10 October 2007

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




This is the text of a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the conference in New York today, 10 October, of the United Nations University and the International Crisis Group on the prevention of mass atrocities:

I send warm greetings to all participants in this conference on the prevention of mass atrocities.  Let me congratulate the United Nations University and the International Crisis Group for organizing this important event, and for bringing together such a distinguished group of policymakers and experts to address an extremely pressing issue.

Preventing mass atrocities is among the international community’s and the United Nations most sacred callings.  Regrettably, it is a duty we have not always acquitted well.  The killing fields of Rwanda, Cambodia and the Balkans stand silent witnesses to the brutality that passed unchecked by an international system lacking both the will and the vision to act.

I believe that we can, and we must, do better.  That is why, from my very first day in office, I have made Darfur my highest priority.  That is also why I moved quickly to enhance the position of my Special Representative for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, and to name the distinguished Sudanese diplomat, Francis Deng, to the post.  More recently, I have informed the Security Council of my intention to appoint Professor Edward Luck to the newly created position of Special Adviser for the Responsibility to Protect.

Beyond these two appointments, I strongly believe that the entire UN system has to be empowered to shoulder this responsibility.  We must bring all our resources to bear:  early warning, technical assistance, peacemaking, diplomacy and, if ultimately necessary, military strength.  And we must work with UN Member States to give real meaning to the solemn promise that is the Responsibility to Protect.

In this context, I welcome the establishment in January of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect at the Ralph Bunche Institute.  The new Centre can become an effective advocate in the struggle to prevent the world’s most heinous mass crimes.

Today’s conference is similarly well placed to make crucial contributions to our cause.  By examining how the UN acts to prevent mass atrocities, you can help improve our functioning and streamline our response.  By drawing on the experience and expertise of UN colleagues as well as representatives of Member States, the NGO community and academia, you can situate the UN’s own response within the broader international framework.  Indeed, I hope that your guidance can help ensure that the United Nations is never again found wanting in the face of the gravest crimes against humanity. 

In that spirit, I wish you a productive and successful conference.

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For information media • not an official record