We fail as a nation when we fail to protect human rights at the expense of preserving political capital.
This occurs both on a domestic scale and an international one, but the example that has stuck with me the most is President Bill Clinton's refusal to acknowledge the Rwandan genocide as genocide until it was too late. Afraid of engaging in a potentially unpopular conflict in a region with no strategic significance, we stood by and watched as hundreds of thousands of Tutsi were slaughtered by their countrymen.
Since that time, which President Clinton calls one of his biggest regrets, politicians across the political spectrum have promised change when dealing with international conflict. The "responsibility to protect," a UN commitment to prevent genocide and other atrocity crimes, was unanimously adopted in 2005 by UN member states, including the United States. However, more still needs to be done.
Global levels of violence are on the rise, undercutting global stability, reversing development gains, and driving record levels of forced displacement around the world. The Global Fragility Act (HR1580/S727), which recently passed through the House, provides a beacon of hope to address these complex issues.
In order to help the U.S. better tackle violence and conflict overseas, the bill proposes a Global Fragility Strategy to address countries and regions where fragility poses a threat to security, and create 10-year plans for stabilization with congressional reporting every two years. This type of action and monitoring is imperative to prevent another genocide like the one in Rwanda, or today's atrocity events raging in Burma, Yemen, and Syria.
These issues are not just faraway international concerns, but have tangible impacts on our community in Arkansas. Up to 100 refugees are resettled in Northwest Arkansas each year through Canopy, an incredible organization that helps refugees integrate into communities and access the services needed to live fulfilling lives. These refugees are our neighbors and important members of our community, and the Global Fragility Act has the chance to create positive change in their communities of origin.
Sen. John Boozman was an early co-sponsor to the bill, which is now co-sponsored by more than 20 senators from both parties. Sen. Tom Cotton, on the other hand, has yet to express support and cosponsor the Global Fragility Act. As a veteran and a member of both the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he should understand the importance of addressing the root causes of conflict and instability around the world in order to protect both U.S. troops and U.S. tax dollars.
Already, the bill has garnered widespread bipartisan support in a time where bipartisan priorities are hard to come by. As a fiscal conservative, Senator Cotton should note that preventing atrocities is much cheaper than responding to crises with military force and humanitarian aid after they have already unfolded. The report "Measuring Peacebuilding Cost-Effectiveness" estimated that for every $1 spent on preventive peacebuilding, $16 can be saved in after-the-fact crisis response. In 2018, the economic impact of violence was equal to 11.2 percent of the world's GDP, or $1,853 per person worldwide.
Additionally, the Global Fragility Act has important domestic implications when dealing with national security and terrorism. Terrorism and threats to America's national security are most often bred in areas of political and economic instability, and U.S. National Security Strategies over the past 15 years have affirmed that preventing and mitigating violent conflict around the world is a vital U.S. national security interest.
If we help to stabilize fragile nations, we can address terrorism at its roots instead of attempting to deal with it at the most dangerous levels. How many American lives have we lost because we have failed to anticipate a predictable crisis? If we are able to bolster local peacebuilders to respond to emerging challenges in their home communities, then we won't have to risk more lives of brave American service members. We owe it to our veterans and to those who have perished in war to build new approaches to these global crises.
For all of these reasons and more, it is imperative that Senator Cotton co-sponsors this bill and helps its passage through the Senate. If we do not focus on preventing human-rights atrocities right now, we too will be apologizing to future generations about our inaction. "Never again" is not just a slogan, it is a rallying cry, and we must use it to garner support for the Global Fragility Act.
Maya Ungar is a rising senior at the University of Arkansas majoring in international studies, political science, and French. She is passionate about foreign policy, finding the best hiking trails in Northwest Arkansas, and the Razorbacks.
Editorial on 08/19/2019
Print Headline: MAYA UNGAR: Prevent violence