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“Genocide remains a very real threat,” warns Guterres

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Genocide “remains a very real threat” around the world, said the UN chief on Thursday on the occasion of the UN International Day of the commemoration and dignity of the victims of genocide and the prevention of this crime.

“The international community has repeatedly failed to act together, quickly and decisively to prevent genocide and related atrocities,” said António Guterres.

The UN chief took part in a virtual event to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the Genocide Convention and International Day.

For Mr Guterres, the Convention has given the world a better understanding of early warning signs and risk factors, but more needs to be done.

Today we face the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945 . They last longer and are becoming more and more complex. Impunity is widespread and human rights and the rule of law are routinely ignored, “he said.

The secretary-general also highlighted identity-based hate speech, incitement and discrimination, saying it continues to spread and is increasingly being used for political manipulation and gain.

“These are all alarming warning signs that should encourage action,” he argued.

“Champions of Prevention”

For Mr Guterres, the world knows what needs to be done: eliminate identity-based discrimination and recognize diversity as a strength; Respect for human rights and the rule of law; Ensuring accountability and redress for past atrocities; and reconcile and restore broken communities.

He believes that Member States have primary responsibility for preventing genocide, but that this cannot be achieved without the participation of society as a whole.

“Young people, religious and social leaders, the private sector and the media, especially social media platforms, all have a responsibility to become champions of prevention,” he added.

Role of youth

The President of the 76th session of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, also addressed the Member States, highlighting the theme of the event, “The Voices of Youth for a Peaceful and Inclusive World”.

“Whenever I meet our youth and interact with them, I notice their enthusiasm to bring about positive change. They have little patience with the petty hatred and divisions that previous generations succumbed to, ”he said. “They would rather care about improving the condition of mankind.”

Indeed, in many countries, young people constitute the majority of the population at risk of violence or at present or at risk of atrocity.

Young people have spearheaded several initiatives that have resulted in change in vulnerable countries, including peaceful demonstrations and campaigns through social media platforms and promoting dialogue between different ethnic and religious groups.

“Advancing our work”

“We can help them on their way by reminding them of the heartache and death that follow when prejudice is combined with violence, especially organized violence,” said Shahid.

Member States should educate younger generations about the history and human costs of genocide, invest in peacebuilding and reconciliation skills, and promote gender equality.

“After all, it’s only the youth who can advance our work,” he concluded.

The event was also attended by Special Advisor for Genocide Prevention Alice Wairimu Nderitu and Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake moderated an interactive dialogue on the issue.

Unsplash / Evgeny NelminTuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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