© UN Photo - Ratification of the UN Convention on Genocide, 14 October 1950
On 7 December 2018, UNESCO is partnering with the French Inter-ministerial Fact-finding Mission on Research and Education about Genocides and Mass Atrocities for a conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The conference, entitled “70 years later - The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: Law, Research and Education”, will be held at the Paris Campus of Columbia University.
The so-called “Genocide Convention” was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948. In honor of this historical date, the United Nations General Assembly established 9 December as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crimes of Genocide and the Prevention of this Crime in 2015. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of the Genocide Convention and its role in condemning and preventing the crime of genocide, as defined by the Convention, and to commemorate and honor its victims.
The Genocide Convention is the first document to legally define the crime of genocide. The term was coined by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who himself escaped Nazi persecution during the Second World War. It describes crimes committed with “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” As of today, 149 States have ratified the Genocide Convention. Based on the Convention, international legal bodies have ruled that genocide has been committed against the Muslim Cham minority and Vietnamese in Cambodia between 1975-79, against the Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda in 1994, and against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995.
In this context, today’s conference will bring together high-level experts on the topics of international law, the history of genocides and genocide prevention, who will address in two separate panel discussions the origins of the Convention as well as related contemporary challenges. The panelists are members of the French Inter-ministerial Fact-finding Mission on Research and Education about Genocides and Mass Atrocities, which was established on an initiative of the French Ministry of Education in 2016. The panel discussions will be based on the recommendations formulated in the final report of the Fact-finding Mission, which was published in February 2018.
UNESCO is a partner of this event within the framework of UNESCOs activities on Education about the Holocaust and genocide, which is part of the Organization’s programme to promote Global Citizenship Education. In support of these activities, UNESCO has published in 2017 a policy guide on Education about the Holocaust and preventing genocide. The document emphasizes that education can play a key role in preventing genocide by providing a forum to address past violence while promoting the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that can help prevent current day group-targeted violence.