What Is the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act?

answers to your questions about new legislation

Posted by OBS Team on June 2nd, 2017

This week we launched a statewide campaign here in Tennessee calling on Senator Corker to support the Elie Wiesel Genocide & Atrocities Prevention Act (S.1158). This legislation is really exciting for a lot of reasons, one of the biggest being that it is a long overdue step in the right direction. 

You've asked some great questions about this legislation and our campaign, so we wanted to answer them here for the benefit of everyone else in our movement as well. Let's get started!

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1. What Is the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act?

This is new federal legislation that will ensure the U.S. government has the tools, training, and funding needed to save lives and promote peace when it becomes apparent that mass atrocity situations are becoming a threat somewhere in the world. You can read the full bill here, but we'll also provide you a quick summary as well. This legislation focuses on four major components: 

1. Establishes A Mass Atrocities Task Force Within The State Department. Underneath the Secretary of State, a Mass Atrocities Task Force will be established. This is a high-level inter-agency group to coordinate and prioritize U.S. government action to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities. 

  • Members of the Task Force would include the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Department of Defense, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Department of Justice, Department of Treasury, Department of Homeland Security, Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • In coordination with the Task Force, the Secretary of State would be required to submit a report to Congress within 180 days (and two additional reports every three years thereafter) to include an overall evaluation of U.S. government efforts related to prevention efforts, a global assessment of risks, and recommendations for strengthening preventative efforts.
  • The Chair and Task Force members would also be required to brief Congress annually.

2. Requires Training For Foreign Service Officers. The legislation would mandate training of U.S. Foreign Service Officers in conflict and atrocities prevention to ensure that personnel at U.S. diplomatic posts have the skills to recognize early warning signs of potential conflict or outbreak of mass violence, and are aware of the tools available to mitigate violence.

3. Requires a Director of National Intelligence Report. The annual report by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to Congress will include a review of countries at-risk of mass atrocities and genocide. 

4. Establishes The Complex Crisis Fund. This fund provides much-needed flexible resources for USAID and the State Department specific to preventing, mitigating, and responding to emerging or unforeseen crises and conflict. Money has been appropriated by Congress to the Fund since 2010, but it was never formally established or authorized. It has proven effective in responding to atrocity risks in places like Central African Republic, Guinea and Jordan.

2. Why Is This Legislation Needed?

For years, the United States government has lacked the tools it needs to effectively prevent violent conflict and mass atrocity crimes before they begin. Decades after the Holocaust, the U.S. government still finds it almost impossible to bring about its full diplomatic, economic, and intelligence resources to halt brewing mass atrocity crises before they begin. A quick glance at the dismal situations in Syria and Sudan are ample proof of that. 

But the need for this legislation to become law goes well beyond moral reasons. Responding to genocide and mass atrocity crimes is costly, can be extremely risky, and will always be less effective than preventing these crimes before they begin. Right now, over 65 million people have been displaced by conflict worldwide - the highest number since World War II. This has required growing expenditures to support humanitarian assistance programs and other forms of intervention.

In places such as Sudan, Syria, and more, ongoing mass atrocities are setting the stage for cyclic violence and negative global impacts, such as the proliferation of terrorism, in the years ahead. These threats to U.S. security and interests can be mitigated with stronger investments in early prevention. It makes sense to invest more heavily in preventative actions as more lives can be saved at a much lower cost by stopping mass atrocities before they begin. 

Progress on this issue has been excruciatingly slow, but this legislation is an opportunity to take a huge leap forwards.

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3. Got It. So Why Is This Legislation Just Arriving?

The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (S.1158) is the latest in a series of moves by the U.S. government to improve it's own capabilities in preventing mass atrocity crimes and genocide: 

  • In 2010, S.Con.Res.71 passed unanimously with bipartisan co-sponsors, urging the creation of what would become the Atrocities Prevention Board.
  • In 2011, President Obama issued Presidential Study Directive 10 (PSD-10), declaring the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide to be a “core national security interest and core moral responsibility” of the United States. PSD-10 ordered the creation of a Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), directed the National Security Advisor to lead a comprehensive review assessing the U.S. government’s anti-atrocity capabilities, and recommend reforms that would fill identified gaps in these capabilities.
  • In 2015, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the State Department Authorization Act, S.1635, which would authorize the Atrocities Prevention Board.
  • In 2016, the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, which is a previous version of this bill, was introduced in the U.S. Senate, but failed to move forwards due to the timing of the bill's release in an election year and a small number of Congressional concerns with the bill. 

Congress knows that the U.S. can be doing a better job on these issues. This legislation is the next major leap forwards in that direction. 

4. Can This Bill Actually Become Law?

We're fully aware of the current political situation in Washington D.C. The answer is still a resounding "Yes!", but only if Senator Corker hears from you about it! The Senator works for you, which means he wants to hear from you. His job is to represent you in Washington D.C., and he can't do that if he never hears from you. 

Genocide and mass atrocity prevention is a bipartisan issue. Prevention is more cost-effective, saves more lives, and helps avoid costly interventions. It's smart governance that everyone can get behind. 

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The people of Sudan are overcoming two of the greatest challenges facing humanity today: war and genocide. Operation Broken Silence is working to accelerate their ability to generate lasting change through storytelling, education, advocacy, and emergency relief programs. 

Our Tennessee supporters have a very special role to play in ensuring this bill moves forwards. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His support of this bill  is critical to making sure it becomes law. Here's how you can help:

1. Join The Campaign. If you are a Tennessee resident, we have a statewide campaign we need you to join. Our actions are simple and only take a few minutes a week, but they are critical in making progress. JOIN HERE »

2. Learn More About Our Work. Advocating for smart U.S. foreign policy on a narrow scope of issues is just one component of what Operation Broken Silence does. We have a number of programs we support on the ground in Sudan that are leaving a lasting impact as well! LEARN MORE »

3. Become A Member Of The Renewal. This is an automatic monthly giving program that directly supports our education, emergency and medical relief, and media programs in Sudan. It’s like your monthly subscription to a video, music, or internet cable service, but it empowers the Sudanese people! WATCH THE VIDEO »

You can also follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Snapchat and sign up for email updates

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