The International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda offers an opportunity to honour the memory of the more than 800,000 people – overwhelmingly Tutsi, and also moderate Hutu, Twa and others – who were systematically killed across Rwanda in less than three months just over two decades ago. It is also an occasion to recognize the pain and the courage of those who survived.
Our annual sombre observance is all the more meaningful this year as we mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. We must use this occasion to look back on the past – and to squarely confront the challenges of the present, renewing our collective resolve to prevent such atrocities from happening again.
Many countries now face grave security threats. People are being subjected to the brutality of violent conflicts and the indignities of poverty. Discrimination persists in societies torn apart by war, as well as in democracies that largely enjoy peace. Hatred may manifest as institutionalized racism, ethnic strife, or episodes of intolerance or exclusion. In other instances, discrimination reflects the official, national version of history that denies the identity of some segments of the population.
I deplore the conflicts and atrocity crimes in many parts of the world that continue to divide communities, killing and displacing people, undermining economies and destroying cultural heritage.
Our first duty is always to prevent these situations and to protect vulnerable human beings in distress. My Human Rights Up Front initiative seeks to prevent serious human rights violations by acting on early warning signs before they become more serious. My Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect work to advance national and international efforts to protect populations from atrocity crimes. We aim to ensure swift and decisive action to save lives and stop abuses.
On this Day, I appeal to the international community to do more than just speak about atrocity crimes and then fail to take timely action to prevent them. I call on all to summon the courage to act before situations deteriorate based on our collective moral responsibility. This is critical for the maintenance of international peace and security.
As I said at last year’s commemoration in Kigali, we must exercise “Umuganda” – coming together in common purpose – to avert what can be prevented and counter the cruelty taking place before our eyes.