UN docs


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's
Stockholm Genocide Prevention Proposals (Relevant links)

On January 26, 2004 in his keynote speech to the Stockholm International Forum on Preventing Genocide, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the establishment of a UN Genocide Prevention Committee and a UN Special Rapporteur on Genocide Prevention. He said:

       "To improve our capacity for action, I suggest we explore some new ideas. For instance, the States parties to the Genocide Convention should consider setting up a Committee on the Prevention of Genocide, which would meet periodically to review reports and make recommendations for action."

      "We should also consider establishing a Special Rapporteur on the prevention of genocide, who would be supported by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, but would report directly to the Security Council –- making clear the link, which is often ignored until too late, between massive and systematic violations of human rights and threats to international peace and security."
(Link to these paragraphs in full text)

Press Release


Following is the address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as delivered to the Stockholm International Forum in Stockholm, Sweden, today:

There can be no more important issue, and no more binding obligation, than the prevention of genocide.

Indeed, this may be considered one of the original purposes of the United Nations. The “untold sorrow” which the scourge of war had brought to mankind, at the time when our Organization was established, included genocide on a horrific scale. The words “never again” were on everyone’s lips.

Three years later, in 1948, the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It entered into force in 1951, and over 130 States are now parties to it.

Under article 1 of that Convention, the contracting parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or time of war, is a crime under international law, which they undertake to prevent and to punish.

And yet, genocide has happened again, in our time. And States even refused to call it by its name, to avoid fulfilling their obligations.

The events of the 1990s, in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, are especially shameful. The international community clearly had the capacity to prevent these events. But it lacked the will.

Those memories are especially painful for the United Nations. In Rwanda in 1994, and at Srebrenica in 1995, we had peacekeeping troops on the ground at the very place and time where genocidal acts were being committed.

In Rwanda, some of those peacekeepers lost their lives trying to defend the victims. All honour to them.

But instead of reinforcing our troops, we withdrew them.

In both cases, the gravest mistakes were made by Member States, particularly in the way decisions were taken in the Security Council. But all of us failed.

In November 1999, in my report to the General Assembly on the fall of Srebrenica, I drew attention to serious doctrinal and institutional failings

within the United Nations, including a “pervasive ambivalence regarding the role of force in the pursuit of peace”, and “an institutional ideology of impartiality even when confronted with attempted genocide”.

One month later, an independent inquiry that I had commissioned –- and which was chaired by a distinguished former prime minister of this country -– diagnosed similar failings in our actions during the genocide in Rwanda: “a lack of resources and a lack of will to take on the commitment which would have been necessary to prevent or stop the genocide”.

Both reports contained important recommendations for improving the capacity, and changing the culture, of the United Nations. I have done my best to implement these, with some support from Member States.

Indeed, one of my constant concerns as Secretary-General has been to move the Organization from a culture of reaction to one of prevention -– in particular, prevention of armed conflict. This is highly relevant to your theme today, since it is in the course of armed conflicts that most genocides (although not all) have been carried out.

We must attack the roots of violence and genocide. These are intolerance, racism, tyranny, and the dehumanizing public discourse that denies whole groups of people their dignity and rights.

We must protect especially the rights of minorities, since they are genocide’s most frequent targets.

In too many parts of the world today, such a culture of prevention is rhetorical, at best.

And at the United Nations there are still conspicuous gaps in our capacity to give early warning of genocide or comparable crimes, and to analyse or manage the information that we do receive.

Urgent action is needed to correct this –- as the General Assembly recognized last July, when it passed a landmark resolution on the prevention of conflict. I thank the Swedish Government for its tireless work to get that resolution adopted.

But even the most perfect system of early warning will be useless unless States are able and willing to take action when warning is received.

To improve our capacity for action, I suggest we explore some new ideas. For instance, the States parties to the Genocide Convention should consider setting up a Committee on the Prevention of Genocide, which would meet periodically to review reports and make recommendations for action. Such bodies exist to help with the implementation of other international treaties. Why not for this one?

We should also consider establishing a Special Rapporteur on the prevention of genocide, who would be supported by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, but would report directly to the Security Council –- making clear the link, which is often ignored until too late, between massive and systematic violations of human rights and threats to international peace and security.

