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preventing genocide

“Why Have We Failed in Preventing Genocide and How Do We Change That?”
Presentation at United Nation Headquarters in New York,  January 21, 2015
Reported by Fran Butensky, ICJW NY Representative to the UN
Opening Address by conference host Bogustaw Winid , Permanent Representative of Poland.
Guest Speakers:
Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary General
·         Asked what can we do to live in a society where hatred trumps tolerance
·         Member States need to do more to prevent and address group violence so we can live in peace without hatred, violence and fear.
·         The UN needs to assist countries to prevent conflict leading to Genocide.
·         We, including the Secretary General, must keep our promise of “Never Again”
Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States
·         Talked about Raphael Lempkin who lost 49 members of his family in the Holocaust, then fled to the United States and also coined the term Genocide.
·         Today we have we have a Commissioner of Human Rights and a Secretary General on Genocide.
·         The earlier we act, the better the chances of preventing atrocities.
·         Human Rights Acts and Amnesty International both monitor and hold countries accountable.
·         Stopping mass atrocities comes down to the efforts of individuals willing to take risks to save others.
VItaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of Russia
·         The Russian Red Army liberated the Auschwitz death camp 70 years ago
·         We must remember those victims who lost their lives and those who lost their lives liberating them
·         20 million Russians were lost to the war.
·         Confronting genocide was born from the establishment of the International
Criminal Court, that brought to justice many of those responsible for the slaughter.
·         He urged all states to further their commitment to preserve the Commemoration of the Holocaust.
·         “There cannot be good and bad terrorists”.
·         No nation can be immune or afford to be indifferent.
Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom
·         The words “Never Again” are printed in 5 languages on a stone at the entrance to Dachau.
·         What progress have we made in the last ten years?
1.      We have incrementally improved the signs of genocide
2.      Have the necessary tools to prevent genocide, i.e. mediation and
human rights monitors
3.      Still have so far to go, the bar must be set high
4.      Genocide can be prevented if we act on early signs
5.      The Security Council must be willing to employ its tools and agree
to act on early warnings. Each member has the power and
responsibility to act on early warnings. They need the courage to act
Alexis Lamek, Deputy Permanent Representative of France
·         Need better tools for early warning.
·         The international community can act when a government does nothing.
·         The International Criminal Court is crucial – justice is key.
·         Atrocities happen while the Security Council remains paralyzed.
Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Genocide
·         Genocide may be a rare occurrence but when it happens, it’s devastating.
·         Millions of people are forced to leave their homes and the effects are felt
·         across many borders.
·         There is a strong political and legal framework for preventing Genocide but the political will is missing.
·         Must be prepared to work earlier when signs of a problem surface.
Keynote Address: Piotr Cywinski, Director of the Memorial and State
 Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau:
·         Today there may be only 300 survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau
·         Many of the victims died very quickly. They were treated like slaves and many lasted only about three months.
·         They have recovered many remains and are using them to try and educate people, especially the younger generation. The ruins are the history and will translate the history to the next generation.
·         The younger generation has been visiting the site and come from schools all over the world. Their governments want to open up their minds to what atrocities took place there.
·         Starting at the main gate, visitors can spend up to four hours, eventually ending up at the crematoriums.
·         The hope is to bring back their reactions and reflections and remember it
all their lives.
·         Hopefully, this will be an incremental step in future genocide prevention.
·         The protection of the words of the survivors and pictures of the dead is a MUST, trying to preserve the camps as authentically as possible.
·         “When someone leaves home, they take their keys with them intending to return. It is amazing how many keys were found at the camp”  What a chilling thought!
Eugene-Richard Gasana, Permanent Representative of Rwanda:
·         Genocides has occurred too many times since the United Nations was was created in 1948  to end the scourge of war.
·         Perpetrators must be brought to justice.
·         For over twenty years, a number of masterminds of genocide have been roaming free. They must be tracked down, that is the role of national governments.
Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel
·         “There will always be some who think that some lives are less valuable than others”
·         70 years after the Holocaust, Jews in Europe are still living in fear.
·         The occurrences in Gaza last summer resulted in the killing of Jews in a French Synagogue instead of protesting in front of the Israeli Embassy.
·         At the UN, Israel has been compared to Nazi Germany. For some, one Jewish
State is one too many.
·         Today, we have a strong State of Israel, holding guard day and night.
·         Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. We have freedom of speech, a free press, free elections and protection of the rights of women and minorities.
·         In too many countries and too many classrooms, violence instead of tolerance is taught.
·         Israel will never relinquish its right to defend its people.
·         Using human rights to abuse the political Islamists is the single worst
threat to humanity
·         There will be zero tolerance for teaching children to hate and zero tolerance for extremism.
·         We must stand together. Words must turn into actions. We must teach tolerance and understanding.  Education is key
Harold Braun, Permanent Representative of Germany
·         There has been worthy and serious debate today.
·         His visit to Auschwitz was a momentous reminder of the horrors of that time.
·         No matter what the mood when you arrive, you leave in silence.
·         Although Germany has come a long way, it is hard to comprehend the psychological mindset of those horrific events
·         In Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur, we have failed miserably and we are still failing.
·         The atrocities of genocide are a threat to international peace and security.
·         When atrocities occur, we cannot stand on the sidelines, we must take action, which means intervention.
Other speakers:
Phillippe Bolopion, UN Director, Human Rights Watch
Robert Kostro, Director of the Museum of Polish History