Central Africa: Oxfam Statement, 10/31/97

Central Africa: Oxfam Statement, 10/31/97

Central Africa: Oxfam Statement
Date distributed (ymd): 971031
Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
The ten aid agencies that make up Oxfam International have issued a document calling for an integrated international strategy to address the crisis in the Great Lakes region.The response of the international community has often contributed to the crisis rather than aided to resolve it.Oxfam argues that making the transition from war to peace requires linking all aspects of international engagement to substantially increased levels of support and debt relief while fostering
respect for human rights.

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Oxfam International October 1997


Oxfam International Advocacy Office 1511 "K" Street, Suite 1044, Washington DC 20005, USA Tel: 1 202 393 5332; Fax: 1 202 783 8739; Email: Contact: Justin Forsyth (202-393-5332), Lydia Williams (202-783-7305)

The Importance of Engagement:

A Strategy for Reconstruction in the Great Lakes Region

Excerpts from Press Release, October 21, 1997

Oxfam International today (Tuesday 21 October) called upon the leaders of the UN, IMF, World Bank, the EU, the Organisation of African Unity and national governments to forge a 'contract of commitment' with Central Africa linking all aspects of international engagement to a strategy that supports reconstruction, reduces poverty and fosters respect for human rights.

Oxfam is calling for a plan that offers substantial levels of support and debt relief while fostering respect for human rights, not the failed formulas of the past. Political, military, economic and humanitarian policies to the region should mutually reinforce not undermine one another.

"Only the active participation at the highest level could pull this off, that is why we appeal directly to Kofi Annan, James Wolfensohn, Michel Camdessus, Salim A Salim, Aldo Ajello and national governments to meet urgently to help spearhead a co-ordinated international response that supports recovery and respect for human rights. Failure to demonstrate commitment in this way will only further undermine credibility and influence of the international community with the new breed of political leaders in the region," said Justin Forsyth, Oxfam International.

As part of this coherent and integrated engagement strategy, that includes support for reconstruction and human rights, Oxfam International is calling for a three pronged approach:

1.Substantial new aid, which is fast, flexible and focussed on reducing poverty, curbing excessive military spending, encouraging respect for human rights and increasing people's stake in peace

2.Significant debt relief which goes beyond the present IMF/World Bank Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative. Deeper and quicker debt relief will be needed for post-conflict countries.

3.High level efforts to support a central African regional conference to enable regional governments to develop a settlement to the political, economic and military problems affecting the region.

"This is not just about bigger carrots and bigger sticks but a coherent and integrated strategy that deals with the new political realities and breaks away from the bankrupt 'aid-alone' engagement policies of the past. The past piece-meal approach to the violent events in Central Africa has led to a regional 'confidence-deficit' with the actions and motivations of the international community. Instead of being part of the solution international engagement with the region has often been part of the problem," added Mr Forsyth.

Executive Summary

The defeat of the late President Mobutu in the former Zaire marked a historic moment for Africa. Mobutu's demise has removed a critical obstacle to regional cooperation in the Great Lakes region and beyond. A new axis is emerging across the continent, linking leaders who seek to break the corrupt and colonial ties of the past. This inspires new hope for an end to conflicts in the Great Lakes and provides a chance for like-minded leaders to collaborate in addressing the region's underlying problems. However, conflict and human rights abuses continue throughout the Great Lakes. The need for humanitarian aid persists. Warring parties throughout the region customarily violate international humanitarian law and the protection it offers to civilians. In the new Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.Congo) in mid 1997, UNHCR maintained that 200,000 refugees were still unaccounted for. Unknown numbers are feared dead, deprived of life-saving assistance, or killed by troops. In Burundi, it is estimated that one in every nine people is displaced. Between 100 and 200 refugees flee into Tanzania each day, to join more than 300,000 refugees from D.R.Congo and Burundi. Violent conflict persists alongside the new opportunities for development. The region is half at peace and half at war.

