Discussion Papers Series, Volume II
by Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
for Communications and Public Information
Some years ago, I had the privilege to be present at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. for a private screening of a new film about Anne Frank. I was reminded again how important it is to ensure that people understand the dangers of prejudice and hatred. The protection of human rights, and the promotion of respect for each and every individual, is a mission that is integral to the United Nations itself.
The legacy of the last century is marred by tragic events where human rights were violated and the international community failed to respond adequately – from the Holocaust and the killing fields of Cambodia, the genocide in Rwanda and mass murder in Srebrenica. Secretary-General Ban, in his visit to the Memorial Centre in Srebrenica in July 2012, reiterated the importance of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect which, he noted, had already been applied to protect civilians in Côte d'Ivoire and Libya.
Education has an important role to play in genocide prevention, and it is a core element of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme. This compendium of discussion papers is the second in a series and one of many pedagogical tools made available by the Programme. Since its creation in 2006, as mandated in United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7, the Programme has developed a multifaceted approach that includes online and print educational products, DVDs, exhibits, social media campaigns, student video conferences, seminars, a film series and this Journal. It also continues to combat Holocaust denial, as called for in United Nations General Assembly resolution 61/255.
The Discussion Papers in this volume have been written by a diverse group of authors on a wide range of topics, from their distinct personal perspectives. Among these is Professor Pan Guang (China), who recounts how Shanghai emerged as a safe haven for Jewish refugees during World War II. Juan Mendez (Argentina) discusses the trial of accused Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic and its impact on the international criminal justice system. Tali Nates (South Africa) illustrates how Holocaust education in South Africa is helping the country come to terms with its own history of racial oppression.
I invite you to read and share this publication. While the views expressed by the individual scholars might not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations, the writers offer insights that help to raise the level of dialogue, as well as help to define possible means to curb abuses of human rights and mass violence. These articles provide an opportunity for deeper reflection, structured debate and, hopefully, positive change. And that is what the United Nations, ultimately, is all about.