Commemorating 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, Secretary-General Urges Standing Firm against Rising Intolerance, ‘Being Ever Vigilant and Always Ready to Act’

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, in New York today:

I am honoured to join you in commemorating the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.  We are together to mourn the more than 1 million children, women and men who perished in 100 days of horror 29 years ago.

We honour the memory of the victims — the overwhelming majority Tutsi, but also Hutu and others who opposed the genocide.  We pay tribute to the resilience of the survivors.  We recognize the journey of the Rwandan people towards healing, restoration and reconciliation.

And we remember — with shame — the failure of the international community.  The failure to listen — and the failure to act.

The killings did not start spontaneously — they were carefully planned long in advance and executed deliberately and systematically.  It was premeditated murder in broad daylight.

A generation since the genocide, we must never forget the dangers posed by the fragility of civility in all societies.  Hate speech is an alarm bell — the louder it rings, the greater the threat of genocide.  It precedes and promotes violence.

The hate and propaganda that paved the path to genocide in Rwanda was broadcast on TV, printed in newspapers and blasted over radio.

Today, the megaphones of hate are even bigger.  Across the Internet — incitement to violence, vicious lies and conspiracies, genocide denial and distortion, the demonization of the other — proliferate with little to no checks.

That is why I have called for stronger guardrails, clearer responsibilities and greater transparency in the digital world.  And it is why we launched the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech.  To provide a framework for our support to Member States to counter this scourge while respecting freedom of expression and opinion.

Preventing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international law is a shared responsibility.  Upholding the responsibility to protect, ensuring accountability and achieving justice are core duties of every member of the United Nations.

Through my Call to Action and other initiatives, human rights stand firmly at the heart of everything we do.  And the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is monitoring developments worldwide for risks and sounding the alarm.  But, warnings are only effective if followed by action.

This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — and of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Today, I call on all Member States to become parties to the Genocide Convention without delay.  And I call on all States to back their commitments with action.

Together, let us stand firm against rising intolerance.  Let us be ever vigilant — and always ready to act.  And let us truly honour the memory of all Rwandans who perished by building a future of dignity, security, justice and human rights for all.

For information media. Not an official record.