UNHR Director Eric Richardson headed the State Department's Atrocities Prevention Task Force at the time of the creation of the U.S. atrocities prevention board (APB). Responsible for much of the theoretical underpinning of the APB and its launch, he has deployed this expertise in academic circles and the UN Human Rights Council, as well as specific country-based situations.
Preventing human rights violations and mass abuses is not just academic for us at UNHR. We have cataloged and helped to deploy tools that can be used to prevent atrocities and to stop an outbreak of violence from escalating. These range from public statements by officials and high-profile fact-finding trips to areas in crisis to arranging Special Sessions of UN bodies or convening musical performances or artistic displays by personalities who can cut across ethnic, political and other social cleavages before a tense situation spins out of control.
We have helped to bring situations of potential atrocity like in South Sudan, Syria and Africa's Great Lakes to UN attention and created mechanisms deployed to investigate abuses and hold perpetrators to account. We have also worked with countries imapcted by atrocities to design a path forward towards reconciliation.
In a violent world, sometimes the best prevention efforts do not succeed. We also work with a range of legal and regional partners to collect and preserve for future prosecution evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity in situations as diverse as Libya, South Sudan and North Korea. Our field work has shown that the realistic prospect of accountability can help to deter, and prevent, atrocities.
Consistent with UNHR's focus on practical improvement in human lives, we advocate solutions which uncover the truth about past violations, bring communities together, and emphasize healing. From tribunals to memorials, each situation is different and requires different options. In Sri Lanka, Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea, we have helped responsible governments work to overcome past abuses and set a path towards reconciliation. Where the will to compromise and forgive is lacking, we focus on truth and accountability tools.