Saturday, 16 January 2021

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‘Never Again’: why remembering the victims of genocide is important

Candles are lit at the opening of the annual commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda in the presence of UN Secretary-General António Guterres 

9 December 2017 – Sixty-nine years ago, the United Nations convention on genocide was adopted, declaring that all countries have an obligation to prevent and punish genocide. In 2015, the General Assembly established 9 December as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, serving as an important platform for prevention by way of commemoration.

Throughout the year, numerous international days are dedicated to the victims of genocides. Commemorations are used as a tool to rebuild the social and political wounds of societies after the traumatizing events. Furthermore, keeping the memory of the victims of such horrible events alive contributes to preventing history from repeating itself.

In January, Holocaust Remembrance Day is about commemorating all of the communities that suffered as a result of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, and demonstrating that the Holocaust is still relevant today. The founding principle of the Charter of the United Nations, "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war", was the result of these tragic events of the Second World War in Europe. Decades later, the importance of our past for our future is reiterated by the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng: “Many failures of the past are the result of a lack of vigilance. It is wrong to think that atrocities cannot take place in a democratic Europe given the rising populism, antisemitism and islamophobia.”.

In April, the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda is held to coincide with the starting date of the 1994 genocide. Every year, the UN organizes commemorative events at its Headquarters in New York and at United Nations offices around the world. Since the establishment of the Outreach Programme on the Rwanda Genocide in 2005, commemorative activities have taken place in more than 20 countries.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed the importance of prevention by way of commemoration:  “The best way to honour the memory of those who were murdered is to ensure that such events never occur again.  History is filled with tragic chapters of hatred and persecution that have led to mass violence against persecuted minorities.  That is why the world must be ever alert to the warning signs of genocide, and act quickly and early to avert it.”.

For more information on the topic, consult the UNRIC Backgrounder on Genocide:  


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