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Statement by Kerstin Pürschel, Legal Adviser of the German Mission to the United Nations, on the occasion of the Arria-formula meeting on “Raising effectiveness of atrocity crimes prevention: role of the United Nations Security Council and its Members” - December 10, 2018

10.12.2018 - Rede

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Mr. President,


I would like to thank the Chair (Poland) and our partners Belgium, Cote d’Ivoire, Kuwait and Peru for the excellent cooperation on initiating today’s debate. I thank the briefers for their informative statements.
This year, we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the adoption of two milestone agreements: the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

70 years later, both documents have not lost in relevance and should still serve us as guidance for our actions. Today, we are very worried about the escalation of violence in crises and human rights violations around the globe. International human rights law and humanitarian law are deliberately disregarded in some conflicts. The suffering of many victims in conflicts is a matter of serious concern.

Human rights violations are not only a symptom of conflict situations throughout the world; they are also a root cause. Human rights violations, especially atrocity crimes, stand in opposition to the maintenance of international peace and security, which is the primary responsibility of the UNSC. It is only natural that during our upcoming membership in the Security Council, the protection of human rights – also as an important tool of prevention – will be a core theme of our work.

We would like to underline five points more specifically:

1. Early Warning: First, during our upcoming membership in the UNSC, we will put a strong focus on prevention. Germany is taking a comprehensive approach to crisis prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. This holistic approach will also be at the core of our term in the Security Council, and also includes improving the means of early prevention of atrocity crimes. The UN needs to expand its early warning capacities, particularly through its field presences. This should not be limited to mission settings, but encompass the whole UN field presence. Early warning reports must feed into an early warning focal point at headquarters. Here, it is important that early warning mechanisms are based on a clear frame of reference. On the one hand, we need a consensus about when situations cross the critical threshold to becoming atrocity crimes. For this, we can build on our shared understandings as recorded in the Genocide Convention, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the same time, we also need to enhance our understanding of how atrocities happen and what indicators work best in assessing atrocity risks. The Framework of Analysis for the Prevention of Atrocity Crimes, developed by the Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect is an important document pointing in the right direction, but we should endeavor to further elaborate this work. Ultimately, our goal must be that early warning goes hand in hand with early action. The Council can play its part by regularly conducting horizon scanning exercises.

2. Ownership: Second, Germany recognizes the primary responsibility of states to protect their respective population. We support efforts to build local ownership and capacities that sustainably and effectively contribute to strengthening national resilience and mitigation of atrocity risks. Here, the UN can be of valuable assistance to member states on the ground. Member states can draw on UN expertise with the collection, verification and analysis of information. To obtain flexible conflict responses and achieve the prevention of escalation, coordinated and coherent action by UN country teams, Secretariat and the Security Council are crucial. The Council could consider specific actions, such as Chapter Six measures or sanctions. For the Secretariat, we have great hopes for a positive impact of the SG’s management reforms on a more coordinated and preventive approach.

3. Strengthening the International Criminal Court: Third, Germany is dedicated to strengthening a rules-based international order. We strongly support the international criminal justice system and in particular the ICC as means of providing accountability for perpetrators, but also as powerful means of deterrence. Continued prosecution of crimes under the Rome Statute through the ICC and cooperation with situation countries have the potential to prevent further atrocities by contributing to strong and resilient institutions upholding the rule of law. 

4. Regional Organizations: Fourth, we believe in the vital role of regional organizations, since the repercussions of conflict are first and foremost experienced in the region. Reinforcing the role of regional and sub-regional actors in the context of prevention is a path towards stability and sustainable peace. The whole UN and the Security Council in particular, need to build on and strengthen existing partnerships with those regional and sub-regional organizations.

5. Civilian engagement: Germany supports and further develops approaches that include civilian instruments in conflict prevention and response. Civilian peacekeeping is a tried and tested method for protecting people from violence and severe violations of human rights. Of particular importance to us is the role of women: Women are at the heart of an inclusive and peaceful society. An example for our commitment in the field of women, peace and security is our commitment to increase the participation of women in conflict resolution and peace processes.

To conclude: We remain committed to strengthening the prevention of atrocities through well-coordinated international, regional and UN-supported initiatives. This is why Germany is supportive of the on-going deliberations of the International Law Commission on Articles on Crimes against Humanity with a view to promulgating a Draft Convention. We strongly believe in the multilateral approach and working actively together as partners: In the face of atrocities, we must never close our eyes.

I thank you, Mr. President.

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