Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, in New York today:
Let me begin by offering my condolences on the death this week of a Rwandan peacekeeper in the Central African Republic. Eight other Rwandan peacekeepers were wounded, and I wish them a speedy recovery. Peacekeeping is a noble, necessary, but dangerous mission. The sacrifice and risk peacekeepers endure is always at the forefront of my thoughts.
It is particularly commendable that a nation that has endured the worst atrocities should risk its soldiers to ensure those atrocities cannot happen elsewhere.
Today, we remember all those who were killed in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The men, women and — as we have just seen — even children who were systematically and brutally murdered were overwhelmingly Tutsi, but included Hutu and others who opposed the genocide.
As we honour the dead, we also reflect on the suffering of those who survived this dark chapter in human history. Let us today unite in renewing our resolve to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again. And let us also draw much-needed inspiration from the survivors, including the thousands of women who were raped and bore children as a result.
When I visited Rwanda in my previous role as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I witnessed the unbreakable spirit of the Rwandan people, their yearning for peace and their commitment to rebuilding their country. They have shown that reconciliation is possible, even after a tragedy of such monumental proportions.
Rwanda has learned from the events of 1994. So must the international community. States have a fundamental responsibility to protect their people from genocide and other grave violations of human rights. I am deeply concerned about the rise of racism, hate speech and xenophobia around the world. These base manifestations of human cruelty provide the breeding ground for far more evil acts.
Today, people are being killed, displaced and abused in many parts of the world. In Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims have been killed, tortured, raped, burnt alive and humiliated, solely because of who they are. In Syria, continued escalation in hostilities, after seven years of conflict, has led to unimaginable violence and suffering. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, violence has forced 4.5 million people to flee their homes in the past year alone.
Preventing genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law is a shared responsibility. It is a core duty of the United Nations.
Our “Human Rights Up Front” strategy and several United Nations mechanisms aim to do just that — protect people’s lives and sound an early warning before abuses turn into atrocities. And my Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide plays a crucial role.
But warnings are effective only if followed by action. This year, we are marking the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Some 45 United Nations Member States have still to join the Genocide Convention. Ratifying it is a matter of moral obligation. Today, I call on all Member States that have not yet done so to become parties to the Genocide Convention by 9 December this year, when we will commemorate the seventieth anniversary of its adoption. And I call on all States to back their commitments with action.
To save people at risk, we must go beyond words. We must nurture the courage to care, and the resolve to act. Only by meeting these challenges can we honour the victims and survivors of genocide and ensure that what happened in Rwanda 24 years ago is never repeated — anywhere, ever again.