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Deputy Secretary-General Urges Culture of Prevention, Fast Response to Atrocities, at Event on Security Council Action for Ending Crimes against Humanity

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the side event at the World Humanitarian Summit on “Security Council Action in the Service of Humanity:  Implementing the Commitment to Prevent or End Genocide, Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes”, in Istanbul today:

Let me begin by thanking Liechtenstein for convening this side event.

We come together at a decisive moment for humanitarian action.  Conflict has forced more than 60 million people from their homes.  We are seeing a frequent and flagrant disregard for international law.  The responsibility to protect has helped generate political consensus on the imperative to prevent, but it is not being implemented by States.

Our paramount responsibility is to prevent the grave crimes that lie at the heart of many humanitarian crises.  The Security Council is the foremost body entrusted with the responsibility for international peace and security.

There have been times when the Council has acted swiftly.  There have been many other times when the Council has acted late, or in an ambiguous manner, and situations have deteriorated drastically.  Some of these instances have led to the humanitarian crises that we see today, for example in Syria.

The Agenda for Humanity is clear:  permanent members should withhold their veto where measures aim at preventing or ending mass atrocities.

The Security Council Code of Conduct initiative — launched by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group of States — importantly supports this aim through including a pledge not to use a veto and to act early.

There are three key points I would like to emphasize.  First, we must develop a culture of prevention.  The Security Council receives frequent reports from United Nations officials on human rights, political affairs, sexual violence and other risks.  The Council should make much greater use of these reports to take early action.

Second, we must respond in a timely and decisive manner when we are confronted with atrocity crimes.  Third, we need to maximize the window of opportunity when engaging in peacebuilding once the immediate crisis is over.  The Council should work more closely with the Peacebuilding Commission in providing support to States towards prevention.

The United Nations system must also share responsibility.  Through the Human Rights up Front initiative, the Secretary-General has sought to achieve cultural and operational shifts within the United Nations system to increase our early warning and early action capacity.

Let us utilize the full breadth of the United Nations and its various organs to advance our shared mission of peace and security, development and human rights.

Thank you for your attention.

For information media. Not an official record.