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Human Rights Quarterly 28.4 (2006) 1043-1070

Report on the Work of the Office of the Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide
Prepared by Payam Akhavan
McGill University, Faculty of Law
Montréal, Canada

7 November 2005

The following Report was prepared at the request of the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide. The views expressed therein are solely those of the author. Its findings and recommendations are not binding on the United Nations or the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. [End Page 1043]

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Origins of the Mandate
  3. Does The Mandate "Add Value" to the Effectiveness of the United Nations?
  4. Early Warning
  5. Quiet Diplomacy and Public Advocacy
  6. Relation of Special Adviser to the Security Council
  7. Role of Special Adviser Within UN Secretariat
  8. Scope of the Term Genocide
  9. Collection and Analysis of Information
  10. Staffing and Resources
  11. Recommendations
  12. ANNEX I: S/2004/567

1. Introduction

1.1. This Report has been prepared at the request of the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Juan E. Méndez. Its objective is to review the work of the Office of the Special Adviser in implementing the mandate established by the Secretary-General in his letter dated 12 July 2004 to the Security Council (Annex I attached hereto), to gather and assess the views and expectations of the mandate within the United Nations system, and to provide recommendations and options for further action with a view to improving the effectiveness of the Office.

1.2. The Special Adviser was appointed by the Secretary-General on 12 July 2004. The Office was established in late October 2004, staffed by two professional officers in January 2005, and is still in a preliminary phase of activities despite increasing engagement in various situations. A review of the work of the Office at this early stage was deemed opportune in order to ensure that the insights of relevant actors within the United Nations system are taken into account in shaping the mandate and establishing a solid foundation for future activities.

1.3. The Report was prepared primarily through a series of interviews with over forty persons, including officials within the United Nations Secretariat, representatives of several Member States, interested non-governmental organizations and experts in the field of genocide prevention (a list of [End Page 1044] respondents is included in Annex II attached hereto). In addition, various documents, deliberations, reports, and articles from United Nations, governmental, non-governmental, and academic sources were considered with a view to further ascertaining the perspectives and practices of Member States and other actors on relevant issues. At the request of the Special Adviser, the Report was prepared to coincide with the 2005 World Summit and the related deliberations on UN reform. Thus, the interviews were conducted in a relatively short-time frame, during September and early October, and the range of respondents is consequently limited in scope. Furthermore, some Member States with possible misgivings about the mandate did not respond to requests for an interview, and their perspectives may therefore not be fully reflected. Nonetheless, the diverse views considered in the Report represent a broad cross-section of the United Nations Secretariat, Member States, and civil society.

2. Origins of the Mandate

2.1. The mandate of the Special Adviser is a direct response to the recent failures of the United Nations to take effective preventive action against genocide as outlined respectively in the Report of the Independent Inquiry into the actions of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda (S/1999/1257) and the Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 53/35 on the fall of Srebrenica (A/54/549). In resolution 1366 of 30 August 2001, the Security Council reiterated "the shared commitment to save people from the...


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