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Oxfam challenges governments

March 22, 2005

Oxfam challenges governments – back Annan's vision, save lives

New York: International agency Oxfam today challenged world leaders to seize the chance to save millions of lives by acting on Kofi Annan's blueprint for a safer, fairer world. Governments must now make long overdue commitments to protect civilians in conflict, the agency said, as well as deliver urgently needed aid, debt relief and trade reforms. The Secretary General's report, released today, sets out a bold agenda to be endorsed by governments at the UN Millennium Plus Five Summit in New York in September 2005. One of its key calls is for the international community to agree that it has a 'responsibility to protect' civilians caught up in warfare, and, as a last resort, to use military force to do so.

"Millions of people are dying because of conflict and poverty while rich countries are busy jostling for Security Council seats," said Nicola Reindorp, head of Oxfam’s New York office. "Governments must come together at the UN this year and focus on the real task of ending poverty and protecting innocent people caught in deadly conflicts.”

Oxfam believes that by agreeing governments' responsibilities to protect civilians, and clear criteria for UN-authorized military intervention as a last resort, the international community could make significant strides towards ending the

“From Rwanda to Darfur, the United Nations system has time and again failed to mobilise the political will and funds needed to protect civilians,” said Oxfam’s Reindorp. “Ultimately governments have the power and the responsibility to act to save lives.”

Oxfam strongly believes that ending poverty around the world is the only way to ensure collective global security and that rich and poor nations must seize the golden opportunity of this report and the Summit to change the lives of millions trapped in conflict and poverty. "Kofi Annan's report throws down the gauntlet to the leaders of rich and poor countries. In 2005 they must commit to increased overseas aid and debt relief and tough trade reforms and tougher arms controls," said Oxfam's Reindorp.

“This represents a challenge to New Zealand,” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.

“While generally supportive of the United Nations, the New Zealand government has failed to meet the challenge of supporting the poverty reduction targets agreed by all the member nations.”

Oxfam New Zealand calls on the government to respond quickly to support this UN report. This means setting a timetable for meeting the agreed target for aid levels, supporting the call for 100% cancellation of the debts of the poorest countries, and ensuring that developing countries are allowed to prioritise poverty reduction in world trade talks.

ENDS

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