#UN; #HumanRights; #Peace&Security; #SouthSudan
Geneva, May 22 (Canadian-Media): The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday condemned a fresh wave of intercommunal violence in the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, that has left hundreds dead across 28 villages in Jonglei State, according to local authorities, UN reports said.
Intercommunal fighting has been on the rise across South Sudan. Image credit: UNMISS
Three aid workers were among those killed.
“The reports from Jonglei State are appalling”, Michelle Bachelet said of fighting that broke out between 16 and 17 May, forcing thousands to flee their homes.
“This recurring pattern of violence, which continues to claim lives in South Sudan, has to stop,” she said. “I urge the Government to ensure measures are in place to investigate this violence and to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted, and that victims and their families have access to justice, truth and reparations.”
Intercommunal fighting has been on the rise across South Sudan. In the first quarter of 2020, it was the main source of violence affecting civilians, having led to 658 deaths, 452 injuries, 592 abductions and 65 cases of sexual violence.
In Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, a series of attacks from mid-February to early March, left 22 civilians dead. Most of the 266 women and children abducted during the fighting have not been released from captivity.
Years of setbacks
The region has suffered years of food insecurity and was severely hit by flooding in 2019.
Ms. Bachelet – a former Head of State, leading Chile’s Government for two terms – has been vocal about what it will take to ensure durable peace. She most recently pressed South Sudanese authorities in mid-March to address escalating tensions.
The nature of intercommunal fighting – long driven by tensions over access to water and grazing land for cattle – has taken on a militarized character in recent years, with military style tactics and military-grade weapons.
“State authorities must act to end these cycles of retaliatory violence, including by holding those responsible to account and promoting peacebuilding between individual communities”, Ms. Bachelet stressed.
Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Alain Noudéhou, reported that a Médecins San Frontières staff member, and two staffers from another humanitarian organization, were killed during intense fighting in and around the town of Pieri, in Jonglei. Several aid workers are still unaccounted for.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of three aid workers in Pieri and call for those responsible to be brought swiftly to justice,” he said. “The Government, all parties and communities, must step up efforts to protect humanitarians who are taking great risks to their safety in order to provide much needed assistance.”
Intercommunal clashes and armed conflict are hampering humanitarian efforts to pre-position food, medicine and other supplies in the final weeks before the rains grow heavier and cut off road access to vulnerable communities, the Coordinator said. “Humanitarians must be able to reach affected communities freely and without fear.”
#UN; #Covid19Pandemic; #Africa; #HumanRights
Geneva, May 20 (Canadian-Media): Tens of millions of people in Africa could become destitute as a result of COVID-19 and its catastrophic impact on fragile economies and health systems across the continent, human rights chiefs from the United Nations and the African Commission warned on Wednesday, UN reports said.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, briefs the press in Geneva. (4 September 2019). Image credit: UN News/Daniel Johnson
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, and Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Solomon Dersso, issued a joint call for urgent measures to mitigate the ripple effects of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable.
“We cannot afford to stand idly by and hope this most viral and deadly of diseases bypasses Africa, which is home to many of the world’s poorest countries who are simply not in position to handle such a pandemic”, Bachelet and Dersso said.
Cases in every countryAs of 19 May, COVID-19 had reached all 54 African States, infecting 88,172 people – 16,433 of them in South Africa, which recorded the highest number of cases. The continent had lost a total 2,834 people to the virus.
Poverty, lack of social protection, limited access to water, poor sanitation infrastructure, pre-existing disease burden, conflict and overstretched health systems, have created heightened risk for spreading the disease.
Ms. Bachelet and Mr. Dersso called for equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, urging creditors of African countries to freeze, restructure or relieve debt.
“This health crisis - along with the debt burden of the continent and its already fragile economies - threaten to further drain reserves, cripple nascent job creation schemes and annihilate gains made in social development,” they said.
Potential poverty explosion
Such losses could “throw millions more people into want and poverty,” they said, pointing out that the costs of water and basic commodities have already spiked in many countries. People are facing hunger due to disrupted access to food and cooking fuel. Recession in the region now looms large for the first time in more than 25 years.
“It is a matter of human rights necessity that there must be international solidarity with the people of Africa and African Governments,” they said. Priority investments are needed in health, water and sanitation, social protection, employment and sustainable infrastructure.
Acknowledging the economic pain
The pair said that while measures to restrict movement and increase physical distancing were essential in the fight against the virus, they are now having a dramatic impact, in particular, on those who rely on informal daily work for their survival.
