Ambassadors, UN officials and experts from the international community have been sharing ways to better prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity, at a special meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York on Tuesday.
The UN fears risk of these atrocities is heightened given current global crises that include conflict, soaring food and energy costs, and deepening inequalities and tensions, all exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic and climate change.
In her opening remarks, ECOSOC President Lachezara Stoeva highlighted how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, together with global commitment on the responsibility to protect (R2P), underscore the need to uphold the dignity and worth of every person on the planet.
Ms. Stoeva said protecting fundamental freedoms and human rights, including socio-economic rights, underpins the 2030 Agenda, and is critical both to address the root causes of conflict and to make communities more inclusive and resilient.
However, she warned that promises were not enough in the face of current global challenges, which are undermining progress towards achieving sustainable development and reversing gains made.
“These challenges require reinvigorated multilateralism and a stronger United Nations. It requires us to engage with all stakeholders, including young people and women, to promote social progress, better living standards and human rights for all,” she said.
Genocide refers to acts aimed at destroying a national, ethnic, racial or religious group and “sad experience” has shown that it is a gradual process, the President of the UN General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi, explained. Hate speech, dehumanization of groups as “others”, and recurrent violations of their rights are precursors to mass atrocities, he added.
“Like a weed, genocide has roots in discrimination and artificially aggregated ethnic, religious or social differences. The seedling of genocide breaks through whenthe rule of law breaks down,” said Mr. Kőrösi. Preventing genocide requires pulling out its roots, he continued, as well as protecting at-risk communities, including minorities andespecially women and girls.
The General Assembly President also pointed to thetransformative role of education, saying “by fostering an environment of coexistence, mutual respect, tolerance and cooperation, education can buffer societies against the threat of violent extremism.”
Following the international community’s failure to prevent atrocities in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, the UN established the mandate of Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, a position currently held by Alice Wairimu Nderitu.