The Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) marks today, December 9, as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. The annual commemorative date was established in September of 2017 by the Sixty-Ninth United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 69/323, which emphasizes the importance of memorialization and the remembrance of victims in the prevention of future genocide.
December 9 was chosen to mark the anniversary of the international community’s adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, often referred to as the “Genocide Convention,” which celebrates its 73rd anniversary this year. The Convention signifies the international community’s commitment to doing everything possible to ensure that “never again” does genocide occur, by providing the first legal definition of this crime, which has been widely adopted at national, regional, and international levels.
However, as genocides and mass atrocities are still being perpetrated around the globe, often with impunity, all members of the international community must acknowledge and act on their responsibility to prevent these crimes. By working closely with academic and civil society experts around the world, AIPG equips governments around the world with the tools and concepts that allow them to rise to this challenge.
As a path to providing victims, their families, and their loved ones with redress and dignity, the Auschwitz Institute recognizes the essential role played by memorialization in atrocity prevention. Memorialization, and transitional justice more broadly, represent priority areas within technical assistance and capacity-building programming that facilitate the implementation of preventive strategies under the commitment of ‘never again’ in places like the Mediterranean Basin, the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and the Americas.
Dr. Gabriela Ghindea, who Directs both the Auschwitz Institute’s Mediterranean Basin Program and Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention, commented on the value of understanding the specific problems and challenges of each region in developing detailed curricula based on the needs of each geographical zone:
We cannot change a traumatic past, but we can be empathetic and educated witnesses who validate the experience of the survivors and their communities and thereby support the healing capacity we all hold within as a society. Understanding the intertwined risk factors that lead to mass atrocities and ceaselessly teaching the lessons learned from these destructive processes in carefully designed programs is crucial if we want to move together towards a hopeful and more just future.
Benefitting from the ability to leverage more than a decade of institutional expertise has allowed AIPG’s Mediterranean Basin Program to operationalize the identification of critical risk factors for mass atrocities, as well as relevant policy response options to provide State representatives and other key stakeholders with concrete frameworks to address warning signs before an outbreak of violence occurs.
Our programs support an emergent network of experts working in the field of atrocity prevention. Its overarching goal is to support regional policymakers in building capacity and developing policies in the field of atrocity crimes prevention, while drawing on best practices from neighboring countries and other regions, and taking into account specific local expertise. We see regional ownership as an essential factor in developing effective long-term atrocity crimes prevention policies in the region, and the Mediterranean Basin Network is designed to provide a dialogue framework within which this goal can be achieved.
Eugenia Carbone, Director of AIPG’s Latin American Program and Technical Secretariat of the Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, emphasized AIPG’s efforts in the region and the positive effect of a robust network:
As every year, December 9, the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, finds Latin America committed and engaged in continuing to strengthen programs and public policies that work to facilitate the development of mechanisms for the prevention and non-repetition of the horrors of the past. This regional work is developed through both the Latin American Network for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities and AIPG’s Latin America Program, which provide technical assistance directly to governments and NGOs in the region.
Over the course of 2021, these efforts supported the design of measures that achieve more effective protection for people in vulnerable situations of human mobility, strengthen networks and actions in education for prevention, and fight against discrimination, denial, and distortion. In this sense, Latin America has always been inspired by the pillars of Memory, Truth, and Justice, as well as an unwavering commitment to honor the dignity of the survivors and victims of genocide and our responsibility to build a more just and egalitarian world for future generations.
On that same note, Dr. Clara Ramírez Barat, Director of AIPG’s Warren Educational Policies Program, explained the crucial role of education in the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities:
The Auschwitz Instititute’s Warren Educational Program (WEPP) works with students and teachers all over the world to understand the realities they live in, so that, together, we can build educational initiatives that, while teaching about the consequences of hate, can also nurture them as human beings and citizens. Throughout the past six years, we have engaged with hundreds of teachers, providing them with educational tools and training. We have also worked with thousands of students who have learned, in the classroom, about the importance of standing up for human rights and democratic principles. The commitment that drives this work is a strong belief that what has happened to the millions of global victims of the crime of genocide should never happen again in any place in the world.
On this year’s International Day, the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect (OSAPG) will hold a virtual event to mark the 73rd anniversary of the Genocide Convention. The commemoration features opening remarks by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as well as Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the General Assembly, and Ms. Alice Nderitu, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. These remarks will be followed by an interactive dialogue moderated by Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth. Remarks will also be made by member states, regional groups, and civil society organizations. A recording of the virtual event will be available to view on UN Web TV.
The Auschwitz Institute not only reiterates its strong commitment to the work of building a world that prevents genocide and other mass atrocities through education, training, and technical assistance around the world but also emphasizes the need for a particular priority to be placed on commemorating the victims of atrocities around the world as a vital component of this mission. AIPG urges all United Nations Member States to ratify the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and invest in the development and implementation of policies, practices, and mechanisms that protect vulnerable populations.