The Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect supports two Special Advisers who report directly to the United Nations Secretary-General:
The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, who acts as a catalyst to raise awareness of the causes and dynamics of genocide, to alert relevant actors where there is a risk of genocide, and to advocate and mobilize for appropriate action.
The mandates of the two Special Advisers are distinct but complementary. In order to maximise efficiency and resources, the Secretary-General decided to institutionalize the collaboration between the Special Advisers through the establishment of a joint office. As far as possible, the two Advisers share a common methodology for early warning, assessment, convening, learning, and advocacy, as well as a common office and staff based in New York.
They work together to advance national and international efforts to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (atrocity crimes), as well as their incitement. In support of their mandates, the Office collects information, conducts assessments of situations worldwide and alerts the Secretary-General and relevant actors to the risk of atrocity crimes, as well as their incitement. The Office also undertakes training and technical assistance to promote greater understanding of the causes and dynamics of atrocity crimes and of the measures that could be taken to prevent them; to raise awareness among States and other actors about their responsibility to protect; and to enhance the capacity of the United Nations, Member States, regional and sub-regional organisations and civil society to prevent atrocity crimes and to develop more effective means of response when they occur.
The Independent Inquiries into the actions of the United Nations during the tragedies of Rwanda (S/1999/1257) and the Balkans (A/54/549) in the 1990s demonstrated, in the worst possible way, that the United Nations had failed to protect the populations of these countries and had to do more to prevent genocide. With this in mind, in 2001 the UN Security Council in S/RES/1366 (2001) invited the Secretary-General “to refer to the Council information and analyses within the United Nations system on cases of serious violations of international law” and on “potential conflict situations” arising from “ethnic, religious and territorial disputes” and other related issues.
In 2004, on the tenth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, the Secretary-General launched an Action Plan to Prevent Genocide and in consideration of the previous Council’s request, he appointed the first Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. The mandate of the Special Adviser is mainly outlined in a 2004 letter addressed by the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council (S/2004/567) . The letter lists the responsibilities of the Special Adviser as follows:
Collecting existing information, in particular from within the United Nations system, on massive and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law of ethnic and racial origin that, if not prevented or halted, might lead to genocide;
Acting as a mechanism of early warning to the Secretary-General, and through him to the Security Council, by bringing to their attention situations that could potentially result in genocide;
Making recommendations to the Security Council, through the Secretary-General, on actions to prevent or halt genocide; and
Liaising with the United Nations system on activities for the prevention of genocide and work to enhance the United Nations’ capacity to analyze and manage information regarding genocide or related crimes.
Check some of the early reports of the Secretary-General on the follow up to the Action Plan:
2006 Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Five-Point Action Plan and the activities of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (E/CN.4/2006/84)
2006 Letter of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, addressed to the President of the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/S-4/3)
2008 Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Five-Point Action Plan and the activities of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide (A/HRC/7/37)
2009 Report of the Secretary-General on Efforts of the United Nations system to prevent genocide and the activities of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide (A/HRC/10/30)
Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect
Following the ground breaking adoption by all Heads of State and Government of the responsibility to protect principle, as articulated in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (A/RES/60/1), in 2007 the Secretary-General addressed a letter (S/2007/721) to the President of the Security Council in which he recognized the need to further operationalize the Responsibility to Protect principle and designated a Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect with the main task of advancing the conceptual, political and institutional development and further refinement of the principle. The Special Advisor also leads consensus-building efforts with a view to assisting the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect.
The first Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect was appointed by the Secretary-General in 2008.