Preventing mass atrocities ‘sacred calling’ for UN and the world – Ban Ki-moon

10 October 2007 –

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for the entire United Nations system to be empowered to shoulder the responsibility of preventing mass atrocities, which he deemed one of the “most sacred callings” of the world body and the international community.

“We must bring all our resources to bear: early warning, technical assistance, peacemaking, diplomacy, and, if ultimately necessary, military strength,” he said in a message to a conference on the prevention of atrocities, organized by the UN University and the International Crisis Group, in New York.

The Secretary-General noted that the UN has not always lived up to this task. “The killing fields of Rwanda, Cambodia and the Balkans stand silent witness to the brutality that passed unchecked by an international system lacking both the will and the vision to act,” Mr. Ban said.

Stating that “we can, and we must, do better,” he emphasized the need to work with Member States to give real meaning to the promise that is the Responsibility to Protect, a concept enshrined in the 2005 Outcome Document adopted by leaders from across the world attending the UN summit. Sometimes referred to as “R2P,” the doctrine holds States responsible for protecting their own populations – and the international community for doing so if States fail to live up to the obligations.

The Secretary-General added that by examining how the UN acts to prevent mass atrocities, the conference can help the world body improve its functioning and streamline its response.

“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,” he said.

In May, Mr. Ban appointed Sudanese diplomat Francis Deng as his Special Representative for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities with the mandate of collecting information on serious violations of human rights that could lead to genocide and to bring potential genocidal situations to the attention of the Security Council.

More recently, the Secretary-General has informed the Council of his intention to appoint Professor Edward Luck to the newly created position of Special Adviser for the Responsibility to Protect.

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