“I believe that prevention of genocide is not an idealistic [thing]…it is possible,” said legal practitioner and human rights advocate Jennifer Nellie Beckley, yesterday, as she explained her perception about the just concluded Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide.
Lawyer Beckley, who represented Sierra Leone at the International Young Leaders Forum which conceived the Global Conference in Montreal, Canada, explained that she made numerous contributions at the forum, adding that “most of my contributions were based on my personal experience during the civil conflict in Sierra Leone, and also to a certain extent my views and perception about genocide and its possible prevention.”
“One of the positive aspects of the conference,” she said, was that “it focused on preventing genocide [rather than impeding it after it occurrence.]
The young lawyer explained that, “the conference was unique in so many ways, as it deals with ways and means of eradicating genocide all over the world.”
She emphasized that, “genocide is preventable,” adding that in all the genocide that had occurred, they had been preceded by early warning signs, which if they had been tackled would not have degenerated to a situation of genocide.”
Sighting the Rwanda case, she said, “one such warning signs was the issuing of identity cards, which stated the ethnicity of the holder.” This, lawyer Beckley continued, “enable polarization in Rwanda.”
She explained that the media added insult to injury by fueling the polarization which retrogressed to genocide.
The lawyer noted that “…it is believed that if these radio stations had been barred it would have prevented the genocide.”
Lawyer Beckley explained that youth leaders of the forum had taken upon themselves to ensure that they actualized what was being deliberated in the conference, adding that they came up with a declaration: ‘Responsibility to Prevent’ which states:
“Our origins, lives and beliefs are diverse. We are young and we have all been impacted by genocide in different ways. We come together to move our world away from a culture of reaction toward a culture of prevention. “Genocide is a man-made evil, not an inevitable calamity. Although it is often masked by war, each instance of genocide is preceded by identifiable signs of early warning. Genocide is foreseeable and thus preventable. “History shows us the cycle of genocide. Ideologies of hate and exclusion combine with violence. The absence of accountability and justice makes genocide a cost-free policy for those who perpetrate it. Denial and silence about past atrocities foster further hatred, laying the foundation for genocide to repeat. This cycle can and must be broken.
“Together we can act before lives are lost. We can build a global society that promotes prevention long before the need for reaction. By this declaration, we hold ourselves accountable to fulfill our responsibility to prevent.
“We bond into a network, which undertakes that:
“Where a society is legitimizing the ideologies of exclusion, we will support initiatives that promote respect, inclusion and common humanity. Through our network, we will use and share our knowledge and experience, working alongside local youth.
“Where a society is at risk of genocide, we will support existing initiatives to deploy resources immediately on all levels, before violence escalates. We will work, in particular, with the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.
“In the aftermath of genocide, we will promote recognition and empathy, justice and accountability. We will seek out those who were not complicit in genocide and share their example to reinforce a culture of prevention.
“Our commitment is not limited by time or place. Our success will be measured by atrocities that do not occur. Our goal is a world without genocide.
We cannot succeed alone. We ask that you hear us and join us.”