25 November 2014

Deputy Secretary-General's video message to the 7th Session of the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues : "Preventing and Addressing Violence and Atrocity Crimes Targeted against Minorities"

I am honoured to address this seventh session of the Forum on Minority Issues.

The theme of this year’s Forum is particularly timely and appropriate.  We have all seen the unfolding tragedy in Iraq and Syria where Christians, Turkmens, Yezidis and other minorities have been targeted for the most brutal atrocities.  Sadly, this is not an exception.  Violence and atrocity crimes directed against minorities all over the world are well documented, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

It is the duty of the international community to draw lessons from these horrific events.  We must prevent them from being repeated.  We cannot continue to say “never again” – in itself a recognition of failure.

The United Nations as a whole and all Member States must renew our commitments and intensify our efforts to promote and protect minority rights worldwide.

This Forum will play an important part, by helping us to understand the nature of these crimes, their root causes and inherent dynamics.  Gaining a better such understanding will enable us to detect the early warning signs and improve our prevention strategies.

The protection of minority rights plays an important part in achieving peace and security.  It reduces conflict levels and supports post-conflict reconciliation.  It is also a crucial way of achieving development for the poorest and most vulnerable. 

Minority rights are a vital component of all three pillars of the United Nations: peace, development and human rights.  They require the systematic and coordinated engagement of every part of the UN system.

This interdependence is at the heart of the Human Rights Up Front initiative, which calls for a system-wide effort to prevent and respond to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.  The protection of human rights must be front and centre of the UN’s work. 

Moreover, it is at the stage of human rights violations that we must act to prevent escalation, not when mass atrocities are taking place.

In this work, we count on the support of Member States, who should exercise their moral and political responsibility and take early action when confronted with evidence or known risk factors for atrocity crimes.  Here, the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have a crucial role to play.

This Forum and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues are clear demonstrations of the serious intent and commitment of the United Nations to protect the rights of minorities.  The Forum has established itself as a unique platform for dialogue and guidance on minority-related issues. 

I welcome the high level of interest and participation in this year’s session of the Forum.  I urge you to engage in a truly interactive dialogue, exchanging experiences and identifying opportunities and needs for future action.

I wish you all success in your deliberations.