Dignity and human rights lie at the heart of our work

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Today, the world is joining Rwanda, now a thriving country, to mark the twentieth commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Sadly, the United Nations system and the world couldn’t stop the events unfolding on the ground. Worse, the United Nations could not even save many of its national staff. The consequences of failing to heed the warning signs of the genocide are forever engraved in our minds. 

The United Nations and the international system are better prepared to anticipate, prevent, respond to crises and protect their staff. In addition, the world now has important mechanisms to end impunity, including the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

However, large scale human tragedies are still happening. As we speak, millions are being affected in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, for instance.

This is one the reason why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched the “Rights up Front” Action Plan.  In essence, the Rights up Front Action Plan seeks to strengthen the United Nations’ ability to prevent large-scale violations of human rights, particularly in conflict situations. The plan is framed by several guiding concepts:

First, the United Nations must respond to the early warning signs of mass atrocities to prevent them from happening.

Second, prevention is a common responsibility of the entire United Nations system.

Third, we can best meet this responsibility when we, at the United Nations, realize the potential of our combined mandates and roles and when we operate as “one”.

Fourth, sharing information with Member States and national actors about human right violations and civilians in need of protection is essential to creating political momentum for prevention.

If we are to prevent future tragedies, progress requires leadership and courage to speak out at the very early stage – the kind of leadership and courage which Roméo Dallaire, the Head of the United Nations Mission in Rwanda showed 20 years ago. 

It also requires action, the kind of leadership President Kagame and his Government have exhibited in effectively protecting civilians.

Acting as one, the UN in Rwanda will continue to work hand-in-hand with the people of Rwanda towards lasting peace, inclusive development and human rights: in short, towards achieving dignity for all.

Today should serve as a reminder that “We the Peoples” – in the name and the words of the UN Charter - and our faith in fundamental human rights, remain at the heart of the work of the UN.