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Oxfam: NZ must lead UN move to stop genocide

Oxfam: New Zealand must lead UN move to stop genocide

Oxfam New Zealand today praised New Zealand for supporting a new agreement designed to stop genocides like Rwanda from ever happening again. Oxfam also urged the New Zealand Government to use its standing as a well-respected “honest broker in international circles to influence the US, Brazil, India and Russia to get them to back the deal ahead of crucial talks which resume at the UN today.

A new measure committing governments to take timely and decisive action to stop atrocities like genocide is on the agenda for the UN Summit, the biggest meeting of world leaders in history, to be held in New York on 14-16 September. Oxfam said that governments were on the brink of an historic agreement on their collective responsibility to protect civilians facing grave danger but some countries, including the US, India and Brazil, have not put their weight behind the measure or may try to block the move.

“This is an opportunity for New Zealand to show leadership on the world stage by helping to secure an agreement designed to stop future genocides and ethnic cleansing,” said Barry Coates, Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director. “The Government should use every diplomatic resource at its disposal to ensure global endorsement of all governments’ responsibilities to protect civilians.

“It is now crunch time in the negotiations. New Zealand must not waver under pressure from those who want to weaken the agreement, which provides that governments have a collective responsibility to protect civilians where their own governments are unable or unwilling to do so. The Government should also use whatever influence it has with Brazil, Russia, India and the US to get them to support this vital agreement.”

The final negotiations on what world leaders will announce at the Summit start today. The current Summit draft agreement would establish a new standard, that requires UN member states to “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 in the case of another Rwanda or a similar mass murder of civilians where the government of the country itself was unwilling or unable to do anything to stop the bloodshed.

New Zealand, along with other governments such as Australia, Japan, Canada, South Africa, the EU, Rwanda and Kenya have strongly supported the agreement so far but pressure will build on them to compromise and weaken the language of the Summit declaration that world leaders will sign.

Oxfam warns that failure by governments to commit their leaders to seize this opportunity would send the message that governments are no more ready or willing to act to stop genocide than they were in Rwanda a decade ago.


Editors Notes:

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.


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