Create a United Nations Genocide Prevention Focal Point and Genocide Prevention Center
By Prof. Gregory Stanton, Ph.D.
President, Genocide Watch
Coordinator, The International Campaign to End Genocide
Genocide is not conflict.It is one-sided mass murder.Jews
had no conflict with Nazis.Armenians
posed no threat to Turks.Ukrainian
farmers did not fight Stalin’s communist cadres.Bengalis did not try to massacre Pakistanis.
Hutu intellectuals did not rise up against the Tutsi army in Burundi
in 1972, nor did Tutsis advocate mass murder of Hutus in Rwanda
in 1994. Yet all of these groups were victims of genocide.Conflict resolution is not genocide
Politicides, political mass murders, are also not the result
of conflict. Nor are they the result of “state failure.”Instead, they result from state success, from
too much state power, from state-ism.The mass murders of the Soviet gulags could not have been prevented by
conflict resolution.The man-made
famines in China,
Sudan, and North
Korea could not have been prevented by
diplomacy or humanitarian relief.
Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, there have
been at least 55 genocides and politicides.Over seventy million people have died, most murdered by their own
governments, more than in all the wars combined.Genocide, unlike other human rights
violations, can almost never be prevented or punished unless the government
that perpetrates the crime is forcefully restrained or overthrown.
That is why the
United Nations has been ineffective in preventing genocide.The U.N. is an association of states,
represented by governments that wave the flag of national sovereignty whenever
anyone challenges their “domestic jurisdiction,” which many of them believe
includes what Leo Kuper called the “sovereign right to commit genocide.”
Many reports (Whitaker, 1985; Carlsson, 1999; Brahimi, 2000) have recommended
creating U.N. early warning and response institutions to prevent genocide.None have been implemented.At first paralyzed by the great power veto
during the Cold War, the U.N. is now paralyzed by unwillingness of great powers
to subject their policies to criticism and fear among illegitimate governments
that scrutiny of their human rights violations might invite intervention by
Nevertheless, the United Nations remains the best hope to
overcome the idolatry of national sovereignty, in favor of the popular
sovereignty advocated by Locke, Rousseau, and Jefferson.An underlying premise of the Genocide
Convention is that any regime that commits genocide forfeits its legitimacy,
and should be subject to the authority of international law and international
intervention.The U.N. Security Council
has the responsibility to protect against threats to international peace and
should teach the world that genocide is never simply an “internal matter.”Genocidal regimes never stop their predatory
murders at their own borders and always bleed refugees.As Lemkin emphasized, genocide is a crime
against all of humanity because it permanently reduces the cultural diversity
that is humanity’s heritage.
Genocides and politicides are political processes.Early warning theory has made progress in
identifying factors that lead to genocide.Some models are multi-factorial and statistical.They provide support for general policies
like democracy building.However, such
models usually do not prescribe specific tactics to stop genocides.Genocide Watch has developed a processual
model that can be logically understood by policy makers and is more specific
about warning signs and tactics to stop each stage of the genocidal process. “The
Eight Stages of Genocide” are Classification, Symbolization,
Dehumanization, Organization, Polarization, Preparation, Extermination, and
What structures exist in the U.N. now for early warning and
early response to genocide?
The Department of Political Affairs (DPA) Prevention Team
works with regional divisions and desk officers to study cases likely to become
emergencies requiring U.N. intervention.The most serious, including potential genocides, are referred to the
Interdepartmental Framework for Coordination Team, which now has members from
thirteen departments and agencies including DPA, DPKO, OCHA, UNDP, UNHCHR, FAO,
UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, DESA, DDA, ILO, World Bank and IMF.Since 1998, monthly meetings in New
York have focused on early warning and prevention.
All members of the Framework Team can bring situations that may result in
conflict or other emergencies to the attention of the Team.The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
in Geneva has a representative in New
York, but no staff members in Geneva
focus solely on genocide prevention.
What problems are there with the current system?
-The Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General for
Political Affairs are rarely informed of strategies recommended by the
Framework for Coordination Team.Most
follow-up is handled at a lower level, without reaching the Executive Committee
on Peace and Security, where the Under-Secretaries-General could give them
-No Assistant-Secretary-General is a designated Focal Point
for Genocide Prevention.
-The Department of Political Affairs lacks sufficient
personnel who are experts in genocide early warning.Budget constraints make hiring additional
U.N. staff unlikely.
