From Srebrenica to a safer tomorrow: Preventing future mass atrocities around the world – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has filled our television screens and social media with shocking images of likely war crimes and crimes against humanity. Suspected mass atrocities in many other countries have passed with less public attention but are no less damaging and morally repugnant. Such acts inflict horrific suffering and long-lasting societal scars. They also set back global development and stability. More people are fleeing violence and persecution now than at any other point since World War Two.

Entrenched divisions between countries, on display within the United Nations Security Council, have constrained multilateral action in response to many crises of the last decade, including in Myanmar, China, Syria, Yemen and Ethiopia. Many now fear that we are living through an age of impunity for those who commit atrocities. Other trends are likely to fuel further violence, including the strains on societies and livelihoods caused by climate change, threats to democracies, hate speech online and the role being played by non-state actors in conflict. The UK Government believes that international peace and security will deteriorate by 2030 in the absence of “concerted action”.

The Prime Minister has expressed her personal commitment to preventing mass atrocities, seeing this as morally right and “absolutely” in the UK’s strategic interest. Now is the time to drive forward this commitment.

Alongside continued diplomacy and a push for institutional reform at the multilateral level, the Government must introduce a strategy for preventing and responding to mass atrocities globally, heeding repeated calls from within Parliament and beyond. This new strategy must focus on atrocities both within and outside of conflicts. It must involve the whole of Government in mitigating risks, covering not only diplomacy, development and defence, but trade, supply chains, arms exports, education, asylum and border policy.

The new strategy should build on the Government’s efforts to secure justice for victims of suspected atrocity crimes in Ukraine and apply these to other contexts. To achieve its goals, the Government must work with like-minded partners. In particular, this should include the United States, which, in July, released its own Strategy to Anticipate, Prevent, and Respond to Atrocities.

To make the new strategy effective, the Government should:

  • give greater priority to preventing atrocities by addressing this at the Foreign Policy and Security Council, using intelligence to track imminent/escalating atrocities and submitting an annual report to Parliament;
  • ensure that UK Missions overseas are no longer left without the support they need by mandating relevant training for Ambassadors and introducing an Atrocity Prevention Toolkit;
  • strengthen the role of UK aid in tackling the drivers of atrocities, re-assessing whether enough aid is reaching communities in states at risk and introducing a new budget line in the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund;
  • allocate appropriate funds and staff to the new—and highly welcome—Office for Conflict, Stabilisation and Mediation.

The genocide in Srebrenica, July 1995, represented the worst of humanity. Its legacy endures. Learning from the past, this Report’s recommendations will help put the UK at the forefront of preventing and ending mass atrocities around the world.