It is a tragic measure of the depravity of human existence that genocide
is a continuing and prevalent manifestation of violence in the
international system, despite the effort following World War II to
abolish it through negotiation, and then adoption and ratification of
the 1948 'Genocide Convention'.

According to the Genocide Convention, genocide is any act committed with
the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial
or religious group by killing members of the group, causing serious
bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting
on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent
births within the group and/or forcibly transferring children of the
group to another group.

While this definition is contested because, for example, it excludes
killing of political groups, and words such as 'democide' (the murder or
intentionally reckless and depraved disregard for the life of any person
or people by their government,) and 'politicide' (the murder of any
person or people because of their political or ideological beliefs) have
been suggested as complementary terms, in fact atrocities that have been
characterized as 'genocide' by various authors include mass killings,
mass deportations, politicides, democides, withholding of food and/or
other necessities of life, death by deliberate exposure to invasive
infectious disease agents or combinations of these. See 'Genocides in

While genocide and attempts at genocide were prevalent enough both
before World War II (just ask the world's indigenous peoples) and then
during World War II itself, which is why the issue attracted serious
international attention in the war’s aftermath, it cannot be claimed
that the outlawing of genocide did much to end the practice, as the
record clearly demonstrates.

Moreover, given that the United Nations and national governments, out of
supposed 'deference' to 'state sovereignty', have been notoriously
unwilling and slow to meaningfully respond to genocides, as was the case
in Rwanda in 1994 and has been the case with the Rohingya in Myanmar
(Burma) for four decades –  as carefully documented in 'The Slow-Burning
Genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya' – there
is little evidence to suggest that major actors in the international
system have any significant commitment to ending the practice, either in
individual cases or in general. For example, as official bodies of the
world watch, solicit reports and debate whether or not the Rohingya are
actually victims of genocide, this minority Muslim population clearly
suffers from what many organizations and any decent human being have
long labeled as such. For a sample of the vast literature on this
subject, see 'The 8 Stages of Genocide Against Burma's Rohingya'
and 'Countdown to Annihilation: Genocide in Myanmar'.

Of course, it is not difficult to understand institutional inaction.
Despite its fine rhetoric and even legal provisions, the United Nations,
acting in response to the political and corporate elites that control
it, routinely fails to act to prevent or halt wars (despite a UN Charter
and treaties, such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, that empower and require
it to do so), routinely fails to defend refugees, routinely fails to act
decisively on issues (such as nuclear weapons and the climate
catastrophe) that constitute global imperatives for human survival, and
turns the other way when peoples under military occupation (such as
those of Tibet, West Papua, Western Sahara and Palestine) seek their

Why then should those under genocidal assault expect supportive action
from the UN or international community in general? The factors which
drive these manifestations of violence serve a diverse range of
geopolitical interests in each case, and are usually highly profitable
into the bargain. What hope justice or even decency in such

Moreover, the deep psychological imperatives that drive the phenomenal
violence in the international system are readily nominated: in essence,
phenomenal fear, self-hatred and powerlessness. These psychological
characteristics, together with the others that drive the behaviour of
perpetrators of violence, have been identified and explained – see 'Why
Violence?' and 'Fearless Psychology and
Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice'
– but it is the way these (unconsciously and deeply-suppressed) emotions
are projected that is critical to understanding the violent (and insane)
behavioural outcomes in our world. For brief explanations see, for
example, 'Understanding Self-Hatred in World Affairs'
and 'The Global Elite is Insane'.

Given the deep psychological imperatives that drive the violence of
global geopolitics and corporate exploitation (as well as national,
subnational and individual acts of violence), we cannot expect a
compassionate and effective institutional response to genocide in the
prevailing institutional order, as the record demonstrates. So, is there
anything a targeted population can do to resist a genocidal assault?

Fortunately, there is a great deal that a targeted population can do.
The most effective response is to develop and implement a comprehensive
nonviolent strategy to either prevent a genocidal assault in the first
place or to halt it once it has begun. This is done most effectively by
using a sound strategic framework that guides the comprehensive planning
of the strategy. Obviously, there is no point designing a strategy that
is incomplete or cannot be successful.

A sound strategic framework enables us to think and plan strategically
so that once our strategy has been elaborated, it can be widely shared
and clearly understood by everyone involved. It also means that
nonviolent actions can then be implemented because they are known to
have strategic utility and that precise utility is understood in
advance. There is little point taking action at random, especially if
our opponent is powerful and committed (even if that 'commitment' is
insane which, as briefly noted above, is invariably the case).

There is a simple diagram presenting a 12-point strategic framework
illustrated here in the form of the 'Nonviolent Strategy Wheel'.

In order to think strategically about nonviolently defending against a
genocidal assault, a clearly defined political purpose is needed; that
is, a simple summary statement of 'what you want'. In general terms,
this might be stated thus: To defend the [nominated group] against the
genocidal assault and establish the conditions for the group to live in
peace, free of violence and exploitation.

Once the political purpose has been defined, the two strategic aims
('how you get what you want') of the strategy acquire their meaning.
These two strategic aims (which are always the same whatever the
political purpose) are as follows: 1. To increase support for the
struggle to defeat the genocidal assault by developing a network of
groups who can assist you. 2. To alter the will and undermine the power
of those groups inciting, facilitating, organizing and conducting the

While the two strategic aims are always the same, they are achieved via
a series of intermediate strategic goals which are always specific to
each struggle. I have identified a generalized set of 48 strategic goals
that would be appropriate in the context of ending any genocide here.
These strategic goals can be readily modified to the circumstances of
each particular instance of genocide.

Many of these strategic goals would usually be tackled by action groups
working in solidarity with the affected population campaigning in
third-party countries. Of course, individual activist groups would
usually accept responsibility for focusing their work on achieving just
one or a few of the strategic goals (which is why any single campaign
within the overall strategy is readily manageable).

As I hope is apparent, the two strategic aims are achieved via a series
of intermediate strategic goals.

Not all of the strategic goals will need to be achieved for the strategy
to be successful but each goal is focused in such a way that its
achievement will functionally undermine the power of those conducting
the genocide.

It is the responsibility of the struggle's strategic leadership to
ensure that each of the strategic goals, which should be identified and
prioritized according to their precise understanding of the
circumstances in the country where the genocide is occurring, is being
addressed (or to prioritize if resource limitations require this).

I wish to emphasize that I have only briefly discussed two aspects of a
comprehensive strategy for ending a genocide: its political purpose and
its two strategic aims (with its many subsidiary strategic goals). For
the strategy to be effective, all twelve components of the strategy
should be planned (and then implemented). See Nonviolent
Defense/Liberation Strategy.

This will require, for example, that tactics that will achieve the
strategic goals must be carefully chosen and implemented bearing in mind
the vital distinction between the political objective and strategic goal
of any such tactic. See 'The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of
Nonviolent Actions'.

It is not difficult to nonviolently defend a targeted population against
genocide. Vitally, however, it requires a leadership that can develop a
sound strategy so that people are mobilized and deployed effectively.