Ms. Cecilia Meirovich currently works as Secretary of Embassy within the Human Rights Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina. A career diplomat, she graduated from the Instituto del Servicio Exterior de la Nacion and holds a MA in International Affairs from the National University of Cordoba, Argentina. Like Luate Charles Wani, whom we profiled last month, she attended our November 2011 Lemkin Seminar.
What has been your major work in genocide and mass atrocity prevention?
The recent history of my country has shown how by clear and strong policies of memory, truth, justice and reparations, years of impunity can be repaired. With that in mind, my job at the Human Rights Office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to firstly, show to the rest of the world how we have been struggling to eradicate impunity (with all of its difficulties and accomplishments) and on the other hand, to share with the rest of the world our experiences and best practices.
In that regard, my work could not been understood without the link with what is being done by other agencies of the State. That is to say, my field of action is quite broad, not only getting involved in the organization of seminars and trainings (most of them with AIPR), but also being the link between our representations abroad, providing them with information useful to guarantee not only that the experience of Argentina is well-known worldwide, but also to provide information for Argentine citizens living abroad who could have been victims of gross violations of human rights seeking reparations.
Why are you so dedicated to the field of genocide and mass atrocity prevention?
When I arrived at the Human Rights Office, there was a person responsible of the subject. Then she moved to another office and recommended that I continue her job. She also suggested that I attend AIPR’s Lemkin Seminar in Poland. Although I have always been interested in the issue due to the recent history of my country (eg. at the diplomatic school we had a seminar on human rights and a class devoted to the Argentine genocide), AIPR formally introduced me to the subject.
My dedication has to do with my commitment to my country and society. As a public officer, I work to ensure that gross and massive violations of human rights never happen again anywhere.
What actions and policies do you feel are most effective in the long-term prevention of atrocity?
I believe that involvement of as many public officers as possible in the subject is one of the keys of genocide prevention. In addition to people who usually deal with the topic (due to the type of work they do) and therefore could be naturally sensitized to it, as a long-term goal we also need to train all public officers in prevention. Towards this goal, human rights issues have been included in the curricula of all security forces in my country in order to make sure all graduates know what happened in our past and to take actions for prevention.
I also think that it is the duty of countries like mine, which are in a process of giving justice to victims, to share the experience with other countries that are undergoing similar processes. Sharing our prevention and reparation policies are a way to look inside our own experience and make adjustments, if necessary. It is a constructive process where we all have something to learn from.
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?
Read as much as you can. The more you know about what is going on in the world, the better prepared you are to help whenever a possible mass atrocity situation is developing. If your country has experienced genocide or mass atrocity, try to learn as much as you can about how it happened, what has been done to repair the damage, and what is being done now to foster prevention for future generations. That will give you a big picture of the areas and tools that have to be reinforced.
Also, participate in AIPR activities. The “Power of Place” experience in Auschwitz is unique, although tough, but once you have passed through it, it is impossible not to feel you have to do something towards genocide and mass atrocities prevention. After the seminar, you will feel a personal responsibility to prevention that will stay with you your whole life, not only as a public officer, but as a human being.