Givology Staff's Blog

Lemkin Summit to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities

By Yejide Obisesan and Chloe Eoyang
[color=#669933][i] “Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of a [/i]
[i] single individual?”[/i][i]
[/i] [i] -Raphael Lemkin[/i][/color][color=#66cc33][i]
[/i][/color]
[url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/enoughproject/25651844877/in/album-72157693201922224/]Link to Source[/url]
As we shuffled into our seats at the back of the room, I readjusted my name tag. The blue ink used to write my name was running, as some droplets of water from my umbrella had found their way onto my name-tag. It was an appropriately gloomy day; rainy and cold.
We Givologist had the opportunity to join hundreds of students and community leaders at American University in Washington, D.C., to learn about the ongoing fight against genocide and mass atrocities— not an especially wonderful topic, but unfortunately, extremely relevant.
The third annual Lemkin Summit to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities is named after Polish lawyer and Activist [url=http://hmd.org.uk/resources/stories/hmd-2016-raphael-lemkin]Raphael Lemkin[/url], who coined the term “genocide” in 1944. Lemkin lobbied the UN for genocide to be added as a crime under international law, and participated in drafting the [url=http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CrimeOfGenocide.aspx]Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide[/url]

[url=http://hmd.org.uk/resources/stories/hmd-2016-raphael-lemkin]Link to Source[/url]
The three day conference, co-sponsored by [url=https://enoughproject.org/]Enough Project[/url] and the [url=https://www.jww.org/]Jewish World Watch[/url], featured expert panels, discussions, and advocacy training that all led up to a full-day of lobbying on Capitol Hill. Highlighted by the passion of attendees was the ever-changing conversation on responding to and preventing genocide. Startling personal stories and anecdotes gave each participant a taste of the tension points in the fight against mass atrocities.

[url=http://www.cougarsbyte.com/article/2018/02/kean-university-students-come-together-in-the-capital-to-end-genocide]Link to Source[/url]
It was amazing, and frankly, inspiring to hear the nuance of thought that goes into the methods these leaders utilize alongside their communities. While Givology isn’t directly involved in genocide prevention, our key motivation of education is one of the many stepping-stones that the panelists pointed to as important to their work.
Education is seen as key as it empowers the people that have intimate knowledge of the struggles of regions fighting against genocide to speak for themselves. Their voices are a powerful call to stakeholders and decision makers. They are not telling stories; they are sharing their first-hand testimony. With education and understanding in hand, they can innovate and define the steps that needed and communicate that to those in power.

[color=#669933][i] "Their voices are a powerful call to stakeholders and decision makers. [/i]
[i] They are not telling stories; they are sharing their first-hand testimony."[/i]
[/color]
The depth of knowledge pulled up from the years of grueling work and the unflagging passion they had for the fight was impressive. They are powerful agents of change in their individual communities, employing grassroots strategies that build up the “victim” right alongside them. They will not stop until the fight is won or they have no choice but to pass on the baton. And they infected the whole room with the same spirit. This is by far not an exhaustive portrait of what was shared, but the essence of the panel can hopefully be garnered in these points:
[ul][li]When we hit a wall in the fight against mass atrocities, when decision makers lose focus and interest, [b]the onus is on us as organizations to mobilize[/b]. We have to start using different tools. Genocide morphs but it has never gone away, the method of bringing attention to it needs to morph in response. [/li][/ul][ul][li]Decision makers need to start hearing again about the [b]pain points but from different mouthpieces[/b]. The mass atrocities community is very good at getting creative with where and who their messages are coming from.[/li][/ul][ul][li]It is important to consider that women and young girls are not always granted much agency in the best of circumstances and little to none in the worst. Ensuring that their basic needs are met (ex. feminine products) and that they are able to get back into schooling as soon as possible is a good start. [b]This foundation makes room for mobilization, helping these women tell their stories and find their voices again.[/b][/li][/ul][ul][li]When asked, “ what is the most important thing that organizations in these regions need?” [b]recognition, respect and trust[/b] were at the top of the list. Many of these grassroots and women focused organizations work on shoestring budgets, begging for the support from the already strained communities around them. They feel marginalized by these circumstances and are sometimes pushed aside by the more recognizable aid giants. Along with a lack of agency, they [b]perceive a lack of trust from international community [/b]that sometimes deems sending in the “experts” as the best choice.[/li][/ul]
As we walked off, my umbrella now dry, the sky was a little clearer. Hopefully, someday, this is how the world will be too. Hopefully, someday it’ll be free of the problems we spoke of. I know that this is a dream that is a long ways away, but with people like the ones I met today, we will always be inching a little bit closer.

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