Security Council’s unity vital to prevent mass atrocities – UN chief


UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed the importance of unity in the Security Council to effectively address human rights violations as well as prevent mass atrocities across the globe.

Guterres, while briefing the 15-member body on ‘Human Rights and the Prevention of Armed Conflict” on Tuesday, said there was the need for prompt and effective action to maintain global peace and security.

“Article 24 of the UN Charter is clear: the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security rests with this Council ‘in order to ensure prompt and effective action.

“We must collectively draw strength from the letter and spirit of the Charter to better prevent armed conflict and sustain peace through development by ensuring effective protection of all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural,” he said.

The UN chief stressed that the Syrian crisis had become a scar on the conscience of the world saying, failure to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people “shames us all”.

Guterres, while underscoring the importance of unity within the Security Council and called on its members to “spare no effort to put an end to the intolerable suffering of the Syrian people”.

“The failure to do so is a tragedy that shames us all,” he stressed.

He noted that peace, security, sustainable development and human rights are mutually reinforcing and underscored that peace must be “relentlessly pursued along the gamut of prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peace-building and long-term development”.

Guterres further stressed that close cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and all relevant UN bodies, including the Security Council, is vital.

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According to him, this is given that human rights concerns are fundamental to maintaining peace and security as well as essential to informing Security Council deliberations and decision-making.

Speaking on initiatives already taken by the Security Council, such as incorporating a human rights component in the mandate of UN peace missions, Guterres noted that the systematic monitoring and reporting of human rights violations not only gave “a voice to victims but also helped the fight against impunity”.

According to him, the initiatives also contributed to the protection of civilians under threat, helped build capacities and, in some circumstances, preserved democratic space.

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“However, despite all these efforts, millions of people still need to be protected from crises and far more time and resources continue to be spent responding to crises rather than preventing them,” the Secretary-General noted.

He underscored that preventive efforts needed to be prioritised and root causes of conflict had to be addressed adding, “that is the lesson of so many conflicts”.

He also stressed that ensuring improved and less politicised action on human rights is also vital for progressing on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN chief informed the Security Council that he had set in motion various reforms of the Secretariat, which would enable it to play its role better and in keeping with the mandates and trust the UN Member States had placed in it.

“The resolutions on sustaining peace and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are cause for hope,” he said, adding “progress on human rights aspects would further complement these advances”.