23-24 January 2013, New York – The UNITAR New York Office held a training course on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, in collaboration with the Office of the Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide. Over 40 participants, mostly delegates from Member States along with some NGO representatives specializing in human rights and genocide issues engaged in the intense two-day training event. 

In his opening remarks Mr. Adama Dieng, UN Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide commented that long-term discrimination and social, political, and economic inequities can trigger violence that can easily descend into genocide if timely action is not taken by either the country itself, UN Member States, and or the United Nations. Investment in dialogue, mediation, and the responsibility to protect ideology to ensure prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities needed to be enhanced. Ambassador Tuvako Manongi, Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the UN, highlighted that the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, the work of the International Criminal Court, ICTR and ICTY marked solid progress in ensuring that genocide and other mass crimes can be effectively prevented. He gave the example of his own country, Tanzania, explaining that 120 ethnicities live together peacefully in a social contract based on the rule of law and mutual respect but that timely action was needed if this collapsed, like in Rwanda in 1994.

Ms. Eli Smette and Ms. Mallory Mroz from the UN Office for Prevention of Genocide presented the legal framework, and the framework of analysis for prevention of genocide and early warning. The legal definition of genocide and the obligations of states was shared, based on an outline of their responsibility in protecting citizens and preventing genocide and other mass atrocities. Mr. John Filson, program manager for 3P Human Security, presented the approach used by the USA and its NGO implementation partners on prevention of genocide, including structural and direct conflict, conflict assessment, and peace and justice pillars of prevention. The first day of the seminar ended with an “identity exercise” aimed to sensitize participants of their core identity affiliations and psychology.

The second day of the seminar commenced with a presentation by Ms. Claudia Diaz (UN Office for Prevention of Genocide), who outlined the concept of Responsibility to Protect and its distinction between humanitarian intervention and protection of civilians. Ms. Naomi Kikoler, Director of Policy and Advocacy of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect outlined the measures and actions to be taken at the national and regional level to inculcate a culture of genocide and atrocity prevention. Professor Alex Hinton, UNESCO Chair for Genocide Prevention and Executive Director at Rutgers University’s Center for the Study of Genocide, presented the case of Cambodia as a socio-historical example of mass killing of 1.7-2.2 million Cambodians. During this session, the Cambodian delegates gave a compelling account of his childhood in the late 1970s in Cambodia. Dr. David Simon, Lecturer of Political Science from Yale University, presented the case of Cote D’Ivoire as an on-going example of genocide prevention.

Overall the participants praised the seminar as very useful to the current global challenges facing peace and security. One of the participants concluded, “It was very comprehensive and interactive, the presentations being very useful for my work with international treaties and laws”.