Oxfam welcomes historic anti-genocide move at UN summit

Published: 23 November 2005

Leaders meeting today at the UN World Summit are poised to endorse an historic measure to help prevent future genocides, said Oxfam International today.

Leaders meeting today at the UN World Summit are poised to endorse an historic measure to help prevent future genocides, said Oxfam International today.


Though the UN Summit has so far agreed little on poverty reduction and nothing on small arms, important and significant progress has been made on the 'Responsibility to Protect' civilians from genocide and similar atrocities.

"Amid the overall disappointment about the summit so far, we must find time to celebrate the one historic achievement.

The agreement that leaders will endorse obliges the international community to protect civilians facing genocide and other similar atrocities. This could help make tragedies like the Rwandan genocide a thing of the past.

This is an achievement worthy of the 60th anniversary of an organization set up to save generations from the scourge of war.

After each genocide in the past, world leaders have said never again. Now at last, the world has agreed that 'never again' should mean 'never again'," said Nicola Reindorp, head of Oxfam in New York.

In the course of negotiations some governments blocked or diluted agreement on many of the big issues for the summit. The one area where champions moved opponents and kept the agreement strong was on the 'Responsibility to protect civilians'.

The agreement on the responsibility to protect civilians looks set to become a new international norm. In the past Governments have used the excuse of state sovereignty and non-intervention to avoid having to act to protect civilians. In Rwanda, the UN Security Council quibbled over definitions of what was taking place and failed to act while nearly one million people died in one hundred days. This new measure should end semantic debates that prevent action to save lives and is testament to increased political will to stop such atrocities.

In cases where the national government 'manifestly fails' to protect its civilians from genocide and similar atrocities, governments have accepted their shared responsibility to fill that gap through collective action, using force as a last resort. Oxfam has been calling for this historic measure for many years.

"This commitment is as clear as it is historic. This strong agreement allows no wriggle room. Today we congratulate world leaders on agreeing their responsibility to protect civilians. Tomorrow we will begin holding them to it," said Nicola Reindorp, head of Oxfam in New York.

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