New York

27 February 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at launch of "Kwibuka20"

I am honoured to be here for the New York launch of “Kwibuka20”, a series of events marking 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda.

The theme for Kwibuka20, “Remember, Unite, Renew” says it all.

We will always remember the more than 800,000 innocent people who were so brutally murdered.

We draw inspiration from the ability of the Rwandan people to unite and show that reconciliation is possible even after a tragedy of such monumental proportions.

And we marvel at the Rwandan people’s determination to renew their country and pave the way to a secure and prosperous future.

Remember, unite, renew: let us be inspired by those words during the weeks of reflection ahead.

The Rwandan genocide was an epic failure of the international community to take action in the face of atrocity crimes.

We have learned important lessons.   We know more keenly than ever that genocide is not a single event but a process that evolves over time, and requires planning and resources to carry out. As chilling as that sounds, it also means that with adequate information, mobilization, courage and political will, genocide can be prevented.

We have applied those lessons in many ways to improve our responses since then. 

Member States adopted the “responsibility to protect” principle.  We have established the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. 

My Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng – who is here with us today - monitors the world for signs of the crime’s known precursors -- providing a vital early warning function for myself and the Security Council.

My Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Ms. Jennifer Welsh, engages in political dialogue with Member States and others to put the concept into practice.

We have strengthened our capacities for mediation and preventive diplomacy.  We have also undertaken new civilian protection efforts on the ground, most notably of late through the “open gates” policy in South Sudan.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human has strengthened human rights monitoring and field presences, as well as the assistance it provides to States in advancing human rights friendly institutions and laws.
We are promoting tolerance and mutual understanding, including through the Alliance of Civilizations initiative.

We are entering an age of accountability through the actions of the International Criminal Court, international tribunals and domestic courts.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, with the cooperation of Rwanda and other states, continues to prosecute people for their alleged responsibility in the genocide.

Most recently, I launched a new initiative across the United Nations system called “Rights Up Front” to reinvigorate the UN’s commitment to human rights -- and in particular to strengthen early action.

At the same time, 20 years after the Rwanda genocide, there is much more that all of us can do to fully internalize and implement its lessons.

Our collective failure to prevent atrocities in Syria over the past three years is a shameful indictment of the international community.

The grave and blatant violations of human rights in the Central African Republic have led the Security Council to establish an International Commission of Inquiry.

We also see civilians threatened in multiple regions, as well as other worrying trends such as the rising bias against migrants, Muslims, Roma and other minorities in Europe and elsewhere. 

We must speak out forcefully whenever communities are threatened by mass atrocities or their precursors.

And we must never forget the victims – and make sure they receive the support they deserve.

Last May, I visited the Gisozi Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda.

I was moved to tears by the enormity of the violence that targeted a range of Rwanda’s people -- Tutsis, Twa, moderate Hutu and others.

But I also saw the remarkable progress that Rwanda has made over two decades.

I encourage the people and Government of Rwanda to continue promoting the inclusive spirit necessary for healing and reconciliation, and to deepen respect for human rights. 

This will set the country firmly on course for a peaceful future and benefit the wider Great Lakes region, which continues to cope with the impact of the genocide.

As we launch Kwibuka20, let us together commit to remember, unite and renew.

Thank you.