Interactive Panel Discussion "Saving Succeeding Generations"
(26 June 2008)
Welcoming remarks by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, my Colleagues and Friends. Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to today’s briefing, which is organized as part of the Department of Public Information’s Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, established by the General Assembly.
I am Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information of the United Nations, and I am very happy to say a few words at the beginning of this briefing.
This is the second briefing in a two-part series on genocide prevention, held in collaboration with the New York Office of the United Nations University.
Today is a very special day. Sixty-three years ago, in the aftermath of two world wars and the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, world leaders on 26 June 1945 signed the Charter of the United Nations in the city of San Francisco. In doing so, they determined “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. They also reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of each person. For the first time in history, a global treaty made the causal link between the observance of rights and international peace and security.
These fundamental human rights were denied to millions of innocent killed in the Second World War, and to the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. It is a memory that animated the ideals of the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which came three years after the Charter in 1948, and whose 60th anniversary we commemorate this year. UN family members have been engaged in commemorative events, seminars and workshops on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60th anniversary. You may have already heard about the forthcoming important meeting conference in Paris between our Department and NGOs on human rights, from the 3rd to the 5th of September.
The Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are two complementary instruments. The Charter governs relations between States and proclaims the sovereign equality of all its member states, large and small. The Universal Declaration governs relations between the State and the human beings who comprise it, and proclaims the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.
In the wake of the Holocaust, a new word was coined, “genocide”, to describe acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. On December the 9th 1948, one day before the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Genocide Convention. We also commemorate the 60th anniversary of this important historic UN treaty on genocide this year.
The basic values enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remain the guiding principles for our work in the areas of Holocaust remembrance and genocide prevention today.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that, “Preventing genocide is a collective and individual responsibility.” He has underlined that Governments, the media, religious organizations, civil society groups and individuals all have a role to play.
He has also called for the entire United Nations system to be empowered to shoulder the responsibility of preventing mass atrocities, which he considers to be one of the Organization’s “most sacred callings.”
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme is one of the most important components of our work to reach out to the widest public as possible in the world about the UN’s ideals, objectives and activities. We draw lessons from the past and also discuss ways to help prevent the occurrence of genocide and mass atrocities.
Today, we are very happy to have a number of eminent panelists. You will hear from some of the institutions, organizations and experts who have been successful in drawing the world’s attention to the warning signs of genocide – as well as about some of the means for punishing the perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity. These groups and distinguished individuals have dedicated their work to generating support for those populations that are threatened.
You will also hear stories of rescue by brave men and women, proving that individuals can indeed make a difference, and from whom you can learn. You will see how by using modern technology, such as satellite imagery and the internet, advocates and activists have been able to shine a spotlight on populations at risk, and you will also learn how they have helped to build a global network of voices for the voiceless.
And you will also learn how students, NGOs and the media have helped to bring the issue of genocide prevention to the forefront of the world’s agenda, and to underline our individual responsibilities.
I am very sorry that I will be unable to stay with you, although I would have liked to hear the debate, especially given the excellent panelists who join you here today who, I am sure, will engage you in a very active dialogue.