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Minorities call for states to support ‘new era’ of genocide prevention

29 August 2005

Minorities and indigenous peoples, the most frequent victims of mass atrocities, have joined a call upon all states to take a new and effective stand against genocide and mass killing. Some of the world’s most powerful regional states are joining with some of its weakest including Rwanda in backing moves to strengthen international action to prevent genocide and their responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocities. However their positive example comes amid moves by powerful states including the United States, Brazil, India and Russia to actively oppose and weaken strong language in the Millennium +5 Outcome Document due in September.

Heads of state will meet at a UN Summit in New York in September to agree the wording of the document, which constitutes a plan of action for the prevention of mass human rights atrocities. Progressive states endorsing a strong statement, have been called upon by international NGOs including Minority Rights Group International to stand firm against a powerful spoiling group that includes states such as Syria, Iran, Cuba, Pakistan, Egypt and Algeria. MRG has joined numerous NGOs including Oxfam and the World Federalists Movement (WFM) in a statement to UN Ambassadors and has called upon minority and indigenous peoples worldwide to directly challenge their governments to support a new era of prevention.

‘States have an important choice to make, whether to follow an ineffective obstructionist path, or to lead the way in a new international era of effective diplomacy, early action and the prevention of mass killing. It is unacceptable given the international failures in Rwanda and Darfur to allow mass killing and genocide to happen again and again. States that block the possibility of strong preventative action should be roundly and clearly condemned for doing so, not only by NGOs but by other states,’ said Clive Baldwin, Head of International Advocacy for Minority Rights Group International.

Amid a process of reform aimed at making the United Nations more effective in the fields of peace and stability, human rights and development, MRG has urged a parallel reform of state interaction with the UN. According to MRG, institutional changes alone will fail to meet ambitious challenges required of the UN, if not matched by a commitment to more constructive, prevention orientated action by states, which has too often been missing. However, MRG’s call comes amid US moves to strip the document of firm commitments in areas including foreign aid, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the International Criminal Court.

According to Clive Baldwin: ‘The UN and its Member States have failed to fully comprehend the importance of early action, preventive diplomacy and minority rights as effective mechanisms to prevent atrocities. The responsibility to protect is not simply about action in the form of military intervention, it should be about ensuring that the need for such intervention does not arise’.

Notes for editors

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) will publish a report on the prevention of genocide and mass killing in December 2005.