The W2I project: Stronger than words

By Mali Navia

Senator Romeo Dallaire. Photo from Flickr.

Senator Romeo Dallaire. Photo from Flickr.

Since 2007, the Montreal Institute on Genocide Studies (MIGS) has been developing a project called Will to Intervene (W2I). This initiative aims to prevent mass atrocities crimes through the education and training of policymakers, elected officials, diplomats, civil society groups and journalists. Senator Romeo Dallaire and Dr. Frank Chalk first developed the project. To this day, numerous people are working on the project to ensure an increasing visibility in the media, public and academic circles.

Kyle Matthews, current deputy director of MIGS, explains that this idea is not only to inform people but also to provide applicable solutions and tools for prevention. Many similar initiatives have taken place the world over since the Rwandan Genocide, but the W2I project stands out by its increasing popularity and the way it applies studies in a practical way.

In the past few years, Kyle Matthews along with other MIGS workers, including former Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, have engaged with governments, particularly the U.S. and Canada, in order to directly impact foreign policies.

‘‘We went across the U.S. and Canada and we tried to understand why we failed to intervene in Rwanda,” said Matthews. “The first stage of the project was to find out about this in order to come up with other strategies. Our report was shared with the White House and the Obama Government actually implemented three of the policies that we call for in our report. That was an important impact but we didn’t have the same kind of impact on Canada yet.’’

In Canada, MIGS was endorsed publicly by mayors from several big cities like Toronto and Vancouver, in order to pressure the Canadian government into taking a leadership role on the U.N.’s Responsibility to Protect act.

After the Rwandan Genocide, the conflict in Sudan and the Kosovo War, the United Nations came up with a new act called the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). The R2P says that with state sovereignty comes responsibility. If a state fails to protect its people or engage in violent acts toward it, it falls on the international community to intervene. If some governments, including Canada, refused to apply the R2P, it can be argued that it is because of political risk and political interests.

In 1994, the U.S. government refused to intervene in Rwanda partly because they had just intervened in Somalia and many American soldiers were killed on a mission that was not directly related to them. Because of public opinion, it is considered a political risk and economical risk to intervene in another country’s war.

‘’Doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily get you elected,’’ said Matthews. He went on to say that these situations can lead to failed states that “can create other problems, like terrorism and piracy, that cause greater international problems.’’ In other words, these mass atrocities have a global impact that is hard to prevent and control.

The MIGS also organizes international conventions every year on mass atrocities. Its goal is to make Montreal become internationally known as a centre for genocide studies and human rights. The team working on the W2I project actively continues to try to get governments to talk about the R2P while simultaneously using the media and social media to inform the public on these issues.

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