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The United States's Role and Responsibility to Genocide

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The United States's Role and Responsibility to Genocide


Genocide -- Prevention.


Oral history video clip featuring David Scheffer, United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. This video was originally produced by Media Entertainment, Inc., for the 2000 documentary The Genocide Factor.


Media Entertainment, Inc.


Genocide Factor Collection, Oral History Program, Tampa Library,
University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.


Tampa, Fla. : University of South Florida Tampa Library.




Scheffer, David


Tape number: 4059B


video / mp4




Oral History


United States.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Prior, Cecily


Scheffer, David


United States Department of State, Washington D.C.


Yeah, I truly believe that the 1990s have demonstrated an increased awareness and interest on the part of the international community in responding to these atrocities, and in good faith to try and do so. The United States is a major power in the world, and countries and non-governmental groups automatically look to the United States for leadership. We are very prepared to take that leadership on, but it has to be understood that oftentimes leadership means determining who, how, and what can actually respond to atrocities as they occur around the world. It is not necessarily the case that in every atrocity it is the wisest move to suddenly deploy U.S. military forces in response to it. Sometimes the best response is a very quick, sharp diplomatic one that may be quite successful; other times it may be a strictly humanitarian response; other times it may be insuring that other countries closer to the scene with military forces can respond as efficiently and quickly as possible. So, I think the watch word is, there cannot be undue reliance on the United States to be, as so famously described by some, as the “global cop” to resolve all these issues. But we do not shy away from being deeply engaged in the efforts to find an answer, find a response, what are the appropriate factors to pull together to respond to a situation? And that is not simple, and you never snap your fingers and make things happen on that watch. You have to work it out case by case. But it is very true that in the 1990s, now at the end of this century and the beginning of a new one, the expectations are very high—but so is the political will. And I think the real challenge in the future is going to be, are the resources going to be there? Let me make one very important point: It is absolutely essential that the United States of America pay its dues to the United Nations. We are deeply in arrears to the United Nations, and the United Nations has to remain the primary engine of response to atrocities. If we are deeply in arrears to the United Nations, we lose so much creditability in activating the United Nations to respond to atrocities. It also gives those members in the United Nations who are very upset with us about this arrearage situation sort of more ammunition to basically say, “You want this done? You do it yourself, because you’re not paying your way in the United Nations.” The irony, of course, is that the United States actually pays more into the United Nations than any other country in the world; but then we have an economy that, according to the UN charter and the way these dues are set up, we are obligated to pay more into the UN system. And we do so for very, very good reason, because the United Nations is a tool that is extremely useful and effective if it’s properly administered and if we can use the leadership that we’re capable of using in the United Nations, so that we can distribute the burden of responding to atrocities throughout the international system and not have to look only to the United States. So there is actually a pretty easy fix to getting us on top of that challenge, and that is pay the arrears.

Original Format

Beta tape




Media Entertainment, Inc., “The United States's Role and Responsibility to Genocide ,” USF Library Special & Digital Collections Exhibits, accessed August 13, 2020,