Press Releases

    DSG/SM/218
                                                                                                                            8 April 2004

    How Can World Community Better Respond Should Genocide Loom again? Asks Deputy Secretary-General, at Headquarters Rwanda Panel

    NEW YORK, 7 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette’s remarks at a panel discussion on “A Decade after Rwanda:  the United Nations and the Responsibility to Protect”, in New York, 7 April:

    Thank you all for coming to the United Nations to join in the global commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda.

    Today is a solemn day on which we look back, remember the victims, and acknowledge our collective failure to prevent or stop the massacre of at least 800,000 defenceless men, women and children.

    But it must also be a day on which we look ahead, and think how we can prepare to respond better should genocide loom again.  For let us not be under any illusions:  as the Secretary-General said today in Geneva, that prospect remains frighteningly real.  Wherever there is war, wherever there is intolerance, wherever there is impunity for unspeakable crimes, we must be on the lookout for the warning signs of approaching genocide.  That is why, in addressing the Commission on Human Rights, the Secretary-General announced a UN system-wide Action Plan to Prevent Genocide.

    In the last 10 years, we have made some progress -- more robust and timely peacekeeping, improved early warning and human rights mechanisms, the establishment of the International Criminal Court.  These and other steps give some hope that there is now a stronger commitment by the international community to prevent and resist.

    One welcome conceptual leap was taken with the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which reframed the debate away from the notion of a “right to intervene”, towards that of “responsibility to protect”.  Sovereignty entails responsibility, as well as power -- responsibility to protect the people within one’s territory.  The challenge for all of us, as an international community, is to determine what to do if that responsibility is left unfulfilled.

    Of course, sovereignty is not the only barrier to the protection of human life.  Simple indifference, narrowly defined national interest and lack of political will too often combine to ensure that nothing is done, or that it’s too little and too late.  We still have a long way to go.

    To discuss these issues today, we have a distinguished panel with a wide range of military, political, diplomatic and journalistic experience.  Despite this diversity, all our panellists have been active in working to get the world to take the threat of genocide more seriously, and to do something about it.  We should all be grateful to them for taking the time to participate in this panel.  I am eager to hear their presentations, and look forward to a lively discussion afterwards.

    Let me introduce them one by one:

    Major General Henry Anyidoho is one of Ghana’s most distinguished retired military officers.  He served for 41 years in the Ghana Armed Forces, and in four UN peacekeeping operations.  He was Deputy Force Commander of UNAMIR, and in the darkest hour of the Rwanda genocide, when the Security Council decided to downsize UNAMIR from 2,500 troops to 270, he immediately volunteered to stay on with a small Ghanaian force.

    Dr. Lloyd Axworthy was Canada’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1995 to 2000.  He is widely known for advancing the concept of human security and for the strong support he gave to the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines.  He was also a major inspiration behind the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty.  On 1 May of this year, he will become the President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg, his alma mater.

    Mr. Mohamed Sahnoun has had a distinguished diplomatic career during which he served as Algeria’s Ambassador to the United Nations, the United States, France, Germany and Morocco.  He was Co-Chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty.  And he is currently the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Horn of Africa.

    Ms. Samantha Power is a Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  From 1993 to 1996, she covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for the U.S. News and World Report, the Boston Globe, and the Economist.  Her book, “A Problem from Hell:  America and the Age of Genocide”, won last year’s Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.

    I’m sorry that Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye will be unable to join us today.  At the time of the Rwandan genocide, he was the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.  He serves now as Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and is today leading an urgent mission to Chad to assess the crisis unfolding in Darfur.  He conveys his regrets and looks forward to hearing about today’s discussion.

    Now it is my pleasure to turn the floor over to our first speaker.  Major General Anyidoho, you have the floor.

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