Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Session A1 4: Preventing Genocide
Monday, 19/July/2021:
12:00pm - 1:30pm

Session Chair: Elisenda Calvet Martinez, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
Location: Room 4


Can We Predict Genocide?

Deborah Mayersen

University of New South Wales Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Australia

The ability to predict genocide is an important component of attempts to prevent it. In recent years, there has been an increasing number of risk assessment lists that identify and rank countries at risk of genocide, mass killing and/or mass atrocities. This paper offers a critical examination of these risk assessment lists. How accurately do they predict genocide and other mass atrocities? Based on a comprehensive analysis of risk lists, I suggest that they have a good ability to identify countries at the very highest risk levels, and countries in which risk is rapidly rising. They can therefore be a useful tool for practitioners and policymakers in some respects. Their predictive capacity, however, is limited by issues of overprediction, imprecision and inconsistency. This places serious limitations on their current forecasting capacity. At present, therefore, risk assessment lists should be used carefully and critically, and alongside qualitative assessments, when assessing risk of genocide and/or mass atrocities.

Atrocity Forecasting with Quantitative Models: Uses, accuracy and new forecasts

Sascha Nanlohy

University of Sydney, Australia

This paper will discuss the policy utility of atrocity forecasts with quanitative models as a tool of atrocity prevention and assess the accuracy of the Atrocity Forecasting Project's 2016-2020 forecasts and how they compare with other early warning systems. The paper will suggest how the policy community working on atrocity prevention can utilise atrocity forecasts and introduce new forecasts for 2021-2023.

Beyond linear conceptions of genocide. Introducing the Genocide Hexagon

Timothy Williams

Bundeswehr University Munich, Germany

There is broad recognition that linear conceptions in explaining the genesis of genocide are inadequate. Yet the simplicity of linear models as an understandable heuristic renders them attractive to secondary- and tertiary-level teaching and advocacy. For example, Genocide Watch’s 10 stages of genocide paint a clear picture of how genocide occurs, flagging important factors that explain part of radicalisation processes (while Genocide Watch’s stage model claims not to be linear, it assumes that each later stage must be preceded by the former stages). This paper introduces the ‘Genocide Hexagon’ as an alternative approach that overcomes the linearity of stage models but retains the simplicity of an abstract model that can be used in teaching and advocacy. The Genocide Hexagon identifies six key environmental factors that make genocide more likely to occur and can each be counteracted with certain long-term and short-term prevention strategies (preliminary selection): justification; securitisation (victims as threatening); power threat to political leaders; eradication of constraints; preparation (creation of capacities for implementation); mobilisation. The Genocide Hexagon is conceived as a spatial model that visualises the likelihood of genocide according to the degree that each of the six factors is present in a specific case (the hexagon is fully filled when all factors are present to the fullest degree, while the hexagon contracts along these axes if some factors are less prevalent); triggering factors that demonstrate agency transform this genocidal potential into an actual genocide are superimposed. This paper begins with a critique of previous heuristics before introducing the Genocide Hexagon through its conceptual foundations across six factors and its spatial representation. It also demonstrates briefly what types of prevention could be effective depending on the present factors and how the Genocide Hexagon could be used fruitfully in education and advocacy.

Atrocity Prevention and UK Foreign Policy: Conceptual, Institutional, and Operational Challenges

Ben Willis

University of Plymouth, United Kingdom

This article explores how the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities is integrated into UK foreign policy across its early warning, development, diplomatic, and defence work. In doing so, it addresses a persistent gap in the burgeoning academic literature on mass atrocity prevention, which has offered limited consideration to date of how the UK and like-minded states have embedded an atrocity prevention 'lens' into their national policy-making architectures. The article proceeds in four parts. The first part situates the evolution of UK atrocity prevention policy within longstanding cross-party support for the Responsibility to Protect and a more recent association with the broad UK foreign policy agenda of tackling conflict and instability overseas. The second part discusses the causes and consequences of these problematic conceptual associations. The third part considers the institutional arrangements through which oversight, direction, and coordination of UK atrocity prevention policy is exercised. The fourth part then examines the extent to which atrocity prevention is operationalised via the UK’s self-identified toolkit of measures. The article concludes by offering suggestions for policy reform and calling for further research into how the UK and other like-minded states integrate the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities across their foreign policy work.