The three D’s

Peace & Security13 Jun 2010Amaka Okany

One of the highlights of Wednesday’s conference sessions was the screening of film ‘Worse Than War’, which explores the phenomenon of genocide and how it can be stopped. The film is based on a book with a similar name by the award-winning author Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.

Just as interesting as the film was Daniel Goldhagen’s presentation at the conference, in which he stressed that whether or not genocide occurs is not as dependent on the oft-cited root causes of genocide (such as ethnic tensions and economic equalities) as it is on what I have decided to call the three D’s: the decision of political leaders to employ mass killings as a tool for achieving political goals; the decision of ordinary citizens to assist – actively or passively – in carrying out the killings, and; the decision of the international community not to intervene (Daniel considers the latter to be among the factors taken into account by political leaders in their calculations as to whether or not to resort to genocide as an instrument for achieving their political aims).

In Daniel’s view, the key to successful prevention of genocides lies more in addressing the three D’s than anything else. That the three D’s matter most is, in his view, demonstrated by the fact that there have been societies in which the same factors – root causes – have been present and yet mass killings did not occur.

Jennifer Welsh of Oxford University voiced her agreement with Daniel’s ideas in her presentation on Friday, in which she stated that changing the cost-benefit calculations of political leaders is part of what the international community needs to do to prevent mass killings. She referred in this connection to the recent post-electoral conflict in Kenya, where there had allegedly been veiled threats to certain individuals, who had the capacity to influence the course of events, of the consequences they could personally suffer if the situation on the ground degenerated any further.