Accessibility links

Aid Group Says British Foreign Policy Unfair, Not Credible

The British-based international aid group, Oxfam, says Britain's foreign policy is widely viewed as unfair and not credible. A new study, released by the group Wednesday, says the country's "misadventure" in Iraq is part of the problem. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

The Oxfam study is highly critical of British foreign policy during the past 15 years, and says the government must do better in the future to protect human rights and prevent genocide.

The report cites previous government failures to take steps to stop the genocide in Bosnia in the 1990's or in Rwanda in 1994. The report blames more recent failures on Prime Minister Tony Blair's government - including what it calls the "terrible misadventure" of the war in Iraq.

In London, Oxfam director of government relations Steven Doughty tells VOA Britain's involvement, not just in Iraq but throughout the Middle East, is seen as a problem. He cites last year's conflict between Israel and the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon as one example.

"On Lebanon, the UK quite rightly condemned Hezbollah attacks on Israel, but I think a lot of people feel it was a double standard then in not arguing for an immediate cease fire on Israel's disproportionate response to those attacks," he said.

Doughty says while Britain has tried to re-launch Middle East peace efforts, it is not seen as an effective and credible broker.

The Oxfam report also includes what it cites as policy success, including intervention in the civil wars in Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

Doughty says an Oxfam survey shows the British public in favor of intervention in such instances.

"Despite Iraq and despite the public's feeling about that, British people are still willing to see the UK government go in and try and tackle some of the world's worst conflicts and humanitarian crises," he said.

The survey showed that 67 percent of those questioned favored sending British troops as a last resort, to help stop genocide or war crimes.

Doughty says any future British government should be mindful of past failures but not shy away from dealing with humanitarian crises.

"We want to see a much more consistent approach to challenging abuses of humanitarian law and human rights," he said.

Continuing crises cited in the Oxfam report include the massive human rights abuses in Sudan's Darfur region.

Two other just-released reports are also critical of the situation in Iraq and the handling of the war on terror, in which Britain is intricately involved.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate and the suffering of Iraqi civilians is increasing. The ICRC says all coalition forces must do more to protect civilians.

And, a separate work released by the independent Oxford Research Group, says attempts by western governments to counter the threat of terrorism by using overwhelming military force have been a failure and have detracted from focusing on other, what it calls, greater threats, including climate change and global militarization.