-The significant differences between genocide and other
threats to peace and security are not generally recognized in the U.N. or by
-Recommendations of the Framework Team lack adequate
follow-up.U.N. departments lack
adequate human resources and budgets to implement long-term strategies.
-Responding to genocide requires great political will by
U.N. staff and by member states.Those
who push for action may risk their U.N. careers.Inaction has few career costs.
What are solutions to the problems with this system?
-The Secretary-General should name a Special Representative
for Genocide Prevention in the Department of Political Affairs and make that
person the Genocide Prevention Focal Point in the United Nations system. The
Special Representative would have responsibility for warning the
Interdepartmental Framework for Coordination Team of potentially genocidal
situations, developing options for responses, and following up on
-The Special Representative will have to be a skilled
diplomat with considerable U.N. experience, yet one willing to challenge U.N.
bureaucratic conservatism.He or she
will need courage, and both expertise in and commitment to genocide
-The Special Representative should be located in New
York and report directly to the Secretary-General and
to the Security Council, where political decisions are made.
-A GenocidePreventionCenter to support the work of the
Special Representative for Genocide Prevention should be established. qThe Center would communicate with a
global network of governments, international organizations, and NGO’s dedicated
to early warning and effective response.It would be located near the U.N. and have a professional staff.It would be funded by voluntary contributions
of governments and foundations.
What obstacles might these solutions face?
-New York U.N. Secretariat staff may see this new position
as a threat to their comfortable relationships with member states’
representatives and an admission of the U.N.’s failures to prevent
genocide.They may try to get the
Special Representative (SRSG) position relegated to Geneva
under the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, several steps removed from
-U.N. member states that repress minorities and defend
unlimited national sovereignty will strongly resist creation of this position,
and may refuse to cooperate with the SRSG.
-The G-77 majority in the General Assembly may refuse to
appropriate the budget needed to hire the SRSG. This doomed the Office for
Research and Collection of Information, closed by Secretary-General
Boutros-Ghali just before the 1990’s genocides.
-Reports of the GenocidePreventionCenter
might be blocked if they criticize member states. Resistance to “intelligence
gathering” by the U.N. has blocked the Brahimi Report’s recommended Information
and Strategic Analysis Secretariat (EISAS).Opponents seem to prefer the current situation where only a few rich
nations can afford to maintain international intelligence organizations,
leaving the rest of the world in the dark about clandestine plans for
genocide.(Rwanda in 1994 was a case in
How can these obstacles be overcome?
-A global public campaign may be necessary to get the
Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative for Genocide
Prevention.The world’s political
leaders must be made to understand that “we, the peoples of the United
Nations,” will no longer accept the excuse that our governments and the U.N.
“didn’t know.” To prevent genocide, the most racist of crimes, the United
Nations must enlist the whole human race.We will need an international movement to end genocide that has the size
and moral force of the anti-slavery movement.
-This international campaign will need to engage every
government, international organization, church, mosque, temple, and synagogue,
every jurists’ association, conflict transformation organization, and women’s
group, and all of civil society.The
campaign cannot succeed without the leadership and the legitimacy of the United
-The GenocidePreventionCenter should be independent, but
with a special relationship to the SRSG.It could then provide the political advocacy that would be outside the
role of the U.N. Secretariat.Such
independence is vital to effective early warning and response.
-Regional organizations, human rights groups, humanitarian
relief, academic, faith based, and civil society organizations could provide
valuable assistance to the Special Representative, his or her staff, and to the
GenocidePreventionCenter. They could provide field
resources and a network with U.N. staff around the world to provide early warnings
-The position of Special Representative of the
Secretary-General for Genocide Prevention should be created by the
Secretary-General under his Article 99 power to report to the Security Council
any threats to international peace and security.It need not be authorized by either the
Security Council or the General Assembly.However, a resolution by the Security Council would help pave the way
for its creation.
-The budgets for the SRSG for Genocide Prevention and for
the GenocidePreventionCenter could be raised from
contributions by U.N. member states and foundations, including the Trust Fund
for Preventive Action and the United Nations Foundation.The Special Representative and Genocide
Prevention Center staff could be seconded by member governments and other
 Leo Kuper, Genocide, Yale University Press, 1980.
 Raphael Lemkin, “Genocide,” American Scholar, volume 15,
no. 2 (April 1946), p. 228.
Genocide Watch is the Coordinator of the International Alliance to End Genocide P.O. Box 809, Washington, D.C. 20044 USA. Phone: 1-202-643-1405 E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org