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International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda

7 April 2020
International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda

Remarks by Ms. Tatiana Valovaya
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the
Tutsi in Rwanda

7 April 2020

Ladies and gentlemen,

Twenty-six years ago, began one of humankind’s darkest chapters: the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, as well as the killings of Hutu and others who opposed it. More than one million people were systematically killed during this tragedy. Today, on the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, we remember all those who perished and those who survived this carnage twenty-six years ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic has precluded our coming together in person this year. But we cannot let this moment pass without remembering the victims and the survivors of the 1994 genocide. We need to renew our commitment and our responsibility to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again, to recognize early warning signs and to collectively protect all persons affected by conflicts and crises.

Twenty-six years have passed, but the memories of this tragedy are very much alive. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda has changed the collective psyche of an entire nation and left deep scars and traumas in the lives of the survivors. Generations to come will continue to endure the unbearable pain created by the loss of family members and friends.

Rwanda has learned from its tragedy, however, and so must the international community. The horrors and suffering of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda need to serve as a constant reminder of our moral obligation to not ever allow such tragedy to happen again. Twenty-six years later, the prevention of genocide remains a cardinal task of our time.

However, even today, mass atrocities occur with alarming frequency. No part of the world is immune to cruelty and violence. Around the world, we see a groundswell of xenophobia, racism, antisemitism and intolerance. Hate speech not only challenges human rights norms and principles, it also undermines social cohesion, erodes shared values and lays the foundation for violence – setting back the cause of peace, stability, and the fulfilment of human rights for all.

The United Nations will continue to spare no effort in combatting hate speech in all its forms through the implementation of the UN System-Wide Strategy and Plan of Action against Hate Speech, launched by Secretary-General Guterres in 2019. To effectively prevent and tackle the incidences of hate speech, we need to build a strong multilateral alliance which will include traditional stakeholders and other influential actors, such as technology companies, with a mission to combat racism, xenophobia and other forms of hate speech on and off-line.

Rwanda has shown us that remarkable progress can be made by addressing discrimination. I applaud the survivors who have engaged in an impressive reconciliation process, demonstrating that forgiveness and living side by side in peace are possible. Rwanda’s long journey from genocide to healing is a strong example and moral incentive for the international community to take seriously its duty to promote cooperation, international responsibility and solidarity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With every passing year, the gravity of the tragedy that occurred in Rwanda in the one hundred days following 7 April 1994, sinks in ever deeper. We must never forget our collective failure to protect the over one million defenseless men, women and children who perished during the genocide.

It, therefore, falls on us to keep their memory alive, including by mobilizing the youth and investing in their education. By promoting tolerance, human values and peaceful co-existence, we will prove that diversity is an asset, not a threat.

We owe no less to the victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, their families and their societies. We owe it to our common future.

Thank you.