European Human Rights and strengthening policy to prevent genocide
Submitting InstitutionLondon School of Economics & Political Science
Unit of AssessmentPolitics and International Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science
Law and Legal Studies: Law
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Philosophy
Summary of the impact
Professor Karen E. Smith's research into European Union policy in the
areas of human rights and the prevention of mass atrocities underpins the
work of the European Foreign Policy Unit (EFPU). On the basis of this
research, and as Director of the EFPU, Professor Smith has conducted a
study of European Union human rights policies for the European Parliament
and served as Co-Chair of the Task Force on EU Prevention of Mass
Atrocities. These activities have stimulated and informed policy debate
within the EU and improved public understanding of the issues of human
rights and mass atrocities across Europe.
Research Insights and Outputs:
Over the last decade, Professor Smith's research has explored the
international relations of the European Union. It has sought to explain
the policies the EU's foreign policy system produces, and to assess
related issues of consistency, coherence and effectiveness of EU foreign
policy . In particular, she has examined the EU's pursuit of so-called
'ethical' foreign policy goals, including the EU's promotion of human
rights [1,2,3,6]. This research has emphasised the limits to EU unity in
emphasising ethical concerns: the EU's member states and institutions find
it difficult to agree and maintain common positions regarding human rights
in relations with third countries. Human rights jostle with other policy
objectives, and there are disagreements over how to promote human rights
in any particular case. The resulting inconsistency in EU policies (with
some violations overlooked and others punished, for example) is one of the
reasons why any policy cohesion among EU members is difficult to translate
into influence in international institutions charged with developing human
rights policies: the EU is accused of hypocrisy and double standards,
limiting its external effectiveness. In addition, she found that EU member
states must devote so much attention to resolving internal disagreements
that they have little to spend building support for their common positions
in the United Nations [1,2,3]. In 2007, Professor Smith's contribution was
recognised when she received the Anna Lindh award for outstanding work in
European foreign and security policy research. As a result of this
research, Professor Smith was commissioned by the European Parliament's
Sub-Committee on Human Rights to conduct a study of the role of the
European Union in the Human Rights Council.
Professor Smith's interest in ethical foreign policy goals led to more
recent research on European policymaking in the area of genocide
prevention and response. This seeks to explain why Europeans have so often
failed to reach agreement to either recognise or adequately address
instances of genocide. Smith's convention-challenging research, set out in
Genocide and the Europeans , found that despite Europe's historic
experience of genocide in the Second World War, some European governments
were hostile to the 1948 Genocide Convention, and European governments
have been reluctant to use the term genocide to describe atrocities ever
since. This work provided a systematic treatment of the reasons why
European governments have rarely been able to agree on whether to call a
situation genocide; and why their responses to purported genocides have
often been limited to delivering humanitarian aid and supporting
prosecution of perpetrators in international criminal tribunals, whilst
more coercive measures such as sanctions or military intervention have
typically been rejected. Governments fear that if they use the term
`genocide' they will come under considerable pressure to respond, in ways
that are inimical to their interests. Therefore they seek to avoid use of
the term altogether. As a result of this research, the Foundation for the
International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities asked Professor
Smith to act as Co-Chair of its Task Force on EU Prevention of Mass
: Professor Smith has been at LSE since 1997.
References to the research
1. K.Smith (2010) 'The European Union at the Human Rights Council:
Speaking with One Voice but Having Little Influence', Journal of
European Public Policy 17(2) 224-41. DOI: 10.1080/13501760903561617
2. K.Smith (2006) 'Speaking with One Voice? European Union Coordination
on Human Rights Issues at the United Nations', Journal of Common
Market Studies 44(1) 113-37. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5965.2006.00616.x
3. K.Smith (2006) 'The European Union, Human Rights and the United
Nations', in K. Laatikainen and K. Smith eds The European Union at the
United Nations: Intersecting Multilateralisms Palgrave 154-74. DOI:
4. K. Smith (2010) Genocide and the Europeans Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. LSE Research Online ID: 29674
5. K. Smith (2003) European Union Foreign Policy in a Changing World,
Cambridge: Polity Press. LSE Research Online ID: 21595
6. K. Smith (2001) 'The EU, Human Rights and Relations with Third
Countries: "Foreign Policy" with an Ethical Dimension?', in K. Smith and
M. Light (eds) Ethics and Foreign Policy Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press 185-203. Available from LSE on request.
Evidence of quality: publications in peer-reviewed journals and
two books with a leading university press.
Details of the impact
Professor Karen Smith's research has underpinned two distinct impacts on
EU policymaking and practitioner debate.