As long ago as 1999, I felt obliged to warn the General Assembly of the dangers of inaction in the face of such massive violations.

I am very grateful to the Government of Canada, which responded to this warning by setting up the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. The report of that Commission, published in 2001 under the title “The Responsibility to Protect”, has altered the terms of debate on this very difficult issue, in a most creative and promising way.

Thanks to the Commission, we now understand that the issue is not one of a right to intervention, but rather of a responsibility -– in the first instance, a responsibility of all States to protect their own populations, but ultimately a responsibility of the whole human race, to protect our fellow human beings from extreme abuse wherever and whenever it occurs.

This nascent doctrine offers great hope to humanity. I believe it will gradually gain wider acceptance, through debates both within and outside the United Nations.

One could say that it was already accepted –- al least implicitly -– when the United Nations set up international tribunals to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of genocide and other related crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. And now the International Criminal Court seeks to apply the same principle more generally.

I sincerely hope the Court will be able to deter potential perpetrators of genocide and other large-scale abuses in the future. With time, the ethical standard that the Court represents should be gradually internalized and accepted by political and military leaders in all countries, and by combatants in all conflicts.

But that will only happen if there is also resolute action to apprehend the perpetrators, and to halt genocide when it occurs or appears imminent.

Genocide, whether imminent or ongoing, is practically always, if not by definition, a threat to the peace. It must be dealt with as such –- by strong and united political action and, in extreme cases, by military action.

And that means that we need clear ground rules to distinguish between genuine threats of genocide (or comparably massive violations of human rights), which require a military response, and other situations where the use of force would not be legitimate.

To sum up, Ladies and Gentlemen, as an international community we have a clear obligation to prevent genocide. I believe that collectively we also have the power to prevent it. The question is, do we have the will?

I long for the day when we can say with confidence that, confronted with a new Rwanda or a new Srebrenica, the world would respond effectively, and in good time.

But let us not delude ourselves. That day has not yet come. We must all do more to bring it closer.

* *** *

For more information see:

View a webcast of Secretary General Kofi Annan making the above keynote address The address is the second item in the gile called "Ceremonial opening with cultural programme and opening addresses."

Kofi Annan's April 7, 2004 Action Plan to Prevent Genocide On the 10th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide In Rwanda, Annn announced his Action Plan and announced the future appointment of a Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention.

Stockholm International Forum: "Preventing Genocide; Threats and Responsibilities"    Selected news reports on the 2004 Stockholm International Forum (including Kofi Annan's Genocide Prevention Proposals)

The Stockholm Declaration on Genocide Prevention, January 28, 2004 In this "Declaration by the Stockholm International Forum 2004" fifty-five participating governments made seven commitments in the field of genocide prevention

UN Secretary General website: (www..un.org/ossg/sg/ ) For this press release, see Press Release SG/SM/9126

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the U.N. General Assembly on 9 December 1948. Entry into force: 12 January 1951.

Create a United Nations Genocide Prevention Focal Point and Genocide Prevention Center By Prof. Gregory Stanton, Ph.D., President, Genocide Watch

"Revised and updated report on the question of the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide" (July 2, 1985) "The Whitaker Report" prepared by Special Rapporteur Benjamin Whitaker and presented on July 2, 1985 to the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. In Paragraph 85 Whitaker proposed the establishment of an impartial international body concerned with preventing genocide (paragraph 85) has been ignored. The UN Human Rights system included multiple treaty monitoring bodies for the prevention of Torture and other violations, but still has no body specifically responsible for the prevention of genocide.

Support for Kofi Annan's Genocide Prevention Proposals    

After UN secretary-general Kofi Annan made his proposals on January 26, 2004 at the opening ceremony of the Stockholm International Forum, his initiative immediately ban to receive the support of governments and organizations. In particular, his proposals were endorsed by the President of Latvia, the Prime Minister of Armenia, and the Delegates of Germany and Norway.

The delegate of Greece, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andreas Loverdos, gave the most clear and direct endorsement saying, "Greece fully supports the proposals of Mr. Kofi Annan."

