It has been more than sixty years since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and declared genocide a crime. But tragically, genocide continues around the world. Some believe there will never be any way to stop it. But the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, a nonprofit group committed to genocide awareness and human rights networking, believes this mass murder can be prevented.
Founded with the support of the International Auschwitz Council and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the AIPR began its mission in May 2008 with a one-week seminar in Auschwitz, for policy makers from twelve countries and every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Eighteen scholars shared their knowledge on the history of genocide and the elements of genocide prevention. The aim was to give government officials the tools to identify conditions when genocide is likely and implement policies to avoid it, as well as to build an international network of professionals dedicated to stopping genocide.
The seminars are held under the aegis of the AIPR’s Raphael Lemkin Center for Genocide Prevention, named in honor of the Jewish lawyer from Poland who coined the term “genocide.” Raphael Lemkin (1900–1959) campaigned tirelessly for the United Nations to adopt the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948.
Currently, the AIPR is preparing its next round of seminars for October and November 2009, with policy makers expected from Argentina, Cape Verde, Congo-DRC, East Timor, Germany, India, Iraq, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, the U.K, and the U.S. The seminars, endorsed by UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng, will be taught by instructors with expertise in history, political science, law, public health, military strategy, human rights, and economics.
As always, the seminar will take place in the town of Auschwitz, offering one week of lectures, seminars, discussions, and personal sharing, designed to build a network of genocide prevention specialists.
One of the instructors will be Professor Sheri Rosenberg, director of the Program in Holocaust and Human Rights Studies and director of the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law. As she points out, the genocide convention is critical, but it is not the only legal tool available:
“The genocide convention contains a provision that obligates states not only to prevent genocide, but to prevent the incitement of genocide, both within and outside their borders. But there are many other legal instruments in international human rights law. My goal is to expose policy makers to the full range of legal options they can use in pursuit of the prevention of genocide.”
In addition to its work in genocide prevention, the AIPR also operates the Raoul Wallenberg Center, which teaches culture and education officials about the importance of Holocaust memorialization and education.
The AIPR is currently raising funds to pay for officials from developing countries to take part in its upcoming seminars. To contribute, call the Auschwitz Institute at 212-794-9760 or visit http://www.auschwitzinstitute.org/congo.html.
Alex Zucker is the media relations officer for the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.