The statement bellow was distributed by the listed signatories, who are all members of the Global Network of R2P Focal Points
During May, many countries are commemorating the surrender of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe. Although the origins of the war lay in the heart of Europe, from 1939 to 1945 more than 30 countries from around the world were drawn into the conflict. Approximately 60 million people died, the majority of them civilians, making World War II the deadliest conflict in human history. This figure includes the systematic killing of more than six million Jews, necessitating the creation of the term “Genocide” to describe the crime of intending to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. The war also laid waste to much of Europe, displacing tens of millions of people, and causing incalculable human misery.
Today we find ourselves in the midst of new global crisis. At a time when more than 70 million civilians were already displaced by persecution, conflict and atrocities – the highest number since 1945 – the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a new and unprecedented threat to human security. The novel coronavirus not only poses grave risks to peoples’ health, but within divided and fragile societies already suffering from identity-based conflict or persecution, the pandemic significantly increases risk factors that could potentially lead to mass atrocity crimes. Some countries are experiencing increased levels of xenophobia and hate speech directed at specific groups. Several governments have also taken advantage of the pandemic to weaken human rights protections and increase attacks on people who may be vulnerable, including women and girls, LGBTQIA persons and people with disabilities.
In the aftermath of World War II, a new international order was built, recognizing the importance of multilateralism, human rights, development, and peace and security. The creation of the United Nations, and the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, were historic expressions of this new global order, committed to preventing a reoccurrence of the worst crimes known to humanity.
Now our commitment to multilateralism and human rights is being tested again. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that our countries, communities and lives are inextricably linked. While the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II comes at a very challenging moment for humanity, we can and should honour the victims of past atrocities by preventing similar abuses, violations and crimes from happening again.
This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect, aimed at protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. As the world battles COVID-19, we encourage all states and regional organizations to support the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, his appeal to place human rights at the heart of the COVID-19 response and recovery, and his further plea to end the escalation of violence against women and girls we are seeing as the pandemic spreads. As R2P Focal Points from around the world, we resolve to continue working with international organisations, civil society, and independent NGOs who are working in the field of the prevention of mass atrocities. We urge the entire international community to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in practical ways that defend universal human rights, emphasize human solidarity, and uphold our responsibility to protect vulnerable populations from atrocities.
R2P Focal Points from the following Member States and regional organizations:
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