2018 International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime

The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) marks the date of the fourth annual International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime on December 9, 2018. Established by the Sixty Ninth United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 69/323, the International Day is observed each year on December 9 to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Often referred to as the “Genocide Convention,” the document outlines the legal definition of genocide and, as of 2016, has been ratified by 149 States around the world.

Graphic: United Nations

Speaking on the International Day and the enduring responsibility of all countries around the world to protect their populations, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres explains:

In the aftermath of the Holocaust and Second World War, the world came together and adopted a convention to prevent genocide and punish those who commit this heinous crime. Seventy years later, the prevention of genocide remains a cardinal task for our time. That is why I launched an appeal for every country to ratify the Genocide Convention.

I urge the 45 remaining States to do so without delay. And I call on all states to translate the Convention’s words into action to prevent massive human suffering and advance accountability. At a time of rising anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of hatred, racism and xenophobia, let us reaffirm our commitment to upholding the equality and dignity of all.

Within the United Nations system, the Office of the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect (OSAPG) is at the forefront of this appeal for universal ratification of the Genocide Convention. In its Fact Sheet on the Appeal for Universal Ratification, the Office outlines the three primary motivations for States to act:

The drafting of the Genocide Convention represented the international community’s pledge to work together to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. Ratifying the Convention is an affirmation of this commitment. In addition, considering the impact that the commission of the crime of genocide has on victims, society, nations and on international peace and security overall, ratifying the Genocide Convention demonstrates a commitment to the most fundamental principles of the United Nations.

Ratifying and domesticating the Genocide Convention also provides the basis for action by States to prevent genocide. For example, it can prompt States to set up mechanisms at the national level to identify and address risk factors for genocide. History has shown time and again that genocide is a process and that throughout this process there are warning signs that mark the road to genocide. The establishment of national legal and policy tools as well as structures that can identify and address these early warning signs is the first step of prevention.

Ratifying the Genocide Convention is also a moral obligation towards humanity. It represents a recognition of the responsibility of States towards their populations and shows respect for those who have perished as a result of this crime.

On this International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation reaffirms its commitment to working with stakeholders to build a world that prevents future genocide and other mass atrocities and commemorates the victims of these horrible tragedies. Inspired by their spirit, AIPR echoes the call of the United Nations OSAPG and Secretary General for all UN Member States to ratify the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and urges all national governments to integrate preventive policies, practices, and mechanisms into their state systems to fulfill the international community’s collective responsibility to prevent these crimes.