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Office of The Special Adviser on The Prevention of Genocide

Preventing Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Ethnic Cleansing, and War Crimes

A United Nations system-wide endeavour

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

"The prevention of mass atrocities demands a system-wide UN effort. Goals related to the responsibility to protect should also inform our development and peacebuilding work, not just our efforts in the areas of human rights, humanitarian affairs, peacekeeping and political affairs."


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
Stanley Foundation Conference on
Implementing the Responsibility to Protect,
Tarrytown, New York, 15 January 2010

If the root causes of genocide revolve around inequalities between identity groups, preventing genocide begins with ensuring that all groups within society enjoy the rights and dignity of belonging as equal citizens. Early prevention therefore becomes a challenge of good governance, respect for human rights without discrimination and equitable management of diversity. That means eliminating gross political and economic inequalities, and promoting a common sense of belonging on equal footing.

The Special Advisers’ mandates therefore complement the core mission and work of the UN system as a whole. UN agencies, departments and programmes contribute to the prevention of genocide by, inter alia, supporting equitable economic development and the fair distribution of political power; promoting tolerance and respect for ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, and the protection of human rights; providing humanitarian assistance; and interceding to ensure peace, security and stability. The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect work closely within the UN system to promote a culture of prevention.

International Criminal Court

ICC Assembly resumes the sixth session of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in June 2008. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Where genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity do occur, the International Criminal Court, which is separate and independent from the UN, is empowered to investigate and prosecute those most responsible if a State is unwilling or unable to exercise jurisdiction over alleged perpetrators. Fighting impunity and establishing a credible expectation that the perpetrators of genocide and related crimes will be held accountable can contribute effectively to a culture of prevention.