Oxfam urges UN Summit agreement on responsibility to protect civilians

Published: 23 November 2005

On the eve of the UN World Summit, governments have been called on to endorse an historic agreement on their ‘Responsibility to Protect’ civilians and stop future genocides and other mass killings. Genocide survivors and leading international experts have joined Oxfam and the International Crisis Group to urge action.

On the eve of the UN World Summit, governments have been called on to endorse an historic agreement on their ‘Responsibility to Protect’ civilians and stop future genocides and other mass killings. Genocide survivors and leading international experts have joined Oxfam and the International Crisis Group to urge action.


Nicola Reindorp, head of Oxfam’s New York office, has been lobbying at the United Nations and said that it is vital that governments endorse this historic measure.

“World leaders are close to agreeing a measure on protecting civilians that may save millions of lives,” said Reindorp. “If endorsed, this could be the one saving grace of the UN Summit.”

Juan Mendez, the UN Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide, will speak at the press conference:

"For too long civilians have been massacred while world leaders refused to live up to their moral and legal obligations to prevent genocide, despite the Genocide Convention of 1948,” Juan Mendez said.

“The costly lessons of Rwanda and Srebrenica compel us now to accept that we must protect populations at risk. The Summit is an important opportunity to reaffirm that principle and renew the international community's commitment to make it effective."

Kemal Pervanic, Bosnian Muslim and Omarska prison camp survivor said: "Life in the camps was horrific. I witnessed atrocities on a daily basis. You live day-to-day, keeping your head down in case you catch a guard's eye; seeing men called out who never return; hearing their tortured screams and the shots that kill them.

''This agreement could prevent people like me going through this sort of ordeal. We must learn the lessons of the dreadful failures in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s,” said Pervanic.

Mary Robinson, President, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and Oxfam Honorary President, said that it was vital that governments committed to protecting all civilians facing mass killing.

"It is heartening to see that the text on the Responsibility to Protect is now strong. It will be vital to maintain that text and have the UN equipped to tackle acts of genocide and some of the worst violations of human rights effectively in the future. We're now watching closely to see there is no weakening of the text in these last hours."

Grace Mukagabiro, Oxfam Rwanda Program Coordinator and genocide survivor, has traveled from Rwanda to attend the UN Summit.

"I survived the Rwandan genocide, but my husband and most of my family were killed,'' said Oxfam’s Mukagabiro. ''When the troops came to my village, they beheaded my husband. My name was on a list of those to be killed the next day. At midnight I escaped, carrying my three small children and two others whose parents had also died. I was pregnant and my youngest child was 11 months old. We walked 18 kilometers to a small town called Nyanza, where two sisters agreed to hide us in their home and we survived. Almost a million others did not.

"My children have grown up without a father and their earliest memories are of watching our house burn to the ground and running for their lives. Their dreams are still interrupted by horrific nightmares."

Contact Information

For further information contact:
Oxfam’s Caroline Green at 202 321 7858 or Taylor Thompson 202 321 2967 or Brendan Cox on 858 205 8717