The Lemkin Reunion Series

Each year the Shattuck Center hosts the Lemkin Reunion, a gathering named in honor of Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer who lost his family in the Holocaust and first coined the word genocide. He campaigned tirelessly during his life to ensure that the crime of genocide was enshrined in international law. The Lemkin Reunion gathers policymakers involved in responding to atrocity crimes and assess the lessons they learned.

From 2014, the Lemkin Reunions discussed timely and pressing issues in the research on and polical consequences of genocide and conflict-related atrocities.

The 6th Lemkin Reunion 2020

The sixth Lemkin Reunion in July 2020 examined the resurgence of “transactional” foreign policy and the challenges it poses for the prevention of atrocities and promotion of the rule of law.

Many expected that the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism would lead to the proliferation of liberal democracy and usher in an age of global cooperation on the prevention of atrocities and strengthening rule of law. Thirty years on, however, that idealistic hope has all but vanished amidst a resurgence of realpolitik embodied in the so-called “transactional” approach to foreign policy. Under transactionalism, nations prefer to pursue bilateral relationships based purely upon power and narrowly defined national interests. This approach, however, complicates consensus building through diplomacy around shared values and common interests that strengthen the international system. A disturbing consequence of a system focused on transactional relationships is how it struggles to hold nations accountable in any meaningful way for aggression, atrocities, and eroding the rule of law.

In the past decade alone, the world has been tested by serious breaches of international norms and standards. These have included alleged acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Syria and Myanmar, unprovoked military aggression by Russia in Ukraine, mass persecution of minorities in China, and systematic incarceration of journalists and academics in China, Turkey, and elsewhere. Nationalist quasi-autocratic leaders in EU Member States have assaulted and rolled back democratic norms and the rule of law, while the Philippines’ president has institutionalized state-orchestrated violent oppression. Today, the bar to being considered an outcast nation is exceedingly high. Although the above examples have prompted condemnation, and in some cases, sanctions, so far, the international community has failed to take concerted action to stop or punish behavior that so clearly breaches international principles. The increasingly “transactional” nature of the international system has allowed most offenders to maintain and continue to benefit from “business-as-usual” trade and diplomatic relations across the community of nations.

As if the above concerns were not enough, the unfolding worldwide health and economic crisis precipitated by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has injected a massive, unprecedented challenge into the already stressed international system. The justifiably urgent global focus on combatting the pandemic has distracted the world’s attention from the myriad of crises that had largely gone unresolved. As nations struggle to protect the health of their citizens and their economies, preventing mass atrocities, holding perpetrators accountable, and protecting the rule of law have become even less of a priority. Moreover, some leaders have seized upon the colossal challenge of COVID-19 as a pretext to further erode democracy and the rule of law in the name of combatting the pandemic. Against this backdrop, the transactional trend could further challenge the international order by inhibiting the cooperation and consensus building this crisis requires and diminishing the prospect of accountability for atrocities and abuses, both predating and in the wake of the current crisis.

The 6th Lemkin Reunion examined these trends and discussed their implications for the future of the international system. While COVID-19 will influence most policy decisions for the foreseeable future, its appearance has in no way diminished the magnitude or importance of the challenges that predated it.

The 5th Lemkin Reunion 2019

These are the papers presented at the 5th Lemkin Reunion, held in March 2019 and organized by the Shattuck Center at the School of Public Policy, Central European University in Budapest.

Syria's Urbicide: The Built Environment as a Means to Consolidate Homogeneity 
by Sawsan Abou Zainedin and Hani Fakhani on July 26, 2019

Law No. 10: Property Rights Violations in Syria Against Sustainable Solutions for Returnees
by Isabel J. on July 3, 2019

Is Marota City the Type of Reconstruction Syrians Need?
by Edwar Hanna and Nour Harastani on May 14, 2019

The 4th Lemkin Reunion 2018

These papers were presented at the 4th Lemkin Reunion, held in February 2018 and organized by the Shattuck Center at the School of Public Policy, Central European University in Budapest.

The Circassian Heritage in Syria Within the Context of Multiple Displacements
by Dima Meiqari on June 19, 2019

Stateless in Exile, Unrecognized at Home: Barriers to Registering Syrian Newborns in Lebanon
by Nora Palandjian on November 21, 2018

From Rebel to Regime: Barriers of Return to Aleppo for Internally Displaced People
by Anna Costa and Michele MacMillan on July 12, 2018

The 3rd Lemkin Reunion 2017

The third in March 2017 looked at the failures of the aid industry in Syria, with a group of activists and humanitarian workers from that country examining how the international community has responded.

The 2nd Lemkin Reunion 2015

The second Reunion in October 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

The 1st Lemkin Reunion 2014

The first Reunion in October 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.