Human development appears to be at its peak in the current era. Apart from the vast technological improvements, the modern era has seen a great deal of progress in social norms, which unlike in olden times, respect and promote the goal of equal and equitable human existence for all. It was about time that the global economy – in particular the developed countries – directed their resources and efforts towards constructive measures to this end, as opposed to the destruction created by the world wars during the 20th century. A combined global intellect comprised of scholars, policy makers, and human right activists succeeded in developing and implementing various international laws and mechanisms that strive to promote peace and recognize the value of human life. Although the situation has improved considerably from that of the last century, the world still continues to witness horrifying acts of violence, largely in developing countries. In many instances, mass atrocities have been carried out in a multitude of countries, despite the prevalence of domestic and international laws that seek to bar or reduce such incidents of mass violence against civilians.
The term ‘mass atrocities’ in the peace-building literature, refers to genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. Amongst various other determining factors, mass atrocities are carried out against vulnerable populations in countries/regions that have a weak governance structure and lack rule of law. Governments’ efforts in these countries are often reactive, and involve the use of paramilitary forces to control damage, instead of through civilian dialogue. Apart from the government standpoint, a major catalyst in fueling the horrific mass scale of violence in these countries is the growing disconnect between the privileged and vulnerable groups. Moreover, the existence of medieval and outdated social norms also provides hostile elements with a fertile land to sow the seed of hatred. The majority group is conveniently enticed to commit ceaseless acts of violence against minority groups, which results in the mass loss of human lives, as was prevalent in the Rwanda genocide in 1994.
In order for the global economy to make its claim of “Never Again” a reality, concerted steps for atrocity prevention must be taken, while involving local civil society in its approach. The societal approach to curbing mass violence focuses on bringing together the estranged groups, identifying commonalities amongst them, developing respect for human life, and creating tolerance in the case of ethnic, tribal, religious, or other differences; amongst other approaches. By intervening in countries where the opportunity for prevention still exists, preemptive efforts can be made, and early warning/early response systems can be developed and put into action, in order to prevent atrocities beforehand.
Greater efforts in atrocity prevention can be used to reduce and diminish hate speech and promote harmony, through an indigenous approach with local NGOs and civil society actors working in this field. In today’s digital world, the responsibility of each individual has increased manifold, as often irresponsible public and hateful statements through social media platforms and online media have the capacity to promote hatred and create unrest on a large scale. Serving at my host organization, the Nexus Fund for the past year has not only provided me with an intricate and invaluable understanding of the atrocity prevention and peace-building fields, but it has also introduced me to approaches and mechanisms setup by local actors, which have successfully been implemented in other countries. Hailing from a region that has witnessed mindless incidents of mass scale violence against ethnic and religious minorities, this experience has inspired me to play an active role towards the establishment of a tolerant and enlightened society back in my home country Pakistan.