In addition, the human rights experts underlined the importance of preserving freedom of association, opinion and expression, as well as access to information during this critical time. They called on Governments and businesses operating in Africa to consider making Internet tariffs more affordable so that information can reach broader audiences.
Learning from Ebola, malaria
More broadly, the rights chiefs said Africa has learned from its experiences with Ebola and malaria about the need to take swift action in countering disease spread. They reminded African Governments that it is a legal imperative - and a pre-requisite for success – that they protect the most vulnerable and stamp out any violations that emerge during the pandemic, including discrimination in all its forms, violence against women, food insecurity, excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings.
#UN; #HumanRights; LGBTI; #Homophobia, #Biphobia; #Transphobia; #Covid19
Geneva, May 17 (Canadian-Media): UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for people everywhere to support the right to live free and equal, in line with his message for the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, observed on Sunday.
Shout out in the Favela da Maré, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The t-shirt reads 'Amarégay" -- a pun using the name of the favela, meaning both 'to love is gay' and 'Maré is gay'.
Image credit: Matheus Affonso
The commemoration comes as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic which has increased the vulnerability of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
"Already facing bias, attacks and murder simply for who they are or whom they love, many LGBTI people are experiencing heightened stigma as a result of the virus, as well as new obstacles when seeking health care," said. Mr. Guterres.
"There are also reports of COVID-19 directives being misused by police to target LGBTI individuals and organizations."
In fact, the crisis has made things worse for LGBTI people, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
"LGBTI people are often exposed to additional stigma, discrimination and violence, including when seeking medical services – and perhaps saddest of all, within their own families during lock-downs. They are also in some places being treated as scapegoats for the spread of the virus," she said.
Referencing the theme for the international day, Ms. Bachelet urged everyone to stand up against hate and ‘break the silence’ surrounding the discrimination and violence suffered by LGBTI people.
Let us counter the homophobic, transphobic and biphobic attitudes and narratives that have such a devastating impact on the lives of so many human beings worldwide," she added.
The Secretary-General emphasized that as the pandemic unfolds, the UN will continue to highlight injustices against LGBTI people, as well as other injustices.
Said Mr. Guterres: "Together, let us stand united against discrimination and for the right of all to live free and equal in dignity and rights
#UN; #HumanRights; #Covid19Spread; #Covid19Lockdowns; #WHOGuidelines
New York, May 14 (Canadian-Media): The UN Human Rights High Commissioner on Thursday warned of potential risks as more countries move to lift lockdown measures put in place to contain COVID-19 spread, UN reports said.
In Caricuao, Venezuela, doctors and nurses go house-to-house raising awareness on
COVID-19. Image credit: OCHA/Gema Cortes
Michelle Bachelet -- a former doctor, health minister and Head of State -- acknowledged the challenge facing governments as they grapple with the medical crisis, while also trying to save their economies from collapsing.
However, she added that “we can also learn lessons” from South Korea and Germany which have seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases since relaxing their lockdown and emergency measures.“Balancing the economic imperatives with the health and human rights imperatives during the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be one of the most delicate, daunting and defining experiences for all leaders and all governments. Their place in history will be decided by how well or how badly they perform over the coming months”. she said, speaking from Geneva to journalists.
“If their response is based on the interests of a particular elite - causing the disease to flare up again in other less privileged or marginalized communities - it will rebound on everyone.”
Danger of COVID-19 second waveCOVID-19 continues to disrupt the lives of billions across the planet, including countless workers and students who are now confined to their homes in efforts to protect lives from the deadly disease.
More than four million cases were recorded globally as of Thursday, and more than 290,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“If an affected country comes out of lock-down too hastily, there is a danger that a second wave, costing many more lives, will be triggered sooner and more destructively than would otherwise be the case,” said Ms. Bachelet.
“If the re-opening of societies is mishandled, all the huge sacrifices made during the initial lock-down will have been for nothing. However, the damage to individuals and to economies, will not just be retained - it will be significantly amplified. “
WHO guidelines paramount
The UN rights chief posited considerations for lifting lockdowns, focused primarily on WHO guidance which stresses that transmission needs to be controlled while healthcare systems must be able to detect, test, isolate and treat every case, and trace contacts.
She pointed to South Korea, New Zealand and Germany as countries that have followed this advice from the outset.
