The United Nations and Genocide Prevention: The Problem of Racial and Religious Bias
Abstract

Could racial or religious bias within the United Nations be hindering efforts to prevent and punish the crime of genocide? I answer this question by surveying the UN response to a variety of alleged genocides, ranging from Biafra starting in the late 1960s to Syria starting in 2012. In terms of quantitative analysis, this article explores whether the UN response to claims of genocide is proportionate to the scale of actual harm, using absolute death tolls and percentage reductions in the populations of specific minority groups to assess harm. It finds that voting blocs based on racial or religious identity may be warping the UN response to potential genocides, resulting in disproportionate attention across cases. In this regard, the Arab League, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Republic of Turkey appear to play important roles in shaping UN responses. In terms of qualitative analysis, the article surveys evidence that key actors at the United Nations may have been motivated by bias in framing collective responses to claims of genocide and other mass violence.


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