Oxfam: US, Brazil, India and Russia must back UN moves against genocide

Published: 1 November 2005

With one month to go until the UN summit in New York, the US, Brazil, India and Russia have been called upon to back a new agreement designed to stop genocides like Rwanda from ever happening again.

With one month to go until the UN summit in New York, the US, Brazil, India and Russia have been called upon to back a new agreement designed to stop genocides like Rwanda from ever happening again.

International agency Oxfam has named these powerful countries as they are currently lukewarm to – or are actively blocking – new measures designed to stop atrocities like genocide from taking place. The reforms will be discussed at the UN Summit in New York in exactly one month’s time. Other countries seeking to block the measures include Syria, Iran, Cuba, Pakistan, Eqypt and Algeria.

Oxfam is pushing for a strong agreement on the responsibility of states to protect civilians from large-scale atrocities such as genocide and ethnic cleansing. If agreed this would establish a new standard and 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. The Rwandan government, supported by dozens of others around the world, has led the calls for a strong agreement but those opposing it are refusing to back down.

“It is hard to overstate how important this is. In one months time the biggest meeting of world leaders in history could endorse a new standard which could help stop a future Rwanda from happening. Today we’ve taken the step of exposing the governments blocking the agreement so people around the world can call on them to change their minds. We urge these governments to urgently reconsider their position and agree to protect civilians from mass murder and atrocities. The international community must never again allow genocide or mass murder to go unchecked,” said Nicola Reindorp, Head of Oxfam in New York.

India, Brazil and Russia are currently actively opposing strong language on the responsibility to protect civilians. Oxfam is also concerned that the US government, although supporting the ‘responsibility to protect’ in principle is currently pushing a watered down proposal.

By contrast key governments supporting the call for strong language include Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Canada and the EU.

The current draft outcome document states that the UN has a ‘shared responsibility to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner,’ to, ‘help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.’ However opposition from the blockers could still dilute the commitment rendering it meaningless.

“This is a moral issue of huge importance and will establish a new standard that could help save millions of lives. Those supporting the responsibility of states to protect civilians must stick to their principles and those opposing it must think again. Brazil, India, Russia and the US must play their part in helping to stop the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians,” added Reindorp.

Contact Information

For further information contact:
UK: Brendan Cox on cell: 44 7957 120 853
US: Laura Rusu on 1 202 496 3620 or cell: 1 202 459 3739
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. 120. We support the implementation of the United Nations Action Plan to Prevent Genocide and the work of the Secretariat to this end.