1) Study for the Directorate General for External Policies of the
Union, `The European Union and the Review of the Human Rights Council'
On the basis of her research in the field of EU human rights policies,
and in the context of a review of the United Nations Human Rights Council,
Professor Smith was commissioned by the European Parliament's
Sub-Committee on Human Rights to analyse the EU's role in the Human Rights
Council since the latter's creation in 2006, and to consider the EU's role
in the review process. Building on research by Smith that highlighted the
failures of the EU's human rights record within the UN system, the report
[A] argued that the EU urgently needed to improve its capacity for
outreach. It further emphasised the need to better coordinate the EU's
human rights positions with its other external relations policies, so it
could become more ambitious in its approach at the Human Rights Council.
Professor Smith's report, reinforced by her oral evidence to the meeting
of the Human Rights Sub-Committee [B], was instrumental in determining
how the Sub-Committee evaluated the EU's record at the United Nations, and
shaped the European Parliament's policy response to the review of the
UNHRC. The study was used extensively by the Committee's political group
advisors in their preparation of the European Parliament's recommendation
to the Council on the HRC review [C]. The resulting resolution [D] to a
great degree reflected the substance of Professor Smith's recommendations,
and endorsed Professor Smith's proposal for the EU to support the use of
`independent triggers' and call for improvements to the transparency and
oversight of Special Procedures.
2) Task Force on EU Prevention of Mass Atrocities
The Foundation for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass
Atrocities launched a Task Force on EU Prevention of Mass Atrocities to
assess the EU's capabilities in the area of the prevention of mass
atrocities. As co-Chair, Professor Smith co-authored the report of the
Task Force [E], which has had impact on debate and policy at both EU and
member state levels, as well as at the UN.
The process of drafting the report involved significant collaboration
with the policy community [F]. Three meetings, in Berlin, Paris and
Brussels, attended by national and EU policy officials, were used to
discuss drafts and test and build support for the Task Force's
recommendations. These meetings built on months of individual discussions
with officials and the wider policy community which provided specific and
detailed input and feedback, both verbally and in writing [K].
A draft of the Task Force's report was circulated widely throughout
relevant units in the European External Action Service and some EU member
states' foreign ministries in December 2012, resulting in substantive
feedback on the report's conclusions [K]. The final report identified core
problems impeding the ability of the EU and its member states to prevent
mass atrocities and made a number of recommendations to strengthen the
EU's capacity for mass atrocity prevention.
Following the report's Brussels launch, a programme of systematic
dissemination and engagement followed, including media op-eds and
interviews, and presentations of the report to the UNHRC and policymakers
in London, Geneva, Rome, Berlin and Budapest, with events in other
capitals scheduled for autumn 2014 and spring 2015 [F]. At the European
Parliament, the Rapporteur of the Foreign Affairs Committee gave comments
on the draft of the Task Force Report [G], which guided the writing of the
Committee's own Report containing a proposal for an EP resolution [H],
which was adopted by the Parliament in April 2013 [I].
At the UN level, Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on
the Prevention of Genocide, has publically endorsed the Task Force [J].
Similar pressure has also come from individual states, including the UK
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which raised the report at EU level,
having been closely engaged with the drafting process and welcoming its
recommendations. Mark Simmonds, the minister responsible for conflict
issues in the FCO, has asked Professor Smith to brief departmental
officials in person [K].
In tandem, the Report has been extensively utilised by civil society
groups to lobby at member state level. These governmental impacts have
been buttressed by sustained media coverage of the Report's conclusions
and recommendations, which has generated wider consciousness in the
general public of the issues raised [L].
Sources to corroborate the impact
All Sources listed below can also be seen at: https://apps.lse.ac.uk/impact/case-study/view/53
Review of the Human Rights Council
A. Study: The European Union and the Review of the Human Rights Council.
B. Video of Karen Smith's oral evidence to the Human Rights
C. Email correspondence from Responsible Official in the
Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union. Confidential
source: available on request.
D. EP resolution. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P7-TA-2011-0097&language=EN
Task Force on EU Prevention of Mass Atrocities.
E. The Report of the Task Force.
F. List of officials and policymakers that were directly consulted in the
drafting process. Source files: https://apps.lse.ac.uk/impact/download/file/685
G. Comments of Rapporteur on a draft of the Task Force report. Source
H. Documentation of the direct suggestions that were incorporated and how
the final wording of the EP resolution reflected Task Force's report.
I. European Parliament's adoption of FAC Report.
J. Video of the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser for the Prevention
of Genocide endorsing the Report (about 2 minutes). In general his whole
presentation reinforces our findings and recommendations: see especially
24.30 to 25.30.
K. Selected email correspondence, letter from Minister for Africa, the
Overseas Territories and Conflict Issues. Confidential sources: available
L. Media coverage. Source files: https://apps.lse.ac.uk/impact/download/file/727