Sunday, October 14, 2007

genocide: look for early warning signs

MONTREAL • Diplomats and human rights experts said Friday that genocide is preventable if the international community responded to early warning signs and warring parties redefined their political interests.

But panelists meeting at a three-day global conference in Montreal said by the time genocide is under way, there is little the United Nations can do to stem the bloodshed.

"Once a genocide has begun, it's too late for the UN to intervene. I think it's too late," said Gregory Stanton, former US State Department official, now president of Genocide Watch.

Stanton instead called on civil society to watch for warning signs of genocide - such as demonising one's opponent-and put pressure on states to act.

"If we're going to develop the political will to really do something, we're going to need to build an international anti-genocide movement very much like the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century, otherwise our leaders are not going to take action. That is the problem, it's because our leaders don't take action even if they know what the early warning signs are."
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Never mind that the UN has to cater to the planet's biggest genocide perpetrator, as what's going down in Iraq should make abundantly clear. Definitely, demonizing of the soon-to-be victims is one warning sign that should be actively challenged by anyone in civil society. Genocide Watch has a taxonomy of eight stages of genocide that should be useful to those trying to determine what some early warning signs might look like. If we notice a tendency to classify, symbolize, and dehumanize other groups either within a particular nation or in the process of colonial conquest, that's the time to stand up and be counted. Once the killing starts (both in the physical and social senses), there's not much left to do but to try to bring the perps to justice after the fact.

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