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Budapest to become genocide-prevention hub

An initiative by the Hungarian Foreign Ministry to establish a research center aimed at preventing genocide and mass atrocities is nearing fruition, with the center planned to be up and running by 2010.

Below are extracts from the feasibility study for the Budapest Center for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, made available to the BBJ by István Lakatos Human Rights Ambassador and main proponent of the venture.

Despite the significant progress, the second half of the 20th century has, unfortunately, witnessed several genocides and mass atrocities even after the Holocaust. That fact stresses the need to continue the efforts to fill the gap between the political will for preventing genocide and establishing the necessary international mechanisms for effective operations. Recent research shows and makes evident that, even if escalation to mass violence often happens swiftly, the progression of events toward genocide is gradual, and that the months from initial threat to full genocide offer ample warning time for the international community to take preventive action. It means that genocide is preventable! The international community should make use of this fact to increase the efficiency of its activities in this field.

The Five Point Action Plan to prevent genocide issued by the UN Secretary General in April 2004 and the Annual report of the UN Secretary General on the implementation of the Action Plan published in 2008 identified numerous gaps and tasks including the need for “early and clear warning of situations that could potentially degenerate into genocide” as well as “swift and decisive action along a continuum of steps” where advancement is required.

According to the UNSG Annual Report, another major obstacle in addressing the threats and risks in the context of genocide and mass atrocities is the lack of institutional capacity.

The establishment of an institutionalized mechanism able to promote and/or coordinate an international network of players and stakeholders, as well of regional focal points, closely linked to both global and regional decision making bodies would be a further requirement for progress towards effective actions.

The Budapest Center for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities could substantially narrow the abovementioned gaps for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities.

The Center being a totally independent body should establish special links to UN institutions and agencies, in particular with the Office of the Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide, and as a European based structure should have a close relationship with the decision-making mechanisms of the European Union and its institutions.

At the same time, it should establish specific partnerships with other regional organizations, like the African Union, the OSCE, the Organization of American States and the ASEAN and sub-regional organizations such as the ECOWAS, the IGAD and the SADEC that would offer complementary strengths and cooperative opportunities. It should also develop cooperation with other institutions including international and local NGOs, which are active in the field of conflict prevention, particularly in prevention of genocide and mass atrocities.

The center will concentrate its efforts on bridging the gap between early warning and early action in the context of genocide and mass atrocities by providing the international political actors with comprehensive political and technical recommendations

The center will set up and apply an integrated warning-response support system which will formulate policy recommendations and generate political consensus for early action at international and regional level. After collecting, thoroughly cross-checking and further processing the huge amount of available information and risk assessments related to genocide and mass atrocities, the center will inform “in advance enough” on the evolving threats the international decision making mechanisms to become aware of the threats and start shaping policies, elaborating projects and strategies as well as undertaking preventive actions. Moreover, the center will - in close cooperation with the concerned regional and sub-regional organizations, NGOs and other stakeholders - elaborate and put tailored and viable options and recommendations at the disposal of the decision-making bodies. The special and regular dialogue with the main decision making mechanisms at all levels would also enable the center to call the attention in an operative way to the possible threats occurring in short-term and requiring urgent responses.

The main function of the center and its efforts to bridge the gap between early warning and early action will be carried out with the support of some specific activities.

The Center should monitor sensitive and volatile situations from the perspective of genocide and mass atrocities, including ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It will apply a specific early warning aggregator mechanism based on reliable quantitative data measured by the same indicators over a long period of time, combined with qualitative analysis.

The aggregator mechanism should primarily rely on the tools and results of activities carried out by numerous organizations and institutions specialized on various models detecting genocide and mass atrocities, it should also use specific tools of open-source-intelligence. The center will constantly monitor the work of international organizations and NGOs acting in the field and reporting on specific conflict situations. It should analyze each report with respect to its own mandate and formulate specific early warning analysis in response. In order to increase its reliability, the information will be checked, processed and analyzed by experts stemming from the relevant continent/region and employed by the Center. The assessments of the Center should also be shared with the relevant regional organizations, including the African Union, ECOWAS, IGAD, SADEC, ASEAN, Arab League, OAS, OSCE, CoE, and with specialized bodies such as the Joint Situation Center of the European Union and the Crisis Room of the European Commission as well as with the ministries of foreign affairs of some states being active in the concerned region and country.

Based on the assessments elaborated on individual countries the Center should generate a specific “Watch list” on countries threatened by genocide and massive and serious human rights violations. This main product of the Center should contribute to the elaboration of an early warning protocol for countries, regions and specific institutions for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities.

Between the updates of periodic assessments the center should systematically track the events, monitor the situations in the countries on the list and assess the signs of escalation through applying tools of open source intelligence, organizing regular visits in the field and consulting with regional organizations and other partners focusing on genocide and mass atrocities which have reliable information on the evolvements.

In case of need it should prepare ad hoc risk assessments and analyses with a view to early alert policymakers in the global and regional organizations.

In order to institutionalize its international cooperation, the center should undersign bilateral memorandums of understanding or arrive at any political agreement with the organizations and institutions mentioned above which will allow for exchange of information, consultation and interaction on regular basis. The set of agreements and MoUs should constitute the basis for creating an international network focusing on prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. At the same time, it will serve as framework for a multilateral anti-genocide partnership that should try to promote sharing of information and facilitate synchronized interaction.

Through intensive networking, the center should facilitate cooperation among global and regional organizations, as well as international and national public and private bodies to deal with prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. Moreover, it should foster cooperative networks of like-minded institutions - scientific and academic communities, educational and religious organizations, businesses, and the media.

The center should provide analysis, recommendations, methodology and support on mediation efforts in situations of instability that could lead to genocidal actions.

The center should try to centralize and improve the quality of information, and map existing competence in the field of genocide prevention. It should establish an inventory of the different agencies involved in genocide prevention at international and regional level, as well as within civil society organizations, academic centers and corporations. In this way, it will be possible to mobilize capabilities beyond anything ever done before.

Moreover the activities of the center should try to connect academics and experts in the field of prevention of genocide and mass atrocities contributing to the consolidation and expansion of a theoretical framework capable of contributing to the mission of the center.

In carrying out these activities, the center should rely on the capabilities and experience of the numerous governmental agencies and NGOs as well as academic circles that focus on the subject of genocide and mass atrocities.

The center should also facilitate meetings and workshops aimed at enhancing cooperation among the stakeholders, actors, donors, NGOs and representatives of media at regional level where the concrete tasks and challenges could be set on the agenda from the perspectives of genocide and mass atrocities.

The foundation should be registered as a public benefit organization according to the Hungarian act on public benefit organizations. Besides the fact that non-profit organizations, which have been registered as public benefit organizations, enjoy some advantages of tax allowances and exemptions in many fields, they have to comply with the stringent conditions of the act which are stipulated in order to ensure transparency through the strict rules of publicity, state supervision and conflict of interest. Meeting the requirements of transparency is the precondition of the registration of the foundation as a public benefit organization and of the beginning of its public benefit operation.

The ministry envisages an approximate budget for the center between €2 million and €2.5 million for its yearly functioning. The feasibility study recommends the center to foresee the collection of funding necessary to cover at least the first three years of functioning of the center before its full operability. The funding should be based on a wide range of donors to assure the internationalization of its mandate. (BBJ Online)