New York

27 September 2013

Secretary-General's message to Ministerial Meeting on Enhancing Preventive Strategies for the Responsibility to Protect [delivered by Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide]

This is the sixth time that a ministerial meeting on the responsibility to protect has been organized during the opening of the General Assembly. Your presence at this and previous meetings is testimony to your continued support for efforts to advance this exceptional commitment to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

The world continues to face challenges in fully embracing and implementing the concept.  Our collective failure to prevent atrocity crimes in Syria over the past two and a half years is the latest case in point. We have to do more, and do it better, to protect people.

The responsibility to protect requires not only effective responses to crises, but also a willingness and capacity to prevent crises from emerging and escalating. This is the focus of my latest report on the subject and was also emphasized at the informal debate earlier this month.  I was pleased with the very constructive engagement in that discussion, and especially to hear new voices of support.

Prevention must start at home, everywhere. Enhancing preventive strategies calls for a shared understanding of the factors that can increase the risk of mass atrocity crimes. It demands an honest assessment of both risk and resilience, inclusive and transparent societies, the repudiation of discrimination, institutions to defend the rule of law, the strengthening of partnerships and assistance tailored to specific contexts.  Prevention rests fundamentally on the implementation by each State of its national and international human rights commitments.

Within the United Nations, we are making efforts to strengthen our preventive capacity. The internal review process that I commissioned on our response to the Sri Lanka crisis includes important recommendations that I am now implementing to ensure the UN system can better uphold its responsibilities under the Charter. My new Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welsh, has made mainstreaming the concept within the Organization one of her first priorities. We need to assess what tools we already have that can contribute to the prevention of atrocity crimes, how these can be better used, and where there are gaps that we should fill. We need to make the responsibility to protect not just a core commitment of the international community, but also an operational reality.

I look forward to learning about the results of your meeting and offer my best wishes for a fruitful discussion.