NEW YORK – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says defending human rights is a global responsibility.
Ban said this at the International Conference on Genocide Prevention on Tuesday in Brussels, Belgium.
He urged governments to renew their commitment to vigilance and political will to prevent mass atrocities from occurring.
“We pay tribute to the memory of victims through remembrance and reflection.
“But it is perhaps through our prevention and protection efforts that we honour them even more.”
The UN chief commended the progress made so far in holding perpetrators of genocide accountable for their actions.
He cited the establishment of special international criminal tribunals for Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and Cambodia as “breakthroughs against impunity and proofs that the rule of law keeps gaining ground”.
He also drew attention to some of the international community’s past failures in preventing genocide, citing the UN Security Council’s decision to withdraw the UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda 20 years ago, ”thereby taking away the sorely needed international ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground.
“The UN was also deeply tarnished by its actions and inaction at Srebrenica,” stressing that the organisation has been working hard to draw on the lessons of those failures.
“My Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr Adama Dieng, and my Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Ms Jennifer Welsh, scan the world for signs of the precursors of genocide and atrocity crimes.
“Sound the alarm when necessary and work with countries and regions to enhance prevention.”
Ban also described how the UN has put prevention at the forefront of its efforts, notably through the `Rights Up Front’ exercise.
“Rights Up Front aims to improve prevention through an intense and early focus on human rights violations,” he said.
He said that the approach was drawn from the case of Sri Lanka and that “it obliges those within the organisation to be frank in telling member states what they need to hear.
”It is rather than what they might want to hear, about serious violations and emerging crisis situations.
“The Rights Up Front approach has been on display in recent months in South Sudan, where the UN opened the gates of its peacekeeping installations.
”This will offer shelter to people fleeing violence; 20 years ago such steps would have been unthinkable.” (PANA/NAN)