School of Politics and International Studies

Responsibility to Protect Student Journal


Mass atrocity prevention should be a priority for the next UK government

Georgiana Epure, University of Cambridge, UK

Georgiana is an International Relations MPhil candidate and Gates scholar at the University of Cambridge. She is co-editor-in-chief of the Responsibility to Protect Student Journal.

When mass atrocity crises erupt, the human, economic, social and security costs to the country and the international community are enormous. We see this in places like Syria, Libya, Yemen and South Sudan and the subsequent refugee flows, regional and international destabilisation, and the rise of terrorism – to name just a few of the effects of humanitarian crises on Britain. In a world where traditional leaders in mass atrocity prevention, such as the US, plan to cut assistance for developing countries, put a very narrow version of the national interest first, and insulate themselves from global responsibilities, the UK’s role in protecting populations from gross human rights violations is ever more important.

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Understanding Identity in Darfur: How Western Media Has Impacted the Conflict

Casey Bush, Clark University, US

Casey studies History and Political Science, focusing on Holocaust and Genocide Studies. As Campaign Coordinator for STAND she looks forward to pursuing her passion for genocide prevention.

Since conflict erupted in Darfur in 2003, Western scholars have sought to explain the causes and consequences of what we now understand as one of the 21st century’s first instances of genocide. Julie Flint, Alex De Waal and John Prendergast have spent over a decade visiting Darfur and writing about the conflict’s causes and effects. Students read these articles, eyes wide and hearts heavy, in order to grasp a sliver of an understanding as to how neighbors can kill neighbors. In response to the tragedy, the Western world took up the “Save Darfur” movement, which united people from across the United States, including influential figures from Don Cheadle to George Clooney. As more and more people became involved in the movement, however, representations of the conflict were simplified. Students were taught that the conflict was between the Arabs and non-Arab black Africans in which nomadic Arabs were genocidally targeting non-Arab Darfuris. Perhaps this was because it was easier to explain the conflict in such a way or maybe because it was far too complex to understand fully. In fact, the conflict in Darfur is more nuanced than a simple black versus non-black war. However, after searching through article after article in the New York Times and the Washington Post, it has become clear that the Western media has a different understanding of ethnicity, blackness, and identity than that which is held in Sudan. Thus, in this piece I will address the faulty Western understanding of the Darfur conflict in terms of identity and attempt to understand how this understanding affects policy-making. To do this, I will outline a brief history of the conflict, analyse various news articles to determine how Western media understands the conflict, explain the ways that media has an effect on US policy, and then offer a final analysis and recommendations for students who aspire to be informed activists.

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Are armed drones effective for counterterrorism? Are they legal?

Mathias Gjesdal Hammer, University of Cambridge, UK

Mathias is a first year student studying Human, Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University.

In a political situation in which the idea of committing yet more US troops to the Middle East is increasingly toxic, unmanned aerial vehicles have become the weapon of choice. Government officials often present drones as an ideal weapon and claim that drones can eliminate enemy militants much more efficiently than traditional weapons and without putting American lives at risk. While drones certainly do have a limited use in the battle against terrorism, the lack of transparency and the very nature of drone strikes risk angering large numbers of the civilian population in areas of intensive drone strikes. As such, the effectiveness and relative precision of drone strikes as a tactic must be carefully considered and weighed against other concerns within a larger strategy of counterterrorism. Additionally, US drone strikes are often justified on legally dubious grounds and many types of drones strikes clearly seem to violate international law. In a world in which weaponized drones are becoming increasingly common, it seems crucial for any US counterterrorism strategy to include clear accountability for drone strikes and to limit them to when all other options have truly been exhausted.

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The Causes of Genocide

Katelyn Swinsburg, The University of Queensland, Australia

Katelyn is a second year student at the University of Queensland studying towards a BA with an extended major in Peace and Conflict Studies and a minor in Human Rights and International Relations. She has previously volunteered as an English teacher in rural China and Cambodia is a strong advocate for human rights and the dignity of all peoples.

My research into the causes of genocide has led me to understand that there is no single explanation for what causes genocide. Rather, there are multitudes of reasons that are instrumental to the destruction of ethnic and minority groups. However, I have identified three major contributing factors to post-twentieth century genocide: modernisation and the ideology of social purification; psychological dehumanisation of unwanted populations; and extreme nationalism towards ‘outsiders’ (Gellately, 2003; Vaes et al., 2012). Various compositions of these three factors are strongly present within 20th century genocide case studies in Cambodia, the Nazi Holocaust, Rwanda, the Ottoman Empire and colonial Australia. Throughout this post, I will first show how modernity and the ideology of purification are dominant precursors to genocidal tendencies. First applied during the Age of Enlightenment between 1650 to the late 1700’s, the categorisation of populations and identification of ‘outside groups’ is a common theme found throughout many historical cases of genocide and ethnic cleansing. This then leads into discussion of how dehumanisation is justified and inflicted by superior populations, because of a psychological ‘out-group’ alienation of specific populations. And finally I will show how this psychological out-casting develops a strong nationalism, which contributes to genocidal tendencies. Common arguments explore how nationalism is not intrinsically violent, however, I believe nationalism to be an instrumental tactic used by power-seeking bureaucrats to isolate unwanted minority groups (Visvanathan, 2006, p.536).

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