Oxfam warns landmark genocide agreement may be in jeopardy

Published: 1 November 2005

Countries supporting a new agreement designed to stop future genocides have been warned that states opposing the measure could come out strongly this week to block the move. Final negotiations on the outcome of the UN Summit begin today in New York.

Countries supporting a new agreement designed to stop future genocides have been warned that states opposing the measure could come out strongly this week to block the move. Final negotiations on the outcome of the UN Summit begin today in New York.

The next few days will determine whether a new agreement committing governments to timely and decisive action to stop atrocities like genocide in Rwanda will be endorsed by the summit. The measure outlining governments’ responsibility to protect civilians facing such threats is currently in the draft Summit outcome document. However international agency Oxfam is warning that determined blockers including Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, Iran, and Syria may oppose this agreement, and others including the US, Brazil, Russia and India could substantially weaken it.

“By the time world attention focuses on the New York Summit in September, it will be far too late – the deal will already be done,” said Nicola Reindorp, Head of Oxfam in New York.

“Governments are on the brink of an historic agreement that could help stop future genocides and other brutal mass killings. But governments supporting the agreement should be ready for opposition. Determined blockers like Pakistan, Eqypt, Algeria, Syria, Iran and Cuba will oppose the agreement, but countries like Russia, India and Brazil could also oppose it. The US could act to water it down.”

“This is the moment for bold leadership not backroom deals. Governments supporting this historic agreement to protect civilians threatened by genocide or other crimes against humanity must stick to their principles and push all others to also support it. This issue is too important to compromise on.”

While the international spotlight will be on New York during the Summit itself, the window for decisions is now, during final negotiations on the text of the event’s outcome document.

Oxfam is urging governments supporting the agreement to maintain their resolve and refuse to compromise on the proposed measure which could help save millions of lives. Oxfam praised governments including Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, the governments of the EU and South Africa for supporting the “responsibility to protect civilians”. The agency urged them to pressure other governments to agree on the need to prevent genocide and other large-scale killing.

The current summit draft agreement would establish a new standard that states share ‘’responsibility to take collective action in a timely and decisive manner” to protect civilians from large-scale killing including genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

This agreement would oblige the international community to act were there to be another Rwanda or a similar mass murder of civilians where the government was unwilling or unable to do anything to stop the bloodshed. However some key countries including India, Russia and Brazil seem set to try and block the move while the US appeared ready to water it down.

Contact Information

For further information contact:
US: Caroline Green 1 202 321 7858
UK: Brendan Cox on: 44 7957 120 853
The current draft wording on the ‘responsibility to protect is below’:
118. We agree that the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity lies first and foremost with each individual State. We also agree that this responsibility to protect entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement. We accept this responsibility and agree to act in accordance with it. The international community should, as appropriate, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility and support the efforts of the United Nations to establish an early-warning capability. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the obligation to use diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, including under Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we recognize our shared responsibility to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and in co-operation with relevant regional organizations, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities be unwilling or unable to protect their populations. We stress the need to continue consideration of the concept of the responsibility to protect within the sixtieth session of the General Assembly. 119. We invite the permanent members of the Security Council to refrain from using the veto in cases of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.