The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide acts as a catalyst to raise awareness of the causes and dynamics of genocide, to alert relevant actors where there is a risk of genocide and to advocate and mobilize for appropriate action.
In 2004, following the genocidal violence in Rwanda and the Balkans, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Juan Méndez as Special Adviser to fill critical gaps in the international system that allowed those tragedies to go unchecked. In 2007, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Francis M. Deng on a full-time basis at the level of Under-Secretary-General. He also appointed Edward Luck as the Special Adviser who focuses on the responsibility to protect, on a part-time basis at the level of Assistant Secretary-General.
In a 2004 letter (S/2004/567) to the President of the Security Council, the Secretary-General listed the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide’s responsibilities as follows:
Collecting existing information, in particular from within the United Nations system, on massive and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law of ethnic and racial origin that, if not prevented or halted, might lead to genocide;
Acting as a mechanism of early warning to the Secretary-General, and through him to the Security Council, by bringing to their attention situations that could potentially result in genocide;
Making recommendations to the Security Council, through the Secretary-General, on actions to prevent or halt genocide; and
Liaising with the United Nations system on activities for the prevention of genocide and work to enhance the United Nations’ capacity to analyze and manage information regarding genocide or related crimes.