President Obama creates a new post to better equip the United States in its efforts to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.

In the summer and fall of 2009, WITNESS partnered with STAND, the student-led division of Genocide Intervention Network The campaign, called Pledge on Camera, was designed to remind Congress of the moral and political imperative to ensure that genocide will not occur on their watch or in the future – to make “never again” a reality once and for all.  It called on Congress to create the first comprehensive genocide and mass atrocities prevention legislation, rooted in 34 comprehensive recommendations from the bi-partisan Genocide Prevention Task Force.

The Pledge on Camera campaign was innovative because it built-on WITNESS’ traditional video advocacy approach by inviting STAND’s 1,000-chapter network to remix and tailor videos for each U.S. Senator.  The personalized videos were created to be screened in-person on November 9th, at what was the largest genocide prevention lobby day in U.S. history (watch some videos here).

It was a successful day, and the latest related action by President Obama is a good indicator that the advocacy efforts are paying off:  In April, President Obama appointed David Pressman as the first Director for War Crimes Atrocities and Civilian Protection.

Pressman’s post reports to National Security Adviser James L. Jones.  Journalist Sandra McElwaine notes, “Pressman, a 32-year-old civil-rights attorney and former George Clooney adviser, will be coordinating and supporting the U.S. government’s efforts to respond to and prevent mass atrocities around the globe, from Darfur to the Congo, Rwanda, Burma, and Zimbabwe.”

This is a substantial first step in the right direction from the Obama Administration in relation to the STAND partnership and campaign.  Hopefully, Pressman will help the U.S. government to better address systemic issues and significant gaps in how it currently works to proactively address conflicts, particularly to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.

We look forward to Pressman’s actions and the next steps by the Obama Administration – and to seeing how Congress joins the effort.

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