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Some of the world's foremost experts on the role of media in preventing mass atrocities will bring their latest insights to the upcoming conference, The Promise of Media in Halting Mass Atrocities: A Conference to Mark the 10th Anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Concordia University's Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) is organizing the conference, which takes place October 20 and 21 at the Mount Stephen Club (1440 Drummond St.).

"We're at the point now where there are so many Tweets, Facebook messages, and SMS texts that trying to read them in a crisis is like trying to drink water from a fire hose," says MIGS Director Frank Chalk. The conference will explore breakthrough techniques for translating, managing and making actionable sense of this flood of information and new tools for prevention.

The conference features 16 speakers and four panel discussions:

  • The Responsibility to Report: Can the Media Make a Difference?
  • From Streets to Tweets: Harnessing the Power of Social Media and Technology
  • The Link Between the News Media and Governmental Leadership
  • R2P in 2011: Libya, Syria and Sudan

R2P is a Canadian-sponsored initiative that seeks to protect civilians from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, serious war crimes and other mass atrocities. If a state is unwilling or incapable of protecting its citizens, and refuses international assistance, R2P requires the international community to act swiftly to prevent or mitigate such crimes. Kyle Matthews, lead researcher at MIGS, says R2P in 2011 is about how to report on crises. "But it's also about how new electronic tools are being deployed in the fight against mass atrocities and genocide," he says. "For example, using media to harness early warning signs and mitigate conflict so we can prevent rather than react.

"There's a very important link between the news media and government leadership: the media must cover the events fully and insightfully, or politicians don't pay attention to them," he adds. Matthews worked for the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees in various countries, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Conference participants include:

  • C.J. Chivers, New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Sen. and LtGen Roméo Dallaire (ret.), who retired from the military after a distinguished career that included commanding the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda in 1994
  • Mona Eltahawy, columnist and international speaker on Arab and Muslim issues
  • Jonathan Hutson, who works with actor George Clooney on the Satellite Sentinel Project, using satellite images to track troop movements and other potential warning signs
  • Former prime minister, the Right Honourable Paul Martin
  • André Pratte, editor-in-chief of La Presse and author of five books on journalism and politics
  • Rick MacInnes-Rae, international affairs journalist whose career has taken him from Albania to Zimbabwe
  • Sarah Sewall, founder and director of the Mass Atrocity Response Operations Project, and professor of international affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she also directs the program on national security and human rights

About MIGS

Renowned internationally as Canada's pre-eminent centre for the study of genocide and crimes against humanity, MIGS creates and manages programs on the prevention and punishment of genocide and other crimes against humanity. Peace building and working with survivors of mass atrocities are also part of the Institute's mandate.

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