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What Does Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month in Georgia mean for Georgians?

by Melanie Nelkin

Melanie Nelkin is a co-founder and the current chair of The Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide (GC2PG). The GC2PG’s mission is to build a permanent anti-genocide constituency in Georgia. 

Stick with me on the following chronology of events because I think it will help put things in perspective for you.  

On March 2, 2016 the Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide presented the 5th annual resolution declaring April as Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month in Georgia.   Two days later on March 4th marked the 7th anniversary of the day the International Criminal Court issued its first arrest warrant for a sitting head of state to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.  One year later the same court charged him with three counts of genocide in Darfur.  On March 17th the U.S. government declared that the self-proclaimed Islamic State has perpetrated genocide and crimes against humanity against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.  A week later on March 24, U.N. judges found former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Srebrenica and other areas of Bosnia during the 1990’s.  

While ticking off anniversaries of atrocities can be a useful reminder of past and current events, the basis of the April resolution in Georgia is not only to commemorate but to act.  As I write this, a cohort across the U.S. is encouraging Members of Congress to co-sign S.2551- The Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016. This bipartisan bill authorizes the Atrocities Prevention Board to establish a Complex Crisis Fund, require training for Foreign Service Officers in violent conflict and atrocities prevention, and require reporting from both the Department of State and Director for National Intelligence.  These are critical tools that are needed to prevent violent conflict and save lives.  

This year during Genocide Prevention and Awareness month, the best way to act now and especially during an election year, is to simply contact your Georgia Senators and urge them to co-sign S.2551.  Let Senators Perdue and Isakson know that it’s important to you that they support this bill.  When Senator Cardin introduced the bill he insisted “our job, our responsibility, is to make sure the United States has the tools —diplomatic, political, economic, and legal —to take effective action before atrocities occur”.  

This year during Genocide Prevention and Awareness month the Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide is partnering with other organizations to host Carl Wilkens. As the only American to remain in Rwanda during the genocide, he saved hundreds of lives by pushing past machete-wielding soldiers and civilians to deliver water and aid to groups of orphans trapped by the violence.  The March chronology I presented to you is certainly not to suggest that you act by putting yourself in harm’s way, rather join us on April 18th to welcome Carl and call your Senators Isakson and Perdue and ask them to co-sign the 2016 Genocide Atrocities and Prevention Act.   

“Never again” has become “never again and again and again”.  During this April, let’s act on the belief that prevention is possible.

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