There are reasons to be cautious, to wait and assess the direction of regional events. The region's problems are complex, and there are no simple solutions. However, in this paper, Oxfam International urges the international community - governments, the UN, the EU, the World Bank, the IMF, NGOs, and civil society - to engage with the people and leaders of the region to help them take advantage of the end of the Mobutu era. We argue that it is vital to engage swiftly with the governments of the region, and demonstrate support for their people's needs. Failure to do so, as in Rwanda's case following the genocide of 1994, will serve only to undermine further the credibility and influence of the international community.

Oxfam International has worked in the region for more than thirty years. Our work spans humanitarian relief, reconstruction, development, and advocacy, working with partners to support their efforts to build peace, justice, and stability. The lives of those we work with have been marred by poverty and conflict and by the international policies that contribute to them. These include trade policies that penalize poor countries, international support for an evidently corrupt President Mobutu, the failure to prevent or halt the genocide in Rwanda, the failure to separate bona fide refugees from genocidaires in the camps in Zaire and Tanzania, and the failure to stem the flow of arms to genocidaires. We therefore appeal to the international community to learn from past policy failures and act to help repair the damage. Substantial assistance for reconstruction is required to reduce poverty and to help the region turn away from conflict and towards peace.

However, aid alone is not enough. Given the depth of poverty, the prevalence of violent conflict, and the scale of human rights violations in the Great Lakes, we urge the international community to develop an integrated approach with the governments of the region, linking all aspects of international engagement to a strategy that reduces poverty, averts conflict, and fosters respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. The international community should demonstrate the seriousness of their concerns by varying the degrees of assistance in response to explicit triggers in a way that is both transparent and consistent. Political, economic, military, and humanitarian policies should mutually reinforce rather than undermine one another. For example, TNCs should share and echo Foreign Ministers' concerns about human rights; new aid should not just be recycled for debt payments; and programs to support demobilization and decommissioning of weapons should not be undermined by continued arms sales.

Oxfam International calls for unprecedented coordination between the regional governments, the OAU, the UN, the IMF and World Bank, the EU, and bilateral donors, in conjunction with civil society, in pursuit of a coherent approach to build on hopes for peace and avert further descent into war. The development of a coordinated and coherent strategy, pursued by all the actors, that links the different issues, will take significant political will. This is a huge challenge, because the record of the international community in this respect is poor. Nonetheless, the international community should now remedy past failures with renewed alertness to poverty, the violation of human rights, and a greater commitment to act to prevent conflict. The human and economic costs of not doing so are too great to contemplate.

Oxfam proposes the following as elements of a coherent and coordinated international strategy for the region:

1. AID: provide resources for recovery and development

Donors and the IFIs can best reduce risks of further conflict by:

Providing substantial new aid focused on reducing poverty and increasing people's stake in peace. In the short term, priorities should include restoring livelihoods and rehabilitating social and physical infrastructure. Over the longer term, the region requires assistance to generate growth with equity, in order to address the underlying causes of conflict. This requires collaboration with grassroots organizations, local NGOs, and local and national authorities.

Providing sufficient resources to enable regional governments to implement policies that ensure access to, and equity in, basic health care and education.

Providing medium-term support for recurrent expenditure, rather than imposing limits that unduly constrain the provision of health-care and education. Short-term monetary stabilization should not be prioritized above social investment which is fundamental to recovery and long-term development.

Developing reconstruction funding to provide aid that is flexible and fast-disbursing. Close coordination among donors should minimize funding gaps and the pressure on incipient administrations. Agreement between donors and regional governments on mutual expectations should avoid protracted approval, procurement, and disbursement procedures.

Accompanying reconstruction aid with simultaneous cost-effective measures to build governments' capacity for aid absorption.

Encouraging progress towards the reduction of excessive military expenditure by prioritizing aid for governments that promote poverty-reduction.

Elaborating internationally agreed criteria for carrying out 'conflict impact assessments' on all interventions in situations prone to conflict. The criteria for such assessments should be based on the evaluation of past policies.

2. DEBT: provide substantial and quick debt relief beyond existing mechanisms

This could be achieved through the following measures:

A meeting of the Paris Club, IMF, and World Bank to decide whether to write off the debts of Rwanda and D.R.Congo, or to develop a new mechanism that goes beyond HIPC (note 1) to provide earlier and deeper debt relief for countries emerging from conflict.

