To Intervene or Not? Government Decision-Making in Times of Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Where: EMU Ballroom, University of Oregon

Government Decision-Making in Times of Genocide and Mass Atrocities

EUGENE, Ore. – (March 23rd, 2015) – The University of Oregon’s Genocide Prevention Initiative and the independent non-profit institute, Decision Research, will sponsor two events open to the public: a keynote speech by Ambassador Princeton Lyman on “Responding to Mass Atrocities: Personalities, Politics, and Principle” on April 9th, and an Open Panel Discussion,“Preventing Mass Atrocities and Genocide: Strategies for the Future” on April 10th. Admission is free for both events. All are welcome. 

Difficult decisions involving tradeoffs between protecting human lives and other important objectives are common and controversial choices facing our national decision makers. Despite the often stated humanitarian aspirations and values of decision makers, government actions often lack the same convictions. By bringing in distinguished practitioners and decision scientists we hope to gain greater insight into how decision-making works in the contexts of genocide and mass atrocities.

Ambassador Princeton Lyman will give a keynote address, “Responding to Mass Atrocities: Personalities, Politics, and Principle” at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 9, in the Ballroom Erb Memorial Union.

Drawing on his experiences as U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador Princeton Lyman will highlight the decision making tradeoffs he and his colleagues faced when they weighed the risks associated with the various forms of intervention they considered to mitigate the mass atrocities in Darfur.  He will also consider similar tradeoffs raised about the genocide in East Pakistan in the early 1970s and the decision to intervene in Libya to prevent a mass killing in 2011. He will conclude by considering the roles that diplomacy, political pressures, and other factors play in the decision-making process, drawing from his recent study for United States Institute of Peace on “The Effectiveness of Special Envoys in Conflict Situations.”

Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman most recently served the government as United States Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan from 2011 to 2013. On May 1, 2013, he joined the United States Institute of Peace as a senior advisor to the president of the Institute. Previous positions in government include; Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (1996-1998), U.S. Ambassador to South Africa (1992-1995), Director of Refugee Programs (1989-1992), U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria (1986-1989), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1981-1986), and USAID Director in Ethiopia (1976-78). Ambassador Lyman has a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. He has published books and articles on foreign policy, African affairs, economic development, terrorism, HIV/AIDS, UN reform, conflict resolution and peacekeeping.


On Friday, April 10th, the Panel Discussion, “Preventing Mass Atrocities and Genocide: Strategies for the Future” will begin at 2:30 p.m, in the Ballroom, Erb Memorial Union.

Three panelists will examine what the international community is currently doing to expand and improve its ability to anticipate and prevent mass atrocities and genocide. Discussing new and emerging prevention strategies will be:

  1. Dr. Edward C. Luck, "Curbing Atrocity Crimes:  A View From the UN."

Dr. Luck served as the United Nations’ first Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), at the Assistant Secretary-General level, from 2008 to 2012. He was responsible for its conceptual, political, and operational/institutional development and was the architect of the Secretary-General’s three-pillar strategy for implementing R2P. He has also served as President and CEO of the United Nations Association of the USA, and as Senior Vice President of the International Peace Institute. He is currently a Sharkey Scholar at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University and Senior Adviser to Atrocity Watch.


  1. Ambassador Rick Barton: “Practical Obstacles and Pragmatic Steps”

As the first Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (2011-2014), Ambassador Rick Barton built a vibrant bureau charged with making the U.S. more coherent and effective in priority, violence besieged places. In addition, Ambassador Barton has previously held the positions of: Deputy High Commissioner in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and past U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). He earned his MBA from Boston University, and received an honorary doctorate from Wheaton College of Massachusetts.


  1. Dr. Philip Lancaster: “Stabilization or Self-Deception”

Philip Lancaster, a retired Officer of the Canadian Army, served as General Romeo Dallaire’s Military Assistant during the genocide in Rwanda. He has worked for UNICEF in South Sudan, Uganda and Burundi, as well as for the World Bank in the Republic of Congo and DRC. He has also held posts in the Office of Director of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Division of the United Nations, participated in multiple  peacekeeping missions in the DRC, and served as Coordinator of the UN Panel of Experts for the DRC. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Ottawa, Canada.


After Barton, Luck, and Lancaster have put some ideas on the table, other panelists (seasoned political decision makers and decision scientists) will have an opportunity to ask questions or make comments. The floor will then be open to questions from the audience of students, faculty and the general public.

The ultimate goal of these efforts is to help construct and promote politically acceptable intervention decisions capable of protecting people threatened by genocide and mass atrocities.

Financial support for these events comes from The Carlton and Wilberta Ripley Savage Endowment for International Relations and Peace, hosted in the University of Oregon Office of International Affairs, and a National Science Foundation grant to Decision Research.


Media Contact:

Ashleigh Landau
Administrative Director, Global Justice Program
Sponsored by the Savage Endowment
University of Oregon