Excepts from Speeches: [more endorsements were made and will be added to this compilation soon]

Germany: Kerstin Müller, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office repeatedly referred to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call to move the United nations from a "a culture of reaction to one of prevention." In her conclusion, however, she strongly emphasized that a 'culture of prevention' - and this goes also for the prevention of genocide - requires strong multilateral institutions. " . . . The declaration to be adopted at this Forum must make one thing very clear: We need to work together if we are to combat the threat of genocide effectively. The German Government is convinced that the United Nations is uniquely well equipped to undertake this task. January 26, 2004 [Speech]

Greece: Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andreas Loverdos, January 27, 2004 "As the U.N. Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, yesterday declared, that the United Nations is now ripe to integrate more inclusively preventive mechanisms in the tasks of the UN. Greece fully supports the proposals of Mr. Kofi Annan. We believe that the UN should have a crucial role in preventing this phenomenon and implement strategies to monitor and assess the threats." [Speech]

Latvia: President Vaira Vike-Freiberga: "Latvia believes that the implementation of the UN Convention on Genocide, which requires those countries that signed it to intervene in cases of genocide, should be far more vigorous than it has been to date. . .We simply must find ways for the international community to react faster and more effectively in the future." January 26, 2004 [Speech]

Norway: January 27, 2004 "[W]e need to improve institutional mechanisms to give the political will a more systematic expression - such as by supporting the proposals that the UN Secretary General launched yesterday" Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vidar Helgesen [Speech]

Javier Solana, Secretary-general of the Council of the European Union, at the the closing ceremony of the conference, said: "Kofi Annan has spoken openly of its failure to protect in Rwanda and in Srebrenica. That failure is our failure too. In the practical spirit of this Forum, he has made concrete proposals on how the UN might be better equipped to identify and prevent potential genocides. In the European Union we too will adopt a practical approach to supporting him." January 28, 2004 [Speech]

Other general endorsements for a greater institutional capability for genocide early warning:

Albania: President Alfred Moisiu: "Preventive diplomacy with its due actions to avoid conflicts or their spread undisputedly assumes special importance. However, those who practice genocide should not be allowed to exploit the diplomatic approach, so as to buy time and disguise their crimes; diplomatic means should lead to an increase of international pressure on them and consequently to their isolation. UN, the Security Council and Euro-Atlantic structures, by coordinating their activities, must gain a more effective role in this direction. Monitoring and warning mechanisms should occupy a special place. [Speech]

Iceland: "it is clear that we ourselves, as individuals, must keep up our vigilance if we are to avoid disaster. The work we have begun here must be continued elsewhere: in the coming years, the whole world will have to become like a permanent standing conference against the threats of genocide and racial violence, with everyone constantly on the watch for danger signals. Iceland - HE Minister of Justice Björn Bjarnoson [Speech]

United States: "“Genocide leaves a recognizable trail that if addressed early is reversible. The U.S. agrees that we need an appropriate early warning system.” January 26, 2004, Pierre-Richard Prosper Ambassador of War Crimes Issues [Speech]

Endorsements for Kofi Annan's proposals from NGOs and from individuals:

Human Rights Watch: " UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan's call for a monitor to help prevent future acts of genocide is a bold and welcome step, Human Rights Watch said today. Speaking today at an international conference on genocide prevention in Stockholm, Annan suggested that the United Nations consider appointing a Special Rapporteur on the Prevention of Genocide. This monitor would report to the Security Council so that it could take action when genocide was impending. Annan also proposed creation of a UN Committee on the Prevention of Genocide to recommend actions to combat genocide. "Too many times, the world has stood by and watched as genocide was committed," said Rory Mungoven, global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "Kofi Annan's proposal would make sure that the Security Council was on notice that genocide was being planned. No one would be able to say they didn't know." Human Rights Watch noted that even with the Secretary General's proposal, UN member states would still need the political will to act. "No early-warning mechanism will substitute for political will," said Mungoven. "But this would put intense pressure on the Security Council to act before it was too late." Press Release

Also at the conference Kofi Annan's proposals were endorsed by the Conference's Scientific Advisor Yehuda Bauer and by Samantha Power in her press briefing on January 27, 2004.

Home | Prevention | UN docs | Whitaker Report 1985 |
Ndiaye Report on Rwanda 1993
| Rwanda Genocide 10th Anniversary Resolution
Stockholm Proposals | Kofi Annan's 2004 Action Plan to Prevent Genocide

Prevent Genocide International