Collaboration between the IMF, World Bank, and G8 governments to adopt measures to retrieve Mobutu's ill-gotten fortune, including freezing bank accounts and seizing assets.

In return for debt relief, regional governments, in collaboration with local NGOs, civil society groups, and donors, to make clear commitments to use resources from debt relief for poverty- reduction programs.

3. SECURITY: uphold the right to protection from violence

Measures to achieve this include the following:

Donor governments to provide assistance to regional governments' programs for the demobilization of soldiers and decommissioning of weapons.

The regional governments to intensify efforts to build national, accountable, and professional armies which will ensure the security of all their citizens.

The UN, EU, and OAU to adopt a restrictive international arms code to limit the supply of arms (including small arms) to governments responsible for human rights abuses, including specific measures to address illicit arms flows.

EU member states to uphold their agreements under the program for preventing and combating illicit trafficking in conventional arms.

4. JUSTICE: reinvigorate international efforts to end impunity

This could be achieved through:

The provision of substantial support from donor governments for regional efforts to rebuild the judiciary in Rwanda and to reform the judiciary in Burundi and D.R.Congo.

Measures by the regional governments to denounce, investigate, and punish extra-judicial killings.

Improved cooperation between the international community and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to bring criminals to justice, complying with UNSC Resolution 978 on arresting and extraditing suspects in, and outside, the region.

5. POLITICAL TRANSFORMATION: support the region to devise its own solutions

Oxfam recommends the following measures:

Regional governments to strengthen structures of participation and decision-making, from the local to the regional level, to increase people's say in their future. In D.R. Congo, this will lead to free and fair elections by April 1999 as announced by President Kabila.

Donor governments, the EU, UN, OAU, IFIs, and NGOs to underpin all their interventions with measures to entrench and expand the right of all people to participate fully in discussions and decisions that affect their lives, in particular devising ways to seek out the views, and strengthen the voices of the powerless and the poor.

6. REGIONAL AGREEMENTS: support a sustained regional process

To support the efforts of the governments of the region already underway:

Oxfam urges the UN/OAU Special Representative Mohamed Sahnoun to convene a Great Lakes regional conference to mark the renewed commitment to regional cooperation, and to enable the regional governments to develop a strategy for cooperation that allows for the coordination of their current initiatives. Agenda items could include promoting the free movement of goods and people in the region, boosting trade, maximizing the use of the region's resources, and curbing the circulation of arms. This process should also link elements of civil society, such as women's groups, small businesses, and religious leaders, and enable them to share their concerns and priorities with governments.

7. INVESTMENT: reduce poverty, avoid conflict, and promote human rights

This could be achieved by measures including the following:

The inclusion of social and environmental obligations in bilateral investment protection and promotion agreements (IPPAs).

The development of voluntary codes of conduct by TNCs, with independent monitoring and verification of internationally accepted social and environmental standards. Any collaboration in official aid programs should be contingent on the adoption of an agreed code of conduct.

Concerted action by foreign investors and the international community to promote respect for human rights.

The establishment by OECD governments of a formal mechanism for consultation with the OAU to ensure that the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) will allow governments to regulate investment in accordance with national development priorities, maximizing the benefits to host populations.

8. TRADE: support the diversification of the region's economy

Measures to achieve this could include the following:

Collaboration between regional governments, donor governments, and the IFIs to pursue the diversification of regional exports, taking care to protect each country's comparative advantage in relation to other less-developed countries (LDCs).

International support for policies that increase off-farm activities and create jobs outside the agricultural sector, to raise rural incomes and protect food security.

Support from donor governments to address the supply-side constraints on trade by increasing aid for health-care, education, infrastructure, and technology transfers, to rehabilitate the rural economy and ailing enterprises.

Action by OECD countries to make rules of origin more flexible, and to apply zero tariffs for the products of LDCs, in order to improve market access, and allow diversification into value-added products.


From: Message-Id: <> Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 08:40:14 -0500 Subject: Central Africa: Oxfam Statement

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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