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UN Reform: Small number of countries holding UN world summit hostage on human rights, security and poverty

These governments have thrown negotiations on the final outcome text into crisis just days away from the biggest meeting of world leaders in history on September 14-16 in New York.

The three organisations, alongside the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, the world's largest anti-poverty movement, said that the actions of a small number of countries threaten to sabotage the summit.

The objections of some of these states appear intended to block adoption of a meaningful agreement, rather than to strengthen the current draft or address legitimate concerns.

The leading "spoilers" vary on different issues, but together their activities are seriously weakening draft agreements on the Human Rights Council, poverty reduction and preventing genocide despite support from the majority of governments for these measures.

The proposal to create a new Human Rights Council that can sit throughout the year, review human rights in all countries and address all human rights situations, is intended to be a key achievement of the World Summit.

It has won the endorsement of an overwhelming majority of states from all regions of the world. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are expressing grave concern, however, that some 15 countries, led by Cuba and including Venezuela, Burma, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Belarus, Vietnam, and Syria, are blocking any movement on this important reform.

Amnesty International's Representative at the UN Yvonne Terlingen said:

"Only strong and ambitious reform can overcome the power politics, double standards and selectivity that have tarnished the image of the current Commission on Human Rights. World leaders must be visionary and bold if they are not to squander this unique opportunity."

Human Rights Watch's Global Advocacy Director Peggy Hicks said:

"The possibility that a small number of states with deeply troubling human rights records could block the creation of a more effective human rights body is not only ironic, it is disgraceful. Millions of men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights are looking to this Summit for something better than a forum for horse-trading on human rights."

Oxfam is very concerned that a small number of countries are determined to block an historic draft measure on governments' "responsibility to protect civilians" that could stop future genocides such as Rwanda from ever occurring.

Countries trying to block this include:

  • India
  • Egypt
  • Algeria
  • Pakistan
  • Venezuela
  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Syria
  • Russia

The United States is also trying to weaken the measure, and is now proposing to cut "the obligation" to protect and replace it with "the moral responsibility".

Nicola Reindorp, the head of Oxfam's New York Office, said:

"African governments pressing for agreement on the measure to prevent genocide are urging the world to act. Yet a few spoiler governments look set to dash hopes for agreement on this life-saving move."

The USA 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.

In addition, the US wants to cut references to small arms controls from the outcome document.

The Chair of the Global Call to Action against Poverty Kumi Naidoo said:

"We are in real danger of seeing commitments made by all governments five years ago on poverty reduction being eroded at the UN World Summit. We cannot allow developing countries to be bullied into agreeing to an outcome that will fail the majority of the world's people."

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