Neglect in care homes ‘horrifying’Ms. Bachelet also underlined the need to address disease risk in vulnerable locations such as care homes, psychiatric institutions, refugee camps and detention centres.
“And are there plans in place to ensure isolation and specialised treatment for all those who may become exposed to COVID-19 in the future? The neglect of elderly people in care homes in some countries during the first wave of the pandemic has been horrifying”, noted the High Commissioner.
Special measures are also needed in high-density residential areas such as slums, and other areas without adequate water, sanitation or healthcare facilities.
Similarly, plans to ease lockdowns should include specific measures for high-risk groups, which include racial and ethnic minorities, migrant workers, people with disabilities, those with existing underlying health conditions, and the elderly.
“Never before has it been so starkly clear that it is important for all of us that no one is left out of social protection schemes. And in some countries such schemes barely exist”, she said, highlighting the need to support poorer nations.
Safer workspaces and public transportation
Turning to the workplace, Ms. Bachelet said authorities will have to ensure employees are protected when they return to their jobs. For example, those whose work involves contact with the public will need to be provided with masks, sanitizers and shielding materials. Additionally, public transport will need to be made as safe as possible.
“When lifting lockdowns, those without stable incomes, those not able to work remotely, and all those in essential jobs - which is not just health workers - will face the highest risks. It is finally starting to be noticed that disproportionate numbers of essential workers are migrants, and that most of them, despite being ‘essential’ are often very poorly paid”, she added.
Moving forward will also mean consulting with citizens in decisions that affect their lives, including how to lift emergency measures.
Participation, she said, builds greater trust in the authorities and better compliance with public health measures.
“As a former politician, I know how difficult it can be for national leaders and ruling parties to take politics out of the equation. But this pandemic will not be contained by politics or ideologies, or by a purely economic focus. It will be contained by careful, sensitive, science-guided policymaking, and by responsible, humane leadership”, said Ms. Bachelet.
“Letting politics or economics drive the response at the expense of health and human rights will cost lives and do even more damage in both the short and long terms. Such approaches are simply not sustainable. And they will not be sustainable in the future either. We will not be able simply to return to the ‘normal’ economy, and other parts of the pre-COVID-19 status quo, when the pandemic is over. That should be the most important lesson learned from this crisis.”
#UN; #India; #DeadlyGasLeak; #HumanRights; #GlobalChemicalIndustry; #GrimWakeUpCall
India, May 14 (Canadian-Media): Last week’s deadly toxic gas leak at a Korean-owned polymer plant in south-eastern India, is a grim wake up call for the chemical industry to acknowledge and fulfil its responsibility to respect human rights, the UN independent expert who monitors the issue, said on Thursday.
Toxic and life-threatening chemicals can enter the environment through industrial and urban discharges, agricultural run-off and the burning and release of waste. Image credit: UNEP
Twelve people reportedly died and more than 1,000 fell sick after styrene leaked from the LG Chem plant near Visakhapatnam, in Andhra Pradesh state, on 7 May.
Styrene is used to make plastics, but it can also cause cancer and neurological damage. It can also harm reproduction and its impacts may go unnoticed for years after exposure.
“The latest disaster has rightly drawn parallels to the toxic gas leak that killed thousands in Bhopal, India, in 1984”, said Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes.
“It also illustrates the range of human rights infringements brought by our rampant consumption and production of plastics”, he said, welcoming the start of an investigation and possible homicide charges.
In a statement, he recalled that the Visakhapatnam and Bhopal incidents both involved trans-national corporations – LG Chem, based in the Republic of Korea, more often known as South Korea, and Union Carbide of the United States, in the case of Bhopal.
“It is yet another reminder that around the world, mini-Bhopal chemical disasters continue to unfold with shocking regularity”, Mr. Tuncak said.
Reiterating his call last year on the 35th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster for the industry to implement human rights due diligence, he urged authorities to be fully transparent and ensure those responsible are held to account.
“I am concerned about ensuring that the victims of exposure who develop diseases or disabilities later in life are provided an effective remedy”, Mr. Tuncak continued.
“I urge Indian and South Korean authorities, and the businesses implicated, to avoid the same mistakes and abuse of judicial procedures that have denied justice to the victims of the Bhopal disaster, who are still suffering to this day.”
Responsible care initiative
In the wake of the Bhopal disaster, the global chemical industry adopted a Responsible Care initiative in an effort to prevent further human rights abuses by chemical manufacturers.
