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 day was established in September 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 69/323, which emphasizes the importance of memorialization and remembrance of victims in preventing future genocide.
On this year’s International Day, the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect (OSAPG) will hold an in-person event entitled ‘The Role Of Sports In Atrocity Prevention’ at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to mark the 74th anniversary of the Genocide Convention. The commemoration will feature opening remarks by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as well as Mr. Csaba Kőrösi, President of the UN General Assembly, and Ms. Alice Nderitu, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and AIPG alumna. The event will include the launch of the Action Plan To Counter Hate Speech Through Engagement With Sports, By Un-Osapg, in collaboration with the Eradicate Hate Global Summit. A recording of the virtual event will be available to view on UN Web TV.
December 9 was chosen as the day of commemoration to mark the anniversary of the international community’s adoption of the ‘The Role Of Sports In Atrocity Prevention, often referred to as the “Genocide Convention,” in 1948. The Convention commits the international community to do everything possible to ensure that “never again” does genocide occur. The Convention provides the first legal definition of this crime, which has been widely adopted at national, regional, and international levels, and establishes the responsibility to protect for State Parties to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.
As the world continues to face different challenges, such as the war in Ukraine, migration crises, domestic and global conflicts, the COVID pandemic, recession, identity-based violence, and climate change, the protection of human rights continues to be an issue of concern around the world. Almost thirty years after the Rwandan and the Srebrenica genocides, similar crimes are still being perpetrated around the globe, often with impunity; that is why it is essential that all members of the international community acknowledge and act on their responsibility to prevent these crimes. With this in mind, AIPG’s approach to building a future that prevents genocides and other mass atrocities includes working closely with academic and civil society experts to equip governments, policymakers, and police departments around the world with the tools and concepts that allow them to rise to this challenge.
The Auschwitz Institute also recognizes the essential role memorialization plays in preventing atrocity crimes, including providing victims and their families with redress and dignity. Through technical assistance and capacity-building programming, AIPG facilitates the implementation of preventive strategies under the commitment of ‘never again’ in places like Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
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:
On the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, the Latin American Program of AIPG joins the international community’s commemoration and reflection. We do so by the commitment to deepening the spaces for joint work and developing concrete actions that we carry out daily. Through our support of the efforts of the Latin American Network for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, the accompaniment to national and local initiatives in the field of atrocity prevention and the development of actions to achieve better protection of rights, especially of those people who are in a situation of greater vulnerability in the region, help us, our partners, colleagues, and alumni to honor the memory of the victims of these heinous crimes and allow us to create conditions for non-repetition.
Regarding the crucial role of education and partnerships in the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities, Dr. Clara Ramírez Barat, Director of AIPG’s Warren Educational Policies Program, explained:
While risk factors for social erosion have long existed, recently, they have been accelerated and further unlocked by contemporary challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, democratic backsliding trends, the deterioration of the natural environment, and the acceleration of technological change. In our work, we've seen how these factors create novel feelings of uncertainty and anxiety around the world, especially among youth, raising worrisome trends such as the proliferation of disinformation, hate speech, and identity-based violence._ _Aware of the relevance of this scenario and its collective efforts, the Auschwitz Institute's Warren Educational Program (WEPP) continues working with teachers and students from all over the world to support them with educational tools to face this reality. Through direct contact with these actors of change, always supported by the diverse partnerships established with public agents and civil society, WEPP seeks to contribute innovative and practical ways to build a more inclusive and fair world – a world where there is no room for violence against human beings, a world that prevents genocide and mass atrocities from ever happening again.
On the same note, 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 memorialization, Holocaust education, and cooperation between governmental actors, civil society, and academia to understand the challenges to develop detailed curricula and policies:
The International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime is an opportunity to look beyond statistics and abstract numbers of victims. This day reminds us to revisit many individual stories of dreams, hopes, and potentials, abruptly interrupted by war and mass murder. More than ever, this day is about reinforcing our pledge to all victims and atrocity survivors to honor their lives and make prevention work an individual moral responsibility. We can do that by asking an important question: How can these harsh lessons from the past inform the present to ensure that history will no longer repeat itself?
AIPG’s Mediterranean Basin Programs have responded to this question by emphasizing the crucial need for cross-sectoral and transnational cooperation when drafting inclusive and timely laws, policies, strategies, and programs to prevent and combat Holocaust and Roma Genocide denial and distortion. The recent atrocities in Ukraine and their impact on all European societies highlight the utmost importance of having as many stakeholders as possible introduced to the concepts of genocide and other atrocity crimes and the processes by which these crimes occur; to enhance societies’ knowledge and skills in recognizing, preventing and ending identity-based discrimination; to empower all relevant decisionmakers with the practical competencies necessary to counter distortion and protect the civil and human rights of vulnerable groups; to identify spaces of cooperation between governmental actors, civil society and academia in ending identity-based discrimination against targeted vulnerable groups (Roma, refugees, asylum seekers, etc.) through actions taken at national and regional levels; to foster a vivid exchange of best practices in different expert networks.
The Auschwitz Institute not only reiterates its mission of working to build 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.