How Mass Atrocities End

The existing conventional meta-narrative for genocide and mass atrocity against civilians is empirically and analytically strong on the origins and nature of such extreme violence, but takes a strictly normative turn when considering the endings of genocide or mass atrocity. The ‘ideal’ ending, which tends to preoccupy advocates and policymakers, consists of an international military intervention leading to a settlement that includes not only an end to genocide but also the establishment of peace and democracy along with an exercise in transitional justice that may include trials, assistance to the survivors, memorialization, compensation and reparation. What debates do exist generally focus on the legality and politics of international interventions to halt genocide and measures to bring perpetrators to justice. This projects aims to explore the oft-neglected empirical study of how genocides and mass atrocities have actually terminated.

The project emerges out of a series of seminars organized previously by Alex de Waal, Bridget Conley-Zilkic, and Jens Meierhenrich, and now hosted by the WPF.

Components of the project include:

Seminar Series. WPF seminars bring in case study and area specialists to examine endings over the course of two days of intensive presentations and discussions. Essays from these seminars and additional resources can be found on our blog, Reinventing Peace.

Analysis of trends across cases: Beginning in Fall 2012, WPF has constituted a regular semester-long research group of graduate students at The Fletcher School to create a database of consistent information about more than fifty cases of mass atrocities from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and the political and military circumstances around the endings of each episode. This project will result in a searchable database and published essay summarizing the results.

Analysis of mass famine trends: This research project aims to document the patterns of famines and episodes of mass starvation over history, including their causes, locations, and best estimates for the numbers of people who died. It will bring together evidence for major famines and instances of deliberate mass starvation (related to war and genocide).

In-depth case studies. The WPF is sponsoring in-depth expert examination of several cases in order to provide nuanced research into the decision-making that governed ending atrocities. Our researchers and their cases include:

Series of publications. In short essays, op-eds, blog contributions and book-length treatments, WPF will publicize its findings as the project progresses.