At a time when Democrats and Republicans rarely find common ground, the U. S. Senate and House have overwhelmingly supported the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, which was signed by President Trump on January 14. It’s now U. S. policy to ”regard the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes as a national security interest and a core moral responsibility.”
The law calls for the creation of a task force to strengthen State Department and other agency efforts at atrocity prevention and response. It mandates the training of Foreign Service Officers “on recognizing patterns of escalation and early warning signs of potential atrocities, and methods of preventing and responding to atrocities, including conflict assessment methods, peacebuilding, mediation for prevention, early action and response, and appropriate transitional justice measures to address atrocities.” It requires the President to transmit a report to Senate and House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Appropriations, offering a review of countries and regions at risk of atrocity crimes, the most likely pathways to violence, specific risk factors, potential perpetrators, and at-risk target groups. And it directs the State Department and the Agency for International Development to support programs and activities to prevent or respond to emerging or unforeseen foreign challenges and complex crises overseas, including potential atrocity crimes.
The systematic killing of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population during and just after World War I was implemented through wholesale massacres and forced marches under conditions designed to lead to death. The total number of Armenian who perished during the catastrophe is believed to have been between 1 million and 1.5 million. Yet major countries—including the United States, Israel, and Great Britain— declined to call the events a genocide so as to avoid threatening their relations with Turkey. It’s no wonder that shortly before Hitler invaded Poland, he famously cited the impunity of history to justify his slaughter of six million Jews and others: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
On April 6, 1994, Hutus began murdering the Tutsis in the African country of Rwanda. As the brutal killings continued, the world stood idly by. Lasting 100 days, the Rwandan masacre left some 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers dead. Yet our nation’s leadership declined to call the Rwandan slaughter a genocide for fear of obligating us to take on the responsibility to act.
Now the work lies ahead of us. In Myanmar, in Syria, in South Sudan, in Iraq, and elsewhere.
Our new commitment will save lives, improve our nation’s security, and reduce the displacement of peoples and violence throughout the world. Over time, the humanitarian aid, peacekeeping missions and refugee resettlements President Trump vigorously opposes, primarily for fiscal reasons, are likely to prove less and less necessary.
As important, investing in peacebuilding and the prevention of atrocities is a signal reflection of the American character, a reflection of which we should all be proud.
It is fitting that the new law bears Elie Wiesel’s name. Wiesel worked on behalf of oppressed people for much of his adult life. His personal experience during the Holocaust led him to use his talents as an author, teacher and storyteller to defend human rights and peace throughout the world, earning him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Foreign Legion, and in 1986, the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was Elie Wiesel who said: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” And, of course, he was right.
Marc J. Lane is a Chicago attorney and financial adviser and the vice chair of the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation.
The world's first social impact bond, or SIB, was introduced in 2010 to fund innovative social programs that realistically might reduce recidivism by ex-offenders in Peterborough, England, and, with it, the public costs of housing and feeding repeat offenders. Prudently building on the strengths of that initiative, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is rolling out SIBs to help solve some of the state's most vexing social problems.
A SIB isn't a traditional bond where investors are guaranteed a fixed return but a contract among a government agency that agrees to pay for improved social outcomes, a private financing intermediary and private investors. SIBs shift the risk of experimenting with promising but untested intervention strategies from government to private capital markets, with public funds expended only after targeted social benefits have been achieved.
Peterborough's problem was daunting: Sixty percent of prisoners serving short-term sentences historically had gone on to re-offend within a year after their release. But policymakers were confident that a solution was within their reach. They attracted private investment to pay experienced social service agencies to provide intensive, multidisciplinary support to short-term prisoners, preparing them to re-enter society and succeed outside the penal system.
The government decided which goals would be supported, but exactly how those goals would be achieved was left to the private sector. It was the investors, through a bond-issuing organization, who ultimately endorsed the allocation of investment proceeds — how much would be invested in job training, drug rehabilitation and other interventions.
If the Peterborough plan eventually shrinks recidivism rates by 7.5 percent or more, the government will repay the investors' capital and share the taxpayers' savings with them, delivering up to a 13 percent return. If the target isn't hit, the investment will have failed and the government will owe the investors nothing.
Illinois' SIB effort was spearheaded by the state's Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise — the governor's think tank on social issues, which I am privileged to chair — with support from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Aurora-based Dunham Fund. A request for information issued by the Office of Management and Budget on May 13 yielded responses from service providers eager not only to reduce recidivism here but also to create jobs, revitalize communities, improve public health outcomes, curb youth violence, cut high school dropout rates and alleviate poverty.
Now the governor has issued a request for proposals intended to spur better outcomes for Illinois' most at-risk youth — by increasing placement stability and reducing re-arrests for youth in the state's Department of Children and Family Services, and by improving educational achievement and living-wage employment opportunities justice-involved youth most likely to re-offend upon returning to their communities.
Kudos to Mr. Quinn for bringing SIBs to Illinois. May they soon start delivering on their promise.- See more at: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20131007/OPINION/131009850/a-new-kind-of-futures-contract-for-illinois#sthash.ThgxeiFt.dpuf
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