UN must focus on genocide prevention, group says

09 December, 2008

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The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NEW YORK: The United Nations must put more effort into prevention of genocide through diplomacy and must also be prepared to defend civilians from mass killings when necessary, an anti-genocide group advised Tuesday.

The Genocide Prevention Project is focusing on the U.N. because it believes a multilateral approach is the best way to tackle the problem, said Jill Savitt, the project's director.

"If it doesn't address these situations, we have to take a look at what the U.N. is doing," she said. "This is the reason for its existence, these crimes."

The project recommends that the U.N. Secretariat and Security Council work more closely with the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, getting information on early warning signs to avoid a descent into mass killing.

It also recommends that member states appoint high-level officials to focus on genocide issues, and calls on the U.N. to again consider a permanent civilian protection force.

On the group's "red alert" watch list of the countries of most concern for genocide are Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

The report comes as a task force headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen, who both served in the Clinton administration, recommended that President-elect Barack Obama make preventing genocide a priority and called for Congress to provide $250 million a year to deter such atrocities around the world.

Tuesday is the 60th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the 20th anniversary of the U.S. ratification of the treaty.

The Genocide Prevention Project has grown from Dream for Darfur, a campaign that worked with actress Mia Farrow to draw attention to victims of genocide during the Beijing Olympics.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced in the Darfur region of Sudan. The U.S. has called the killings genocide.