Washington, D.C. — A little more than a year after President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board, the Center for American Progress released a report analyzing the board’s performance to date. The Atrocities Prevention Board’s, or APB’s, work remains essential, although its record has been mixed. The APB deserves significant credit for bringing new attention and energy to atrocity-prevention efforts, particularly in agencies where this issue had previously not been a priority. The APB has also done important work in contributing to important institutional changes needed to make the government better at preventing atrocities, such as improved training.
By any measure, the APB has been highly active, operating at an up tempo, and the process of bringing together key interagency players around shared analytical efforts is of obvious utility. The APB’s efforts have helped propel country teams on the ground to embrace more conflict-sensitive approaches to both diplomacy and development.
But there are also serious concerns. First and foremost, the continuing tragedy in Syria has cast a pall over the board’s work and has led many to sharply question its overall efficacy. In part because of Syria, the board has also been highly reluctant until very recently to engage Congress and outside groups regarding its activities. Although this has improved in recent months, the board still too often operates with a level of minimal transparency, and its reluctance to share unclassified findings regarding its work ultimately makes that work less effective.
The report details the history of the APB and its current functions, assesses its relative accomplishments and challenges to date, and articulates a series of alternatives for how the APB might be institutionally organized and funded to best ensure that atrocity prevention within the U.S. government is made both more effective and enduring. Key recommendations include:
- Establishing a bipartisan board for the APB along the lines utilized by the Millennium Challenge Corporation to give the APB greater heft, a stronger base of support, and much-needed oversight
- Exploring alternatives for housing the APB so that it could establish a proper secretariat and more regular staffing patterns
- Resolving areas of overlap between the APB’s function and the role of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the Department of State
Read the full analysis: Atrocities Prevention Board: Background, Performance, and Options by John Norris and Annie Malknecht
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