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Preventing future genocide must be UN priority

Hon Phil Goff Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

25 January 2005

Preventing future genocide must be UN priority

Member states of the United Nations must make the prevention of genocide the organisation's highest priority in the years ahead, Ambassador Don MacKay, on behalf of the New Zealand government, told the UN General Assembly today.

Mr MacKay was speaking at the General Assembly's Special Session on the Holocaust, held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Hitler's concentration camps at the end of World War Two.

Foreign Minister Phil Goff said the enormity of the Holocaust called for the holding of the Special Session. New Zealand had joined with a number of other members in requesting that the session be held.

"The Holocaust epitomises the ultimate act of man’s inhumanity to man," Mr Goff said.

"The sheer scale, callousness and deliberation make Hitler’s 'final solution' stand out from other acts of genocide.

"New Zealand fought alongside the Allied nations in liberating Europe from Nazi tyranny. We were one of the first countries to enter the global conflict started by Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, and participated until the end.

"About 140,000 New Zealanders served in overseas theatres during World War 2, and more than 11,000 of those men and women did not return home. For a small nation, then numbering less than two million people, this was a huge death toll. New Zealand suffered the highest number of fatalities per capita of any nation in the British Commonwealth.

"New Zealanders fought and died thousands of miles from home against Nazi tyranny in the hope that their sacrifice might help end future acts of war and genocide.

"Sadly, this hope has yet to be realised. Too often in recent history we have continued to see death and destruction inflicted on human beings. We have witnessed the killing fields of Cambodia, and the brutality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda and Darfur.

"All nations have a responsibility to prevent genocide and to fight against its causes. We have a responsibility actively to promote tolerance and understanding, respect for those of different race, religion and colour. We have a responsibility to fight racism and anti-semitism. And as an international community we have a responsibility to ensure that those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity be brought swiftly to justice.

"As we reflect on this commemoration, New Zealand believes that the United Nations and all its member states must make the commitment to ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust are not repeated," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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