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UN Negotiations Underway On Genocide Agreement

At the United Nations, negotiations got underway today on a proposed agreement calling for quick international action to stop genocide. The final document will be presented for approval at the UN summit in September.

A number of countries oppose the measure, while others want to change its provisions. Among the groups calling for the genocide agreement to remain unchanged is the aid agency OXFAM.

Nicola Reindorp is the head of OXFAM in New York. She spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the proposed genocide agreement. She says, “On the 14th of September…the largest gathering of world leaders ever will come to the United Nations in New York to attend a UN world summit. And they are coming to make commitments on the big issues of global security and UN reform. But what’s starting today (Monday), negotiations are going on right now…and the next few days will determine whether or not world leaders will endorse the new agreement committing governments to take timely and decisive action to stop atrocities like Rwanda’s genocide.”

However, a number of countries are reportedly opposed to the agreement, including Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, Iran and Syria. And some countries reportedly want to weaken the measure, including the United States, Brazil, Russia and India.

Ms. Reindorp says, “Governments have a responsibility to protect civilians. But where an individual government is unwilling or unable to protect its civilians, the rest of the world has a collective responsibility to protect. They have a responsibility to step in and do what they can to protect civilians facing grave danger and atrocities like genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity. OXFAM believes this is a fundamental commitment. A decade ago, the world said ‘never again’ after genocide in Rwanda. But since then, another 40 million people have fled their homes and millions of people have died as a result of violence. We think it’s fundamental that governments should step up to say we are willing to accept our responsibility to protect civilians. And that we will be ready to act collectively to protect civilians facing grave atrocities like genocide if their own governments are unwilling or unable.”

However, there’s the issue of countries interfering in the internal affairs of another country. The OXFAM official says, “In the past, the discussion has been about governments being entitled to do what they want inside their own country. The important thing about this commitment, agreeing the responsibility to protect, is to say that human life is the most important thing. In the 21st Century, governments must come together to protect human dignity, human life.”