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The issue

Mass atrocities show humanity at its worst. The human, social and security cost of mass atrocities – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing – are immense and far-reaching. They destabilise countries, regions and the wider world; people flee their homes and require outside assistance; economic growth is reversed for entire regions and violence transcends national borders.

They also affect the UK in a range of ways: from driving forward global instability to triggering mass migration. Mass atrocities also present a challenge to the UK's authority as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, tasked with maintaining global peace and security. 

The UK is a vocal advocate for the "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) - a commitment endorsed by states in 2005 to protect populations from atrocity crimes. Yet some experts and commentators have argued that the UK only champions R2P when it aligns with its strategic interests, and is not itself a strategic priority. 

UNA-UK has been campaigning hard for the UK to make atrocity prevention a firm foreign policy priority. The current lack of a cross-Government mechanism to prevent and address mass atrocities has given rise to actions that have on occasion been inconsistent - or in direct contradiction to - the UK's commitments to human rights, atrocity prevention and policies on development and arms sales. If the UK is to live up to its 'Global Britain' potential, it needs to address these crimes and the international community’s failure to prevent them. 

Take action 

Constituent pressure on your local MP is one of the most effective ways to trigger action on an issue of concern. There are many ways you can contact your MP to urge the UK government to prioritise atrocity prevention. 

Write to your MP: Write a personal email or letter to your MP in support of our atrocity prevention recommendations to the Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry on the UK's foreign policy ambitions, making the following points:

Make atrocity prevention and the Responsibility to Protect a central strand of strategic defence and security documents

Develop a strategy for preventing atrocities which would detail precisely what measures and indicators would lead the Government to declare that there is an imminent risk of atrocity crimes, and what mechanisms and actions this would trigger

Elevate the role of R2P Focal Point to ministerial level [and] champion the doctrine of R2P across Government, using atrocity prevention as a ‘lens’ to analyse policy in all areas including within peacekeeping, arms export policy and immigration and asylum policy. This could usefully include setting up a joint FCO-DFID unit on atrocity prevention.

  • Meet your MP: Talking to your MP in person is a powerful way to show you care. Meeting face-to-face allows you to engage directly with them
  • Hold an event: Local events matter and are a powerful way to bring people together with a common concern and connect with your MP

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