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Statement on the 25th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide

On 7 April, the international community commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which resulted in the death of over 800,000 people. 

The Rwandan genocide is a sober reminder of what happens when the international community fails to act in the face of atrocity crimes. Despite warnings from UN officials, including then Special Rapporteur Bacre Waly Ndiaye and General Romeo Dallaire, Force Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda, the international community neglected its responsibility to protect against the commission of genocide.

Although it took nearly a decade following the horrific events of 1994 for concrete, collective action to prevent mass atrocities to manifest, the Rwandan genocide served as a driving force behind the 2005 World Summit and the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) norm. The outcome of the Summit was a unanimous agreement by UN member states to save future generations from the scourge of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansings, and crimes against humanity (“atrocity crimes”). In this vein, states acknowledged a collective obligation to address intolerance and inaction whenever populations face such risks.

Over the past 15 years since the Summit, the international community has worked to strengthen and reaffirm its commitment to the RtoP and the prevention of mass atrocities including through the establishment of global networks, the appointment of National Focal Points, and the affirmation of the rule of law. The UN Security Council has relied upon the RtoP norm when considering measures in cases such as Cote d’Ivoire, South Sudan, and Libya, among others, and over 70 resolutions have referred to this collective responsibility.

Despite these efforts, the RtoP continues to face challenges. The politicization of the norm has prevented timely responses in Syria and Myanmar, and continues to impact the situations in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Venezuela, among others. Political interests should never come before the absolute obligation of the international community to uphold fundamental human rights and protect populations from atrocities. 

As we honor those lost at the hands of the Rwandan Genocide, we should also reflect on what states, regional and international organizations, and civil society must do to ensure that the call of “Never Again” becomes a reality for current and future generations. 

See the statement here.


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