12 April 2012
Deputy Secretary-General

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

World Embraces Responsibility to Protect — Not Because It Is Easy, But Because It

Is Right, Deputy Secretary-General Says on Anniversary of Rwanda Genocide


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks, as delivered, on the eighteenth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, in New York, 11 April:

Today, we solemnly gather to remember the almost 800,000 innocent people in Rwanda who became victims of genocide.  As we recall the victims and their surviving families, we vow to continue to work to achieve justice, to promote peace and reconciliation, and to prevent genocide and mass atrocity crimes from occurring anywhere in the world.

Today is also a global reminder of the collective imperative to recognize the warning signs of impending violence.  We acknowledge the efforts of the Rwandan Government and so many others who have supported the country on its long road to recovery.

The United Nations, too, has sought to strengthen its efforts.  In 2004, on the tenth commemoration of the Rwanda genocide, the Secretary-General established the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  And, at the 2005 World Summit, Heads of State and Government unanimously endorsed the Responsibility to Protect, pledging to never again abandon people threatened by the crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.  States affirmed their individual responsibility to protect their own populations from these crimes and accepted a collective responsibility to help protect other populations at risk.

The United Nations system continues to work in close partnership with regional organizations and mechanisms, Member States and other partners to ensure that societal fissures and the precursors of violence — hatred and discrimination — are identified early and acted upon.

The Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect have developed cooperative strategies with the International Conference on the Great Lakes region, which has created a Regional Committee on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities.  This is the first regional mechanism to establish such a political and legal structure to prevent and punish genocide and other related mass atrocity crimes.

Prevention does not mean looking the other way in times of crisis, in the vain hope that things will get better.  Prevention means proactive, decisive and early action to stop violence before it starts.  That is why the United Nations Department of Political Affairs is working closely with the Great Lakes region to help strengthen capacity in conflict prevention and early warning.  Secretary-General Ban [Ki-moon] will continue to raise his voice and to promote our collective capabilities to prevent genocide and mass atrocity crimes.

The world has embraced the responsibility to protect — not because it is easy, but because it is right to protect populations at risk of genocide and mass atrocity crimes.

On this day, let us together pledge to intensify those efforts.  Let us do so in the memory of all those lost — and to advance the Charter of the United Nations on which we work to uphold everyday and everywhere.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record