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Oxfam: US May Thwart Reform

Wednesday 31st August 2005

Oxfam: United States among governments that may thwart chance for major UN reforms – New Zealand must act

The Prime Minister Helen Clark must stand up to the United States and other opponents of reform in key talks this week to try to save the biggest meeting of world leaders, the UN World Summit, from failure.

The United States, with a group of countries called the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), could end the chance to effectively reform the United Nations by demanding last minute and sweeping changes during negotiations before the UN World Summit.

International agency Oxfam warned that New Zealand must try to prevent the United States’ suggestion on major cuts to agreements on reducing poverty and stopping future genocides from being adopted. It must also stand up to the Non-Aligned Movement that is attempting to block the measure on protecting civilians facing genocide or mass killing.

The gathering of world leaders is a crucial chance for countries to commit to ending the terrible poverty, injustice and suffering that kill millions of people every year, as well as to implement reforms to improve the operations of the United Nations. However, the historic chance to reform the United Nations was slipping away as countries squabbled and refused to find common ground, said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.

“The crucial chance to implement measures to help stop future genocides or brutal mass killings and to agree reforms to the United Nations are down to the wire,” said Coates. “New Zealand must use its influence within the UN to do what it can to save the United Nations summit.”

The United States has proposed major changes to the current draft outcome document, including some that would substantially weaken wording on all governments’ “responsibility to protect civilians” in cases of mass killing such as the Rwandan genocide. The US has also proposed cutting wording on poverty reduction, including on overseas development aid, education and debt relief, and removing the term “Millennium Development Goals” – the internationally agreed upon targets for halving world poverty. The United Sates also wants to cut references to small arms controls from the outcome document.

The NAM is fiercely opposing the current draft measure on the “responsibility to protect” civilians, despite the measure’s potential to save millions of lives, claiming it compromises the sovereignty of individual states. The NAM is reportedly also refusing to agree to reforms to UN management and personnel systems. The NAM is composed of 115 developing country governments, including Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Venezuela, Egypt, Cuba, Iran, and Syria. Russia is also among those governments keen to weaken wording on the responsibility to protect civilians.

If endorsed in its current form, the commitment on protection would establish a new international norm, specifically that: states share the “responsibility to take collective action in a timely and decisive manner” to protect civilians facing grave atrocities like genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and war crimes when the government of the people concerned is unwilling or unable to do so.

Background for editors: For a copy of the draft Summit outcome document please visit: http://www.reformtheun.org/index.php/united_nations/1290

Members of the Core Group
Established by General Assembly President Jean Ping, to advance work on the draft outcome document for the General Assembly High-level Plenary Meeting of September 2005

Group of 77 and China (Jamaica), Non-Aligned Movement (Troika: Malaysia, Cuba and South Africa), African Group (Troika: Morocco, Mauritius and Mozambique)*. European Union (Troika : United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Austria and European Commission), Group of Arab States (Lebanon), CARICOM (Grenada and alternatively Trinidad and Tobago or Saint Kits and Nevis), CANZ** (Canada), Nordic countries (Norway), GUAM*** (Republic of Moldova), Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Switzerland, United States of America

These proposals are currently under discussion and will need to be concluded before negotiations on the substantive issues continue. On 5 August Ambassador Ping circulated his revised draft Outcome Document for the summit, listing 6 issues which needed cooperation to achieve the broadest possible agreement. They were: “certain aspects of terrorism, issues concerning disarmament and non-proliferation, specific details concerning the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the concept of responsibility to protect, the composition of the peace-building commission and reform of the Secretariat, in particular its management”.

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.

* To be confirmed by the African group ** CANZ represents: Canada, Australia, New Zealand *** GUAM represents: Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Moldova


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