International Order & Conflict
Project Note

Looking Back at 2020: APSG Meetings and Featured Speakers

Amidst a challenging year, the Atrocity Prevention Study Group grew and continued to highlight important atrocity prevention issues
By Adrian Grycuk – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

Despite the challenge of shifting to virtual meetings in 2020, Stimson continued its work on the Atrocity Prevention Study Group (APSG) to solidify its position as one of the premier discussion fora for atrocity prevention issues. With attendance at an all-time high, the year 2020 also saw the APSG develop a combination of programming for its meetings that focus on 1) specific at-risk situations (e.g., the Rohingya, India/Kashmir, Cameroon, and Uganda), 2) applications of theory (e.g., an annual list comparison and an examination of the impact of COVID-19 on the future likelihood of atrocities), 3) thematic discussions focused on the impact of gender, climate, online hate speech, and international justice on atrocity prevention, and 4) presentations from former government personnel on their time in Washington and abroad. APSG’s unique mix of participants (roughly one third current and former government officials, one third scholars, and one third NGOs) has proven to be a winning formula.

2020 Meetings and Featured Speakers

Below is a full list of the APSG’s 2020 meetings and featured speakers:

  • The Downward Spiral in Zimbabwe (January 23, 2020) A discussion on the deteriorating economic and political situation in Zimbabwe from recent research.
    • Trust Mamombe, The Institute for Economics and Peace
    • Alex Noyes, RAND
  • The Expanding Role of Mercenaries and Its Implications for the Laws of Armed Conflict (February 20, 2020)
    • Dr. Sean McFate, Georgetown University & National Defense University
    • Professor Mike Newton, Vanderbilt University
    • Brittany Benowitz, American Bar Association
    • Andrea Harrison, International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent
  • Annual Risk Comparison/Uganda (April 15, 2020) Annual list comparison meeting examining the countries around the world most at-risk for atrocities and other risks, with a specific focus on Uganda.
    • Dr. Benjamin Valentino, Dartmouth University
    • Laurie Smolenski, Institute of Economics and Peace
    • Emily Sample, George Mason University
  • Policy Options on ICC (April 29,2020) Bonus meeting organized for APSG members to hear about and comment on the work of the American Society of International Law’s task force to identify “Policy Options for U.S. Engagement with the International Criminal Court.”
    • Beth Van Schaack, Stanford Law School, Former Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues
    • Todd F. Buchwald, Former Ambassador and Special Coordinator for the Office of Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State
  • Dealing with Dangerous Online Speech (May 22, 2020) Meeting about dangerous speech and understanding the thought patterns of high-level perpetrators of democide.
    • Cathy Buerger, The Dangerous Speech Project
    • Ashleigh Landau, University of Oregon
  • India (June 18, 2020) Perspectives on the prospects for atrocities in India.
    • Vasu Mohan, The International Foundation for Electoral Studies
    • Professor Surupa Gupta, University of Mary Washington
  • The Rohingya (July 23, 2020) Historical, humanitarian, and legal perspectives on the Rohingya crisis.
    • Dan Sullivan, Refugees International
    • Katie Dock, The Stimson Center
    • Azeem Ibrahim, Center for Global Policy
    • Erin Rosenberg, The Simon-Skjodt Center
  • Research Exchange (July 30, 2020) First APSG research exchange where members discussed their current work and gaps in the atrocity prevention field.
  • COVID-19’s Impact (August 25, 2020) Exploring the impact of Coronavirus and the global economic crisis on the prospects for political instability, mass violence, and atrocities, especially in the top 30 at-risk countries.
    • Corinne Graf, U.S. Institute of Peace
    • Ben Valentino, Dartmouth College
    • Chuck Anderton, Holy Cross
    • Ore Koren, Indiana University
  • Reliving the Rwandan Genocide with Three Ambassadors (September 17, 2020) A presentation by former U.S. Ambassador Joyce Leader about her recently published book which recounts her experiences as Deputy Chief of Mission in Kigali during the time of the Rwandan Genocide.
    • Joyce Leader, former Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador in Rwanda, author of the new book From Hope to Horror: Diplomacy and the Making of the Rwanda Genocide
    • Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
    • Ambassador George Moose
  • New Tools (October 15, 2020) Meeting highlighting new tools and techniques for atrocity prevention.
    • Chris Mahoney, Peloria
    • Mollie Zapata, The Simon-Skjodt Center
    • Kyra Fox, The Simon-Skjodt Center
  • Syria and Accountability (November 19, 2020) Meeting centered around the Syrian Accountability Mechanism.
    • Ambassador Stephen Rapp, Former U.S. Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice
    • Jörn Oliver Eiermann, Special Assistant to the Head, International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (Syria)
    • Balkees Jarrah, Human Rights Watch
  • Atrocity Watch in Uganda (December 3, 2020) George Mason University’s Emily Sample outlined the results of a multi-month study on the potential for atrocities in Uganda.
  • Conflict Assessment Workshop (December 8-10, 2020)Inaugural APSG Conflict Assessment Workshop, led by Professor Lisa Schirch, with lectures, small group exercises, and case studies.
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