Go Jackie!

Stand's own ubiquitous Jackie Bonisteel has an op-ed published in The Charlatan, Carleton's independent newspaper. There's nothing to comment upon - she says it all. A must read! Continue reading this article...

Standing above the Fray: Kate Heartfield & Ben Hoffman

I would like to point out another great blog post put up by Kate Heartfield at the Ottawa Citizen on her blog the World Next Door. Once again focused on Darfur, this time she posts the transcript of a meeting with Ben Hoffman, the Green Party candidate for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke and a world class conflict mediator.

The comments that Mr. Hoffman makes are extremely interesting because they are based on past experiences. In 2000 he was given the task of bringing about peace between the North and South in Sudan by ex-President Carter. That war had raged on and off since the country's independence in 1956, with the 1990s seeing some particularly brutal violence as the government in Khartoum began arming and supporting proxy militias to do their dirty work for them (sound familiar?). Particularly brutal were the campaigns waged to clear the oil fields of certain ethnic groups that identified as Southerners (African, Christian or animist) as opposed to Northerners (Muslim, Arab).

As with Darfur, this conflict was extremely intractable. As with Darfur, heinous crimes were committed by both sides, though the government in Khartoum definitely stands out as particularly savage. As with Darfur, it required a sustained and committed international effort to bring about a peace agreement.

Ben Hoffman saw all this first hand. It really pleases me to hear a candidate discussing how it is possible to solve seemingly intractable conflicts through unified and consistent international pressure. Too often politicians as well as citizens get caught up in the myth of "primordial hatreds" in which the conflicts are seen as too deep and complicated to ever realistically address. This is not true.

Similarly, it is wonderful to hear Mr. Hoffman talk about the ways in which Canada can take a lead on this issue. No one doubts that the US (and now China) have to be involved in some way, but it is refreshing to hear someone admit that Canada has the ability to get the process rolling and keep it on track.

Another aspect of his comments that stood out to me is the mention of a Canadian Special Envoy to Sudan in 2000. Now, why, oh why did Sudan merit a special envoy back then but not now? Why is this not being more seriously considered as a policy option? This just proves that such a move is possible and can possibly play a big role in working towards a peace agreement.

Don't get me wrong: there are quite a few differences between the North-South conflict and the situation in Darfur, not least of all the myriad of fractured rebel groups in Darfur and the ICC indictment against the President of Sudan. It cannot be doubted, however, the importance of taking lessons learned from the resolution of that past conflict and applying them wherever possible to the current conflict.

Congratulations to Ben Hoffman of the Green Party (and Kate Heartfield) for pointing that out. Continue reading this article...

I'm sorry, but how is that different again?

Embassy Magazine on foreign policy has an article praising the Liberal Party for mentioning key issues such as Darfur in their platform but criticizing them for lacking substance.

As it stands now, the Liberal platform has this to say on Darfur:

In Sudan, the United Nations faces an historic test. January 2008 marked the deployment of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission to Darfur. If fully deployed, it will be the biggest peacekeeping mission in history. Canada has a duty to ensure this mission succeeds and a Liberal government will ensure Canada does its part. As a first step, a Liberal government would contribute resources to the mission so it can contract the tactical and heavy lift helicopters it needs.

Here at Stand, we are encouraged and excited to see the situation in Sudan mentioned in the party platform, especially in the context of proposing some sort of action. BUT...I cannot help but agree with the Embassy Magazine a bit.

While it's great to see the Liberal Party commit to the peacekeeping mission in Darfur, this paragraph does not really inspire a lot of confidence in a new and compelling direction towards the situation. It promises to commit "resources" to the mission, but the current Canadian government is already the second largest voluntary contributor to the mission. It emphasizes the need for helicopters but doesn't mention where those helicopters will come from.

Furthermore, in nine pages of foreign policy pledges, the Liberal Party never mentions the peace process in Darfur, or Sudan as a whole. This is extremely disappointing as, at the end of the day, the peacekeeping mission can only be as good as the peace agreement it is sent to support. Currently, there is no peace agreement, making the peacekeepers's job extremely vague and difficult.

Without an inclusive peace agreement, the joint UN-AU peacekeeping force will not be able to effectively stop the killings, no matter how many helicopters they have (though a few would definitely help). The best form of support, therefore, a future Canadian government can give the mission is to vigorously and whole-heartedly support a comprehensive and inclusive peace process in unison with a committed group of other states. That would be a commitment that would drastically differ from the current government's approach to the conflict. Continue reading this article...

Continue reading this article...

Ontario Young Liberals on Darfur

The Ontario Young Liberals (OYL) have just sent us their resolution on Darfur. A big presence at many Stand fundraisers and gatherings, the OYL deserve a big ol' thanks for their constant support and encouragement of Stand. Please read below:

A Policy to End the Atrocities in Darfur

Submitted by Terry Chemij, Etobicoke Centre Federal Young Liberals

WHEREAS reports suggest approximately 400,000 people have been killed as a result of the conflict in Darfur;

WHEREAS approximately 2.5 million people are displaced in Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic in refugee and internally displaced persons camps (IDP);

WHEREAS life in the IDP and refugee camps is decrepit due to a lack of basic life necessities, sporadic attacks from the Janjaweed, and an overall lack of security;

WHEREAS violence against women, including acts of sexual assault and rape are commonly used as a tool of war within the camps and in Darfur;

WHEREAS the severely under equipped African Union (AU) troops have been unable to control the violence, or protect the people of Darfur and international humanitarian workers; therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that the OYL urge the Canadian Government to contribute military and or civilian personnel to facilitate the essential operational policies of UNAMID to ensure an efficient and effective peacekeeping mission.

Continue reading this article...

Standing with the World Next Door

The wonderfully astute Kate Heartfield has a post at the moment on her blog the World Next Door about Stand's Speak the Name campaign and the importance of making Darfur an election issue.

As most of you know, Speak the Name works by rewarding politicians who mention Darfur or Sudan in their campaign. We give them free publicity and possibly even volunteers.

Check it out and check out some of her other posts as well. Leave her a note - Thank her for talking about Darfur. It seems to me that Canadians really need to start a coherent debate about our place in the world, and kudos to Kate for picking up the challenge. Continue reading this article...

Weekly Update

Darfur in the Canadian Media this week:

Escaping From Genocide - Montreal Gazette (by the way, has anyone read this book, "Tears of the Desert" by Halima Bashir? I'd like to hear feedback...)

Thousands Flee Darfur Heavy Fighting - Toronto Star

Court Probing Deadly Darfur Camp Attack
- Toronto Star

It's As if Evil Itself Had Come to Our Village
- Toronto Star

Survivor of Darfur horrors rejects calls for her silence - Times Colonist
Continue reading this article...

Perspectives from Sudan

This morning, I attended a little panel discussion at the Church Center in New York City on the situation in Sudan and the consequences of the decision by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to seek an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The venue was small and two of the speakers were Darfuris, making it a good arena to hear some important points of view.

While most of the discussion went back and forth between the usual blend of tentative optimism and fear of disaster, there were a couple very informative points that I'd like