UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for more efforts to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Civilians, including women and children, are being killed either deliberately or as victims of indiscriminate attacks, resulting in the high number of refugees and internally displaced people,” Guterres told a UN General Assembly informal dialogue on the responsibility to protect civilians on Wednesday.

“We must do more, and we must do better, to reverse these negative trends,” he said.

He said the UN must give greater attention to conflict prevention and he gave strong commitment to improving the capacity and coordination of the UN in atrocity prevention, Xinhua news agency reported.

The responsibility to protect still generates some discomfort for a number of UN member states. The main concern is that the principle will be used to impose international approaches on national problems, in ways that may harm national sovereignty, he noted.

“I have deep respect for national sovereignty. Indeed, the success of the UN in implementing its mandates depends on national actors being able to deliver on their sovereign responsibilities,” he said.

“Our shared challenge is to use the principle of the responsibility to protect to achieve the goals that were originally envisaged. I am convinced that open and constructive discussion among concerned states can overcome any remaining differences,” he said, adding that the UN member states have the primary responsibility to protect their populations.

“But should national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, then we must be prepared to take collective action, in accordance with the (UN) Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis.”