Managing diversity a challenge for all countries, says UN genocide prevention official

19 March 2010

Even the world’s most homogeneous country faces the challenge of constructively managing diversity, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide said today, calling on States to recognize the need to end discrimination and inequalities between different ethnic, racial and religious groups before they result in deadly violence.

In an interview with the UN News Centre from Conakry, Guinea, where he is on the first leg of a two-nation West African tour, Francis Deng described genocide as “just the extreme form of identity-related conflicts.”

He said it was important for countries to not be defensive about the issue and to not view it as something that only occurs in other States.

“I see it as a challenge of good governance, of working towards equality of all groups, regardless of their identity, and of working against marginalization and discrimination.”

Mr. Deng is meeting with Government officials, UN staff and representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) during this trip in a bid to raise awareness within the region about the need to manage diversity before risk factors for genocide can emerge.

Those risk factors include the existence of defined identity groups within a society; the availability of weapons; the level of discrimination towards some groups; and the capacity of a country to either manage the problem or allow it to escalate.

Mr. Deng said he has been “very encouraged” by the talks he has held so far, including with Guinean Prime Minister Jean-Marie Doré and other senior Government officials, as well as with key representatives of civil society groups.

The Special Adviser, who travels next to Ghana, has cancelled the Nigerian leg of the trip following the recent political developments that led to the dissolution of that country’s Cabinet this week. An earlier stop in Liberia was also cancelled because of delays in leaving New York due to weather problems.

He stressed that he was not using the trip to West Africa to “pinpoint any countries,” and he called for a regional approach to dealing with genocide so that countries can work together to identify and tackle similar issues and problems.

All countries, he added, can take steps to better manage diversity and to reduce inequalities of wealth, power and development.


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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

UN expert on genocide prevention travels to West Africa

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on the prevention of genocide is travelling to West Africa to identify how national and sub-regional bodies can help prevent the scourge.