Analucia Jacome Quelal, Delegate for the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, attended the November 2012 Global edition and June 2013 Latin American edition of the Lemkin Seminar, plus our May 2013 alumni meeting in Tanzania. She has worked for Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs since March 2008 and assumed her current position in February 2013.
Why are you so dedicated to the field of genocide and mass atrocity prevention?
It does not matter how developed we believe we are – human nature is the same across different societies. Our own nature can lead us to become perpetrators or victims of violence and mass atrocities. This reality, plus the on-going violence throughout the world, inspires me to enhance our efforts towards the prevention of these crimes.
I strongly believe that the international community has an important role to play in preventing atrocities, especially through the creation of spaces to share good practices and support for the creation and strengthening of mechanisms for early warning and prevention.
The Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, professionally supported by the Auschwitz Institute for the Peace and Reconciliation, is an important mechanism furthering awareness, action, and education towards a culture of prevention.
There is no ‘perfect’ time to begin or end work around mass atrocity prevention. And I cannot say that what I have done so far towards prevention is ‘enough.’ To overcome unnecessary suffering in this world, all I can do is continue to learn and help others through education.
What actions and policies do you feel are most effective in the long-term prevention of atrocity?
It is not suitable to apply the same actions or policies across societies with different cultures, histories, and traditions. It is necessary to understand the background of the community in which preventative tools are to be implemented, as well as identify its needs, plus bear in mind the current best practices from the international community.
What’s more, societies that have been victims of atrocities behave differently than those that have not been victimized. Applied incorrectly, it is possible that certain policies can produce negative impacts, including producing situations of prejudice, or even discrimination. Therefore it is important to identify the complex relationships among communities with backgrounds of violence or enmity between groups.
I am convinced that education and training are most effective mechanisms for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. It is fundamental to promote a holistic approach to peace in the planning of programs of education and professional training at every level. The right to truth and memory should also encompass the efforts of states and civil society towards preventing atrocities from reoccurring. In this regard, education is the most effective long-term prevention policy, especially when it reaches a wide range of people and promotes human rights, dignity, and equal treatment for all.
Who or what inspires or motivates you?
Survivors of mass atrocity who have the courage to share their experiences inspire me. Their strength is impressive; every time they tell their stories they experience the pain again. For them, life has taken a different meaning and being with us to tell what happened represents an opportunity to make a change.
Also through the ‘power of place,’ the Raphael Lemkin Seminar in Poland was a meaningful experience that helped me to better understand a terrible reality, one that can be repeated everywhere and whenever, no matter how developed we believe we are. However, it also gave me the hope that it is possible to prevent genocide, thanks to knowledge and actions as powerful tools.
What does a day or week in your life’s work look like?
Really busy! Our Ambassador is very proactive and we do not have a large staff at the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations in Geneva. I’m one of two delegates in charge of the issues of the Human Rights Council. I really enjoy my work because it represents a real challenge to be prepared for the topics covered by this important organ of the United Nations system.
For a government official who may be just entering the field, what advice do you have to give towards impactful and effective work in genocide prevention?
We need to have the good will to propose new initiatives, and not just wait for instructions from our authorities or from existing bodies. We need to be creative and realize the possibilities and challenges that our work places towards the prevention of these crimes.
It is also important to share good practices among colleagues. We should not be afraid to ask our colleagues or friends about issues related to mass atrocity prevention. We should be keen to learn more and seek out more education towards prevention. All too often, people think that mass atrocities are just part of the past. We must remember that they remain present in our world and that the challenge to prevent them remains constant.
What are you most proud of in your work?
Working in international issues related to International Law represents an important opportunity for me to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights, not only for my country, but also for the international community. In this framework, I would say that I am proud of having coordinated a side event about the Latin American Network during the 25th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council of the UN in Geneva in March 2014. The aims of the event were to:
1. Present to the international community the Latin American initiative for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities, as a mechanism of awareness and mutual cooperation for the region;
2. Explain the importance of having a Latin American initiative for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities, in the framework of the international cooperation of countries and ensure the right to peace, as well as the creation of national mechanisms that are adapted to the context of each country; and,
3. Consider and share regional best practices in the creation and consolidation of mechanisms for prevention and early warning of genocide and mass atrocities, such as regional support among states.
We had the honor to have with us as panelists delegates from Argentina and Chile, representatives from the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide, and Samantha Horn from the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation. I believe that this event accomplished its goals and encouraged everyone present to continue with initiatives toward prevention. I remember that in an alumni meeting organized by the Auschwitz Institute in Tanzania, a group of participants talked about the possibility of hosting an event in a multilateral space, then, in Argentina, we developed the idea further, and finally, we made it a reality in Geneva. This experience represents an example that ideas can become true thanks to collaborative efforts and good will.