Religious leaders and actors championing Genocide Convention, says UN group

(UNAOC)Miguel Ángel Moratinos, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations at the Global Tolerance Alliance in Nov. 2023.

The Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations has hosted a side event with religious leaders and actors at the UN headquarters in New York, on the genocide convention.

The discussion focussed on their role in upholding the values and principles of the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The event was held on the margins of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide ("Genocide Convention").

The genocide treaty was the first human rights treaty in the history of the UN and was adopted shortly before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which came into force in 1948.

The UN human rights chief Volker Türk said Dec. 3 the world must remember that genocide is often preceded or accompanied by statements from political leaders and other public figures that dehumanize and demonize people from targeted communities.

"Important lessons of the Holocaust, whose indescribable crimes led to the Convention – and the lessons of Cambodia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and others – made it absolutely clear that preventing genocide, and bringing its perpetrators to account before all humanity, is essential to the work of advancing human rights," Turk said.

Religious leaders and actors across all faiths are key partners in advancing the principles, values and work of the United Nations according to a UN statement.


More specific to the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes, faith communities have a pivotal role in fostering peaceful, inclusive, and just societies.

In this context, since 1948, scores of religious leaders and actors have been tirelessly championing the Genocide Convention, advocating for its ratification, domestication, and implementation.

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, general secretary at the ACT Alliance, which is part of the World Council of Churches highlighted that religious leaders and faith communities, guided by principles of justice and compassion, can contribute significantly to exposing the realities of genocide.

In doing so the reject the manipulation of facts and advocating for accountability.

Bueno de Faria also urged the international community to remain vigilant and uncompromising in the implementation of the Genocide Convention

"The principles that underpin the Genocide Convention are respect for diversity, inclusivity, and non-discrimination," said Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, at the opening of the event.

"These principles are also integral to the work of religious leaders and actors across the world."

She noted, "In recognizing their pivotal role, we launched the first-ever Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes, also known as Fez Plan of Action in 2017."

This is a Plan of Action which can be seen as the religious leaders' roadmap to implementing the principles of the Genocide Convention.

Wairimu Nderitu also underlined the need to reflect deeply on how we can collectively uphold the Convention, joining hands with religious leaders and actors for "Never Again" to be "Never Again": "we owe it to the victims of the genocide and the future generations.", she said.

"Seventy-five years ago, the nations of the world united in an unprecedented, at the time, demonstration of resolute and inspired multilateral action to support the first human rights treaty to be adopted by the United Nations — the Genocide Convention," recalled Miguel Ángel Moratinos, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations at the Global Tolerance Alliance.

"Let us take inspiration...from religious communities that remind us of our capacity to stand together as one human family — one humanity — rich in cultural and religious diversity, equal in dignity and rights, united in solidarity," he said.

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