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Oxfam Challenges Governments: Back Annan's Vision, Save Lives

By Oxfam

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New York, NY—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 obscene levels of civilian suffering in today's conflict zones.

"From Rwanda to Darfur, the United Nations system has time and again failed to mobilize 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.

Oxfam International is calling for the following actions to be taken at the summit:

  • Governments meet the Millennium Development goals by 2015
    >The Summit must commit to meet the poverty reduction targets by committing at least $50 billion immediately in increased aid and one hundred percent debt cancellation for the poorest countries to meet the millennium goals, a commitment to conclude by 2006 the Doha round of the World Trade Organization negotiations in order to make trade work for the poor and to provide universal, free basic social services in all poor countries.<li>
  • Governments have the 'responsibility to protect' civilians in armed conflict
    ><strong>The Summit must affirm all governments' collective responsibility to protect civilians throughout the world, and lay out clear criteria for UN-authorized military intervention as a last resort to prevent or stop "genocide or other large-scale loss of life."
  • Commitment to an Arms Trade Treaty
    >The Summit must agree on the urgent need for a legally binding agreement to control the arms trade according to existing human rights and humanitarian law.<li>

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