“Yet this industry initiative’s principles contain no mention of human rights and fail to require that industry respects human rights in practice as required under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”, the Special Rapporteur said.
Endorsing his appeal was the Human Rights Council’s five-member Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, as well as Danius Pūras, UN independent rights expert on human rights and the environment.
News reports say that LG Chem has sent an eight-member team to India to investigate the gas leak.
The plant used styrene monomer to make polystyrene products which would go on to become consumer items such as cups, cutlery and electric fan blades.
UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and nor do they receive a salary for their work.
#UN; #WHO; #PublicHealthMeasures; #Covid19Pandemic; #OHCHR; #UNODC; #UNAIDS
Geneva, May 14 (Canadian-Media): UN agency chiefs on Wednesday highlighted the heightened vulnerability to COVID-19 of detainees, and others in confinement, urging Governments to take “all appropriate public health measures” to keep them safe from the deadly disease, UN reports said.
Visiting time at Ngaragba Prison in Bangui, CAR during COVID-19 pandemic.
Image credit: MINUSCA
“We emphasize the need to minimize the occurrence of the disease in these settings and to guarantee that adequate preventive measures are in place to ensure a gender-responsive approach and preventing large outbreaks of COVID-19”, the heads of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Health Organization (WHO), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN agency leading the fight against HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said in a signed statement.
UNODC’s Ghada Fathi Waly; WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Winnie Byanyima of UNAIDS; and High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, also emphasized the need to “establish an up-to-date coordination system that brings together health and justice sectors, keeps prison staff well-informed and guarantees that all human rights in these settings are respected”.
Overcrowding in many detention sites undermines hygiene, health, safety and human dignity, causing an “insurmountable obstacle for preventing, preparing for or responding to COVID-19”, they said, urging policymakers to “consider limiting the deprivation of liberty…to a measure of last resort, particularly in the case of overcrowding”.
They also pushed for the release of non-violent detainees as well as for those at high-risk, such as the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions and advocated for increased hygiene to prevent or limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“A swift and firm response aimed at ensuring healthy and safe custody, and reducing overcrowding, is essential to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 entering and spreading in prisons and other places of deprivation of liberty”, they stated.
Every country must ensure the security, health and human dignity of people deprived of their liberty and those working in places of detention – irrespective of any state of emergency.
“Enhancing prevention and control measures in closed settings as well as increasing access to quality health services, including uninterrupted access to the prevention and treatment of HIV, TB, hepatitis and opioid dependence, are therefore required”, the UN leaders said.
They also maintained that human rights must be respected, underscoring that restrictions “must be necessary, evidence-informed, proportionate …and non-arbitrary”.
“We urge political leaders to ensure that COVID-19 preparedness and responses in closed settings are identified and implemented in line with fundamental human rights”, guided by WHO guidance and never amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Coronavirus impact on homicide.
Separately, UNODC cited data from its latest report in flagging that COVID-19 sheltering-in-place measures have had little impact on murder rates, possibly due to organized crime and youth gangs continued to use violence routinely, in the period from March to mid-April.
However, “data also shows that in countries with low levels of homicide, intensity of lockdown measures seems to have drastically reduced violence”, according to the report.
UNODC acknowledged that assessing the impact on domestic violence is challenging, saying that while gender-based killings declined in some countries, “requests for assistance helplines or service centers protecting victims of gender violence increased”, in many others.
#UN; #HumanRights; #InternationalMigrants; #Covid19; #OHCHR
Geneva, May 8 (Canadian-Media): Restrictions against humanitarians who rescue migrant boats in the central Mediterranean are putting lives at risk and must be lifted immediately, the UN human rights office said on Friday, UN reports said.
Migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea are rescued by a Belgian ship (file photo). Image credit: Frontex/Francesco Malavolta
The appeal follows reports of failure to assist, and even push back, vessels carrying desperate people in one of the world’s deadliest migration routes, amidst the fears and disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
These developments are occurring as departures from Libya during the first quarter of the year rose four-fold over the same period in 2019.
“Reports that Maltese authorities requested commercial ships to push boats with migrants and refugees in distress back to the high seas are of particular concern”, said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN human rights High Commissioner.
“We are also concerned that humanitarian search and rescue vessels, which usually patrol the central Mediterranean area, are being prevented from supporting migrants in distress, at a time when the numbers attempting to make the perilous journey from Libya to Europe has increased sharply,” he added.
