Fifteen years after
the Rwandan genocide, there's greater awareness about humanitarian crises
around the world. However, response is still not always up to the level that
can prevent war crimes and genocides.
Sam Bell, advocacy
director of the Genocide Intervention Network, says the human slaughter of 1994
has had lasting implications.
"What happened in
Rwanda is still fresh in the minds of a lot of Americans and a lot of
policymakers and is referred to quite often by the mainstream media and by
concerned citizens across the world. So, in that sense, it still lives with us,"
improvement in technology and the greater willingness of people to speak out,
word of humanitarian crises spreads faster around the world.
Bell says, "One
thing is information and we're talking about atrocities that are imminent or
ongoing. The (US) State Department is just one institution that has undertaken
steps to ensure that we have the information that we need to make policy
decisions in a timely way."
He says that former
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her successor, Hillary Clinton, both
believe in what's called transformational diplomacy.
"Taking people from
capitals and putting them into the country. One of the criticisms of our response
to Rwanda is that folks in the US embassy were not aware of things happening
beyond Kigali or even in Kigali. And one point of emphasis for the past
secretary of state and this current secretary of state is people need to be in
the field getting the relevant information from a whole number of stakeholders
besides government ministers," he says.
respond to crises has improved, although Bell says much more improvement is
"We were not
prepared to respond in a forceful way to the atrocities that occurred in
Rwanda. And a number of things have happened in the interim, including the
African Union starting to field missions and deploying to places like Darfur.
After Rwanda, NATO intervened in Kosovo. And there have been a number of other
initiatives," he says.
Besides a military
response, diplomats often get to the crisis scene faster. For example, former
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan helped mediate an end to Kenya's political
violence in late 2007 and early 2008. More than a thousand people died
following the disputed elections.
Intervention Network advocacy director says the average citizen is today more
likely to respond upon hearing about atrocities.
Bell says, "While we
are not at a place yet where the world is responding to and preventing all
genocides and mass atrocities, people in places all over the world, including
the United States, are alive on these issues. People are calling their
representatives. We have set up a toll-free hotline: 1800-GENOCIDE, which
25,000 people have used to call their elected officials."
Bell says that when
the Darfur crisis began in 2003, few Americans had heard of the region in
western Sudan. Now, he says that more than 50 percent of Americans are aware of
Bell says that the
next step is being able to prevent atrocities and genocides following early