7 April 2014 – No one believes genocide could happen in their own society. Yet it has happened, over and over, across the world. Today, twenty years ago, Rwanda fell victim to this atrocity.
As neighbour turned against neighbour, more than 800,000 innocent people lost their lives. Thus, today we commemorate the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Rwanda Genocide. We remember those who were killed, honour the survivors and commend, though tragically few, those who came to the defense of their fellow human beings.
Yet, from the ashes of the genocide, Rwanda has forged a new path towards a more peaceful society. Today the nation’s representatives, political and in civil society, act as ambassadors to the world. They teach about the dangers of genocide, and warn us of how it starts.
Genocide is not launched with one giant action, but is slowly spread through dangerous speech acts and misinformation. Genocide occurs when a society allows itself to be divided into two camps: “us” and “them”. The genocide in Rwanda began with hateful articles in newspapers and radio broadcasts. Then came dehumanizing speeches and threats of the danger posed by “them”, before the killings began.
Governments are always responsible for genocide, either by explicitly or tacitly supporting it. Mass atrocities are testimonies to the failures of states. Yet, it is the state that is responsible to protect its population, and to ensure security on its territory.
This year, Brussels hosted an International Conference on Genocide Prevention. This two-day conference brought together academics and politicians from over 130 states and organizations. Its goal was to share the lessons of the past in order to ensure that “Never Again” is not just a catchphrase, but a concrete goal for the international community.
The conference allowed all governments to remember the atrocities of the past. It united them to seek concrete change to ensure a binding global framework to protect all peoples. Additionally it allowed them to renew their commitment to a safe and peaceful world for all.
Ensuring responsibility, so that the shadow of accountability falls on all would-be perpetrators, was a clear message. Genocide can only be stopped with perpetual vigilance. The upholding by the international community of its responsibility to protect, and the development of International criminal justice are cornerstones to ensure “Never Again”. However, as Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson has stated, repeating “never again” is in itself a sign of failure.
Therefore, on this day, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reminds all of us that in order to honour the memory of the dead and protect lives in the future. “Preventing genocide is a shared responsibility. States must uphold their obligations under international law to prevent abuses and protect their populations," Ban says in his message.
The Brussels based United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe - UNRIC provides information on UN activities to the countries of the region. It also provides liaison with institutions of the European Union in the field of information. Its outreach activities extend to all segments of society and joint campaigns, projects and events are organized with partners including the EU, governments, the media, NGOs, schools and local authorities.
United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC Brussels)
Residence Palace, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 155, Block C2,7th and 8th floor, Brussels 1040, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 788 8484 / Fax: 32 2 788 8485