Address by Vahe Gevorgyan, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia at the virtual discussion “The Role of Education in Combatting Genocide Denial”09 December, 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I welcome you at the virtual discussion organized by the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect in observance of the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.
Established upon Armenia’s initiative in 2015, the International Day of 9 December has since served as an inclusive platform that brings together governments, international organizations, academic community and civil society to deliberate methods of delivering on the pledge “Never again”.
Armenia, as a nation which has survived the Genocide, has been an advocate for the fight against this crime on the international arena for many years and has been consistently outlining the importance of strengthening capacities at national, regional and international levels to detect and act on the warning signs, which may lead to massive crimes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Among the tools for genocide prevention, education is the single most powerful instrument, relevant as ever, in particular, against the backdrop of a disturbing surge in tendencies of disinformation, incendiary rhetoric and hate speech.
On December 9-11, 2018, Armenia hosted the 3rd Global Forum “Against the Crime of Genocide”, dedicated to prevention of genocide through education, culture and museums. One of the most important goals of this forum were to study the issues of genocide prevention through education and science, to raise awareness on the challenges of genocide education and to discuss steps to be undertaken and effective methods to address those challenges.
The importance of teaching out past genocides was also underlined in the resolution on the Prevention of Genocide presented by Armenia and unanimously adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2020. The resolution emphasizes the necessity to preserve evidence and archival material related to past genocides, reflects the developments related to this issue in the modern world and is in line with the priorities set by the UN. Thus, referring to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the document emphasizes that its fourth goal should be achieved through teaching about the genocides committed in the past.
Ladies and gentlemen,
One of the main reasons that leads to genocide, as well as other crimes against humanity, is impunity. Inappropriate condemnation of past crimes and avoiding of punishment create fertile ground for denial and justification of genocide and eventually at recurrences of mass atrocities.
Armenian people has a long-standing record of confronting what represents the final stage of a genocidal process – denial of genocide, manifesting itself in many ways, primarily, through narratives that conceal historical evidence and the scale of the genocidal effort, embark on legalistic manipulations, blame the victims, trivialize their sufferings, defend and even glorify the perpetrators, and, in doing so, strive to create a space which will intimidate and silence the survivors across generations.
The denialists stop at nothing, robbing the victims of their dignity and depriving them of their rightful place in the historical memory. Such a purposeful assault on truth, indeed, represents the ultimate manifestation of genocide – a double killing, as Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel explained – because if victims of genocide are allowed to be forgotten, “the dead will be killed a second time.”
Undoubtedly, supporters of the genocide prevention agenda should heed the lessons of the Armenian case to fight impunity and counter denial. For over a century, it has fallen to the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, their descendants, and the international community of human rights advocates to keep the memory of the genocide alive, by pursuing the recognition of the truth and its proper representation in the educational and cultural fields.
History and current practices show that countries that have brought the policy of denial to the level of state ideology will never be able to build a genuine democracy, because they will not be able to ensure freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, protection of minorities and other fundamental rights. Thus, the recognition of a genocide crime, indeed by these countries themselves, is a basis for the further development of democracy and the promotion and strengthening of human rights.
Genocide and other mass atrocities are usually pre-planned, and are carried out by targeting the civilian population, destroying cultural and religious heritage, and spreading extreme hatred. All these actions were carried out against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh during the military aggression unleashed on September 27, 2020, which was planned and implemented by Azerbaijan with the full political and military support of Turkey and the involvement of foreign mercenaries and terrorist fighters. Thus, with new victims of mass atrocities, the Armenian people were once again exposed to existential threat.
Yet as their ancestors they are destined to counter and overcome this threat with a stronger determination to safeguard their identity and serve humanity for the betterment of mankind.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a member of the international community, Armenia strongly committed to global efforts to prevent genocide. Collective efforts for effective learning and education on genocide and mass atrocities could be a key component to the prevention of such acts.
I thank you.