While conflict has many causes, genocidal conflict is identity-based. Genocide and related atrocities tend to occur in societies with diverse national, racial, ethnic or religious groups that are locked in identity-related conflicts. It is not simply differences in identity, whether real or perceived, that generate conflict, but the implication of those differences in terms of access to power and wealth, services and resources, employment, development opportunities, citizenship and the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms. These conflicts are fomented by discrimination, hate speech inciting violence and other violations of human rights. Given that no country is perfectly homogeneous, genocide represents a truly global challenge.
The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide confirms that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or war, is a crime under international law which parties to the Convention undertake “to prevent and to punish”. At the 2005 World Summit, Heads of State and Government unanimously affirmed that “each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” They agreed that, when appropriate, the international community should assist States in exercising that responsibility by building their protection capacities before crises and conflicts break out. However, when a state “manifestly fails” to protect its population from the four specified crimes, the Heads of State and Government confirmed that the international community was prepared to take collective action, through the Security Council and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.