government.

66.We were pleased to see that the Government has provided funding to organisations such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute for their research into the atrocities in Xinjiang.115 This research is invaluable in exposing the Chinese government’s human rights abuses to the wider world. The Government should commit to funding further such research, which is doing vital work to expose those injustices which the Communist Party of China is eager to hide.

104 Foreign Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 2017–19, Violence in Rakhine State and the UK’s response, HC 435, para 37

106 Foreign Affairs Committee, Twelfth Report of Session 2017–19, Global Britain: The Responsibility to Protect and Humanitarian Intervention, HC 1005, para 25

108 The Conflict Centre will be based in the FCDO, and will “draw on expertise from across government and beyond to develop and lead a strategic conflict agenda”.
HM Government, Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, 16 March 2021, p 79

109 Q53 [Kate Ferguson]

110 Q60 [Nicola Reindorp]

111 The Jo Cox Foundation (XIN0070) para 4

112 Q54 [Nicola Reindorp]

114, Fiona Bruce MP, accessed 16 June 2021

115 Q238 [Nigel Adams]

Published: 8 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement