President Obama Speaks Out on Atrocities Prevention
President Obama spoke this morning at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. to observe a Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust and announce the launch of a new Atrocities Prevention Board. Obama was introduced by author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Both speakers gave moving testimony on the horrors of the Holocaust and how we can achieve the promise to "never again" allow such atrocities to occur.
Obama spoke to the need to more formally intervene to prevent mass atrocities and genocide, saying "national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your own people." He said that "never again is a challenge to us all," adding that "remembrance without action changes nothing."
The President used the speech to outline several key actions the administration is taking to truly achieve the goal of "never again." Chief among these was the issuance of an executive order that allows for U.S. officials to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, including cell phone tracking and Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses. These sanctions will hopefully help address the repression of regimes, particularly Iran and Syria, who have used the internet to control and censor democracy and human rights activists.
Obama also announced the formal launch of an Atrocities Prevention Board, created following a presidential study directive last year, which will hold its first meeting today. The Board will include senior representatives from across the administration with the goal of helping "the U.S. government identify and address atrocity threats and oversee institutional changes that will make us more nimble and effective." The Board will host its first meeting today with more than 200 representatives from nongovernmental organizations and activists, including representatives from Citizens for Global Solutions (check out our Twitter for live updates on the event!).
The Obama administration also announced measures such as adding the potential for mass atrocities in National Intelligence Estimate. The administration will also provide development "challenge" grants to technology companies to develop new ways to help residents in countries vulnerable to mass killings better detect and quickly alert others to impending dangers. You can read about all of the Administration's initiatives here.
Samantha Power, who will chair the Atrocities Prevention Board, said the administration's actions are an "unprecedented direction from the president, and the development of a comprehensive strategy, sends a clear message that we are committed to combating atrocities, an old threat that regularly takes grim and modern new forms."
The international community has not yet succeeded in keeping the promise of never again. But the steps put in place by the Obama administration are key steps in the goal to achieving a world free of genocide and crimes against humanity.
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