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From “Never Again” to Never Happened

After the horrors of World War II, the international community enshrined the principle that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Yet current global trends show that today's leaders are increasingly failing to prevent human-rights violations, or even to hold perpetrators to account.

GENEVA – We live in a world of intersecting crises. Against the backdrop of the human and planetary tragedy caused by climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on employment, health, and housing. Socioeconomic inequalities continue to grow, one’s lot in life too often is determined by one’s skin color, gender, or passport. Persistent, raging violence and conflicts are destroying millions of lives around the world.

As a woman in Afghanistan told me this year, her dream is that “as we emerge from the ashes of war, one day, social justice will be maintained.” She is one of many courageous human-rights defenders whom I have had the honor to meet during my three-plus years as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In looking at the world’s major crises, what strikes me is that there is a common denominator. Each reflects the human capacity to ignore or forget what came before. We react so quickly to each new or immediate problem that we lose sight of their common causes. Some may see this tendency as a form of resilience. But I fear that we are undermining our ability to respond to and prevent future crises.

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