Wednesday, 22 November 2017

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UNRIC Library Backgrounder: Genocide

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The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (article 2) defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group … ”, including: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Convention confirms that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or war, is a crime under international law which parties to the Convention undertake “to prevent and to punish” (article 1). The primary responsibility to prevent and stop genocide lies with the State in which this crime takes place.

Genocide often occurs in societies in which different national, racial, ethnic or religious groups become locked in identity-related conflicts. However, it is not the differences in identity per se that generate conflict, but rather the gross inequalities associated with those differences in terms of access to power and resources, social services, development opportunities and the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms. It is often the targeted group’s reactions to these inequalities, and counter-reactions by the dominant group, that generate conflict that can escalate to genocide.

Given that no country is perfectly homogeneous, genocide is a truly global challenge. Genocide may occur in times of peace, where groups are intentionally subject to long-term policies and practices affecting their ability to exist as an identity group, as well as in the context of both intra-State and inter-State conflicts.

Information Booklet of the Office of the Special Adviser
on the Prevention of Genocide (July 2010)


 UN Entities

UN Treaties and Declarations

Selected UN Documents
  • A/70/621-S/2015/978 (14 December 2015): Letter dated 14 December 2015 from the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary General:
    Transmits "Code of conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes".
  • S/RES/2150 (2014) [on prevention and fight against genocide and other serious crimes under international law]:
  • S/2014/262 (11 April 2014): Letter dated 10 April 2014 from the Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council:
    Transmits the conclusions of the International Conference on Genocide Prevention, which was held in Brussels on 31 March and 1 April 2014 in the presence of the Secretary-General
  • S/2014/265 (14 April 2014): Letter dated 11 April 2014 from the President of the Security Council addressed to the Secretary-General:
    Concept note prepared by the delegation of Rwanda: Threat to international peace and security: prevention of and fight against genocide
  • A/63/958 (9 September 2009): Concept note on the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity : note / by the President of the General Assembly:
  • A/HRC/10/30 (18 February 2009): Efforts of the United Nations System to prevent genocide and the activities of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide : report of the Secretary-General: and
  • A/HRC/10/25 (9 March 2009): Prevention of genocide : report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:
  • A/HRC/7/37 (18 March 2008): Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Five Point Action Plan and the activities of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide:
  • A/60/863 (8. June 2006): Information and outreach programme entitled “The Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations”: Report of the Secretary-General:

Selected Statements and Speeches by UN Officials

UN Events and Observances

Further information



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UN Entities

UN Events and Observances

Selected Statements and Speeches by UN Officials


24 April 2017
not an official document - for information only