No humanitarian boats at present
Currently, no humanitarian vessels are operating in the central Mediterranean after Italy this week impounded the rescue ships Alan Kurdi and Aita Mari following a two-week quarantine offshore.
Alan Kurdi, operated by a German non-governmental organization (NGO), is named after the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in September 2015. Aita Mari is run by a Spanish group.
“It has also been alleged that administrative regulations and measures are being used to impede the work of humanitarian NGOs”, said Mr. Colville.
“We call for restrictions on the work of these rescuers to be lifted immediately. Such measures are clearly putting lives at risk”.
COVID-19 and migrant interceptions
The UN human rights office (OHCHR) is also calling for a moratorium on all interceptions and returns to Libya, in accordance with its recent guidelines on COVID-19 and migrants.
Despite the pandemic, search and rescue operations should be maintained and swift disembarkation ensured, in line with public health measures.
Mr. Colville recalled that while international law protects migrants from being returned to dangerous environments, both Italy and Malta have declared their ports are “unsafe” for disembarkation due to the virus.
Currently, at least three merchant vessels carrying migrants are affected.
While the Maltese authorities have allowed a small group ashore on humanitarian grounds, OHCHR said all migrants should disembark because the vessels are not suitable for long-term accommodation.
Danger awaits returned migrants
Last month, a vessel with 51 migrants onboard, three of them children, was returned to Libya on a private boat after being picked up in Maltese waters. They were subsequently sent to a detention facility.
Mr. Colville said the migrants had spent nearly a week at sea, during which five passengers died and seven others went missing, who are presumed drowned.
Coronavirus Portal & News Updates
Readers can find information and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the UN, World Health Organization and UN agencies here.For daily news updates from UN News, click here.
“We are also aware of claims that distress calls to relevant Maritime Rescue Coordination centres have gone unanswered or been ignored, which, if true, seriously calls into question the commitments of the States concerned to saving lives and respecting human rights”, he added.
Meanwhile, the Libyan Coast Guard is continuing to turn vessels back to its shores.
Intercepted migrants are placed in arbitrary detention facilities where they face human rights violations including torture, sexual violence and lack of health care, as well as risk of contracting COVID-19.
#SajidHussain #BalochJournalist #Pakistan #MissingPakistanJournalistKilled
Stockhome, May 2 (Canadian-Media): The body of an exiled Pakistani journalist, Sajid Hussain, from the southwestern province of Baluchistan, who had been missing since March 2, was found dead in a river in Sweden, media reports said.
Sajid Hussain. Image credit: Twitter handle
Hussain was working part-time as a professor in Uppsala, about 60 kilometres north of Stockholm.
He was also the chief editor of the Baluchistan Times, an online magazine he had set up, in which he wrote extensively about issues on drug trafficking, forced disappearances and a long-running insurgency.
Hussain's autopsy ruled out the suspicion that he was the victim of a crime.
The police spokesman, Jonas Eronen, said although crime could not be completely ruled out and added that Hussain’s death could possibly be due to an accident or a suicide.
As a journalist, Hussain often got him into trouble for his compassionate and extensively covering issues of the suffering of the Baloch people. This was the reason he had to leave and live in exile.
Previously Hussain had worked with The News and Daily Times in Karachi in various positions.
Erik Halkjaer, head of the Swedish branch of Reporters without Borders (RSF), tweeted,
"The family of the disappeared Pakistani journalist Sajid Hussain confirms the police in Uppsala have found his body. The police has not yet confirmed officially... I send my deepest condolences to Sajids family. My thoughts are with them.@RSF_RUG."
#Ontario; #SPARKOntario; #Seniors&Vulnerable; #Volunteers, #Covid19Pandemic
Toronto, Apr 9 (Canadian-Media): A partnership is being established by the Government of Ontario with SPARK Ontario to help seniors and the most vulnerable stay connected and healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak self-isolation, media reports said.
Spark Ontario. Image credit: Facebook
Ontario's first bilingual volunteer hub, SPARK Ontario aims to direct volunteers to where they are needed most. With varying needs of each community, groups across the province are in need for volunteers to help deliver food or medicines, run errands, check-up on seniors and the most vulnerable by phone or email during their self-isolation.
To protect the health and safety of seniors and people with disabilities during this outbreak, Ontario is investing an additional $20 million over two years to better protect seniors and staff at retirement homes and support the delivery of foods and medicines to seniors and people with disabilities to ensure they can stay home and stay healthy.
