Global perspective Human stories

Appalling acts still persist 60 years on from pledge to prevent genocide, Ban warns

Appalling acts still persist 60 years on from pledge to prevent genocide, Ban warns

Sixty years ago to the day after the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the world has continued to witness appalling acts that violate human dignity.

“And all too often the international response has been inadequate,” he told the Jewish community organization B’nai B’rith International at its annual UN Conference in a message delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe.

“The Convention was a direct outcome of the attempted extermination of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, and ever since has embodied the aspiration of the United Nations to prevent such a horror from occurring again. Let me assure you of my strong commitment to this work,” he added.

He noted that 60 years ago tomorrow, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. “This document, too, was drafted amid the utter destruction and destitution following the Holocaust and the Second World War. And here, too, there is a great distance to travel if we are to bring this vision to life for everyone, everywhere,” he said.

“We will continue to need your voice in our efforts to ensure human dignity and an end to bigotry, including anti-Semitism.”

He reiterated his regret that the goal of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty by the end of this year, first articulated in the 2007 Annapolis conference, appeared unlikely to be achieved. But he noted that recent months had been a crucial time in setting the stage for peace, with the parties engaging in direct, intensive negotiations and creating trust and a framework where none existed only two years ago.

“At the same time, recent developments underscore the large gap between the political tracks and the situation on the ground,” he said. “Continued rocket fire against southern Israel and other disruptions to the period of ‘calm’ agreed in June, along with settlement activity and violent acts by settlers in the West Bank, a humanitarian emergency in the Gaza Strip, and the ongoing split between Palestinian factions, pose considerable obstacles.

“If people are to have faith in the political process, there is a need for tangible improvements in living conditions and security,” he added, also stressing that the global financial crisis, a development emergency, food insecurity and accelerating climate change are inextricably linked.

“Solutions to each must be solutions to all. States, too, are more interdependent than ever, and cannot protect their interests or advance the well-being of their people without the partnership of the rest,” he concluded.