In a time of rising xenophobia, more important than ever to ratify Genocide Convention

UN Photo/Milton Grant Genocide survivors at the Mwurire Genocide Site, in Rwanda. (1998)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

Speaking ahead of the UN Day commemorating victims of genocide, the UN chief has called for every country to ratify the Genocide Convention, which still has not been ratified by 45 UN Member States, despite being adopted at the General Assembly 70 years ago.

The adoption of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, marked a crucial step towards the development of international human rights and international criminal law as we know it today: it was the first human rights treaty to be adopted by the General Assembly, and signified the international community’s ‘never again’ commitment, after the atrocities committed during the Second World War.

Secretary-General António Guterres was clear about the importance of the historic convention: “In the aftermath of the Holocaust and Second World War, the world came together and adopted a convention to prevent genocide and punish those who commit this heinous crime,” he said.

“Seventy years later, the prevention of genocide remains a cardinal task for our time. That is why I launched an appeal for every country to ratify the Genocide Convention. I urge the 45 remaining States to do so without delay.”

Of those yet to ratify the convention, 20 are from Africa, 18 from Asia and 7 from the Americas: the Secretary-General’s appeal states that ratification would demonstrate a commitment to the most fundamental principles of the United Nations, and provide the basis for action by States to prevent genocide.

The International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime was established in 2015, on the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on Genocide, on 9 December 1948, and 10 years after the historic UN World Summit, which saw the international community take a unified stance on a range of crucial issues, including the acceptance of collective responsibility to protect civilians against genocide and other crimes against humanity.

The adoption of the Genocide Convention marked a crucial step towards the development of international human rights and international criminal law as we know it today: it was the first human rights treaty to be adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, and signified the international community’s ‘never again’ commitment, after the atrocities committed during the Second World War.

“In the aftermath of the Holocaust and Second World War, the world came together and adopted a convention to prevent genocide and punish those who commit this heinous crime,” said the Secretary-General. “Seventy years later, the prevention of genocide remains a cardinal task for our time. That is why I launched an appeal for every country to ratify the Genocide Convention. I urge the 45 remaining States to do so without delay.”

Of those yet to ratify the convention, 20 are from Africa, 18 from Asia and 7 from the Americas: the Secretary-General’s appeal states that ratification would demonstrate a commitment to the most fundamental principles of the United Nations, and provide the basis for action by States to prevent genocide.

The International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime was established in 2015, on the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on Genocide, on 9 December 1948, and 10 years after the historic UN World Summit, which saw the international community take a unified stance on a range of crucial issues, including the acceptance of collective responsibility to protect civilians against genocide and other crimes against humanity.

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