Besides this, Ontario is investing $100,000 as part of a government-wide initiative to help connect community organizations to the volunteers Ontario needs through www.sparkontario.ca.
$200 million in social services relief funding was recentlly announced by Ontario to help the province’s most vulnerable during COVID-19.
During this challenging time it is more important than ever that volunteers get together to support the most vulnerable in our communities.
By working with SPARK Ontario and supported by the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, the volunteers are being mobilized to help those most in need, especially our older adults and physically challenged, Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility said.
Volunteer organizations can encouraged to visit www.sparkontario.ca to post available volunteer opportunities in their communities, while Ontarians interested in volunteering are encouraged to check the website for opportunities to make a difference where they live.
Seniors, people with disabilities, and others in need of assistance can also be connected to essential services in their community at any time by visiting www.211ontario.ca or by dialing 211 or 1-877-330-3212 (toll free). TTY service is also available by dialing 1-888-340-1001.
#Rawanda; #HateSpeech; #Xenophobia; #InternationalDayofReflection; #CounterHatred
New York, Apr 8 (Canadian-Media): Remembering the more than one million people who over the course of just 100 days, were systematically killed in Rwanda, 26 years ago, the UN chief underscored on Tuesday that “we must never again let such an atrocity occur”, UN reports said.
Rwandan refugees who fled the country during the genocide are pictured returning home in 2005. Image credit: UN Photo/John Isaac
In honouring everyone who perished as well as survivors of the carnage against the mostly Tutsi, but also Hutus and others who opposed the massacre, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message on the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, that we “must say no to hate speech and xenophobia, and reject the forces of polarization, nationalism and protectionism”.
While the COVID-19 pandemic precluded the usual commemorative event at UN Headquarters, the day was marked through virtual observance, where victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide were remembered by a renewed commitment to, among other things, identify early warning signs and collectively protect all persons affected by conflicts and crises.
“Only by recognizing that we are all one human family sharing the same planet, will we be able to rise to the many global challenges that confront us – from COVID-19 to climate change”, he spelled out.
Maintaining that those who survived the genocide inspire “reconciliation and restoration”, the UN chief stressed that since that dark chapter, Rwanda has demonstrated how “to rise from the ashes, to heal and to rebuild a stronger, more sustainable society”.
In closing, the Secretary-General encouraged everyone to take motivation from “the ongoing lesson of Rwanda” in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Upholding that those “unspeakable crimes pierced the conscience of the world”, UN General Assembly President, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said that it was “our collective responsibility” to recommit to protecting civilians and preventing genocide from ever occurring again.
“Early intervention is key, and we must prioritize inclusion by fostering tolerance, combatting hate speech, and promoting intercultural dialogue”, he elaborated.
In memory of the victims, Mr. Mohammad-Bande urged everyone to “counter hatred in all its manifestations” as he saluted the courageous survivors and those who tried to prevent the murders.
“I commend all Rwandan troops deployed to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world”, he emphasized. “Your service, born from sacrifice, gives hope to us all”.
Over the last 26 years, the country has become known for peace and prosperity, the Assembly president observed, saying, “we look forward to even brighter days ahead for Rwandans, who remain united in their commitment to reconciliation”.
“We must learn from their experience”, he concluded, “we must always remember, kwibuka”, when the national mourning period begins.
Although 26 years have passed, the Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya, pointed out that “the memories of this tragedy are very much alive”.
“The 1994 genocide in Rwanda has changed the collective psyche of an entire nation and left deep scars and traumas in the lives of the survivors”, she said, noting that generations to come will continue “to endure the unbearable pain created by the loss of family members and friends”.
Although Rwanda has learned from its tragedy, as mass atrocities occur with alarming frequency, she noted, it is obvious that the international community has not. Around the world, there is a groundswell of xenophobia, racism, antisemitism and intolerance.
“Hate speech not only challenges human rights norms and principles, it also undermines social cohesion, erodes shared values and lays the foundation for violence – setting back the cause of peace, stability, and the fulfilment of human rights for all”, she detailed, flagging that more than a decade later, preventing genocide remains “a cardinal task of our time”.
Keeping the memory alive and promoting tolerance, human values and peaceful co-existence, would prove that diversity is an asset, not a threat, according to the UN official.
“We owe it to our common future”, she concluded.