Are some humans worth more than others? Is humanity interconnected? Who carries the responsibility to intervene when human rights are being violated? Do member nations of the UN have individual responsibilities to intervene in certain conflicts?
These were some of the questions posed at “Genocide: A Preventable Crime”, an event at the United Nations held by the Trusteeship Council on Wednesday, January 15. Peace Boat US attended this event, the purpose of which was to remember the Rwandan Genocide, when thousands of the Tutsi (an ethnic group of Rwanda) were slaughtered by the Hutu, another ethnic group of Rwanda. 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of this tragedy, and the UN sponsored this event in remembrance of the genocide, as well as to remind the international community to mobilize when similar precursors to the Rwandan Genocide become evident in society today.
Panelists at the event included Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda H.E. Mathilde Mukantabana, Simon Adams of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, retired Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo A. Dallaire, Rwandan Genocide survivor Eugenie Mukeshima, and Stephen Smith of Kwibuka.
Panelists spoke of the collective failure of the UN to intervene in the genocide in 1994, and how this inaction and consequently the ensuing violence now serve as a reminder for the UN to take action. Panelists spoke about genocide as a specific and deliberate form of conflict and violence, and some suggested that the Rwandan genocide could have been prevented if nations mobilized and intervened by sharing resources with the UN.
Peace Boat US works to foster awareness and action on human rights issues, and remembering the Rwandan genocide on its 20th anniversary is a key step in fostering awareness so that mass killings like the genocide of 1994 are not repeated in the future. Thus, attending this panel at the UN can only reaffirm Peace Boat US’s work towards creating a peaceful and sustainable future.
“Memory is not only a passive reflection. Remembering is to take action,” panelist Stephen Smith said in his closing remarks on the importance of remembering the Rwandan Genocide on its 20th anniversary. Is this true? Perhaps, for it is through our memories of the pains of the past that we can find the strength and motivation to seek a world with justice and peace for all.