NEW YORK, NY -- March 21 -- 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 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.
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 Organisation negotiations in order to make trade work for the poor and to provide universal, free basic social services in all poor countries.
- Governments have the 'responsibility to protect' civilians in armed conflict -- 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.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Two recently released UN reports have provided the foundation for Kofi Annan's report: the report of the Secretary General's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, released in December 2004, and the report of the Millennium Project by Jeffrey Sachs, released in January 2005.
- The Millennium Development Goals are eight targets agreed by over 190 governments in 2000 to help eradicate poverty through action by developed and developing countries. They focus on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other preventable diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.
- But at current rates of progress, many of the goals will be missed in many parts of the world.
- Oxfam calculates that if the world fails to meet the Millennium Development Goals and current trends are allowed to continue:
45 million more children will die between now and 2015
247 million more people in Sub-Saharan Africa will be living on less than $1 a day in 2015
97 million more children will still be out of school in 2015
53 million more people in the world will lack proper sanitation Facilities