Last month, the International Rule of Law and Security (IRLS) program, jointly developed by the McCain Institute and Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, conducted a mass atrocity response simulation with nearly 60 students law students, undergraduates and other graduate students from across ASU. Gathered at ASU’s Beus Center for Law and Society in downtown Phoenix, the group participated in a two-day simulation of a response to mass atrocities in an Asian nation.

Students were divided into six teams, each representing a country or international organization with interests in the crisis. Each team was led by a former U.S. government official. Information about the evolving crisis was distributed in six stages over the course of the two days, and teams did not all receive the same information. Students had to decide how to pursue their team’s interests while respond to a deteriorating situation on the ground and to pressure from other teams. Students also had to consider what information to share with other teams to best accomplish their goals while working to resolve the crisis.

The IRLS program received overwhelmingly positive feedback from student participants. Students were pleased with how realistic the scenario was, and how it forced them to wrestle with difficult, lifelike challenges. Hunter Shi, a second-year student at ASU Law, said “I didn’t expect it to become so real, to be so similar to the real world,” he said. “It helped me understand how hard it is to gain a consensus, and, even if you’re in an advantageous situation, how hard it might be to achieve your strategic goals.”

Simulations like this are regularly used in U.S. government agencies and departments to train policymakers and officials on how to respond to evolving crises with limited information and limited time. This was the first simulation organized and put on by the IRLS program, and students have already asked when the next one will be.

More information about the IRLS program may be found here (McCain Institute) and here (ASU Law).