21 YEARS SINCE THE RWANDA GENOCIDE:
How flaws in international decision-making continue to hamper effective prevention of and response to mass atrocities today

A group of 40 Rwandan, US, European and international former officials and experts met at The Hague in June 2014 for a conference on the failures of the international response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. [Photo courtesy of The Hague Institute for Global Justice.]
A group of 40 Rwandan, US, European and international former officials and experts met at The Hague in June 2014 for a conference on the failures of the international response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. [Photo courtesy of The Hague Institute for Global Justice.]

The National Security Archive and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum have published the proceedings, documents and rapporteur’s report from the critical oral history conference that Foreign Policy magazine called “an unprecedented 2014 gathering of former Rwandan officials and international policymakers who managed the response to the world’s worst mass murder since the Holocaust.”  The new documentation draws attention to flaws in international decision-making that continue to hamper the effective prevention of and response to mass atrocity today.

Timed to coincide with the 21st anniversary of the start of the Rwanda genocide in April 1994, the release includes a fully annotated 230-page transcript of a two-day conference attended by many of the principal international actors on Rwanda. The conference, which took place in The Hague from June 1 to June 3, 2014, was sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and The Hague Institute for Global Justice, with support from the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

Conference attendees included the architects of the 1993 Arusha peace accords, the leadership of the UN peacekeeping force known as UNAMIR, four former ambassadors to the UN Security Council, as well as senior US, French, Belgian, and Rwandan officials. Under conference ground rules, the discussions were held behind closed doors, pending the release of an authorized transcript with supporting documentation from a wide array of primary sources. “By assembling so many of the key players in the same room, we were able to analyze the fault lines in the international system in a way that sheds light on our modern-day challenges,” said Cameron Hudson, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The goal was to identify moments when international action might have made a difference.”

The Rwanda conference was the first stage in a broader effort to examine “International Decision-Making in the Age of Genocide.” This summer, a group of high-level civilian and military decision-makers will gather in The Hague for a follow-up conference marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the United Nations “safe area” of Srebrenica. “If we are serious about preventing future Rwandas and Srebrenicas, we must examine the functioning of the international system as a whole,” said Abiodun Williams, President of The Hague Institute for Global Justice. “This includes not just the UN Security Council, but the actions of a wide range of traditional and non-traditional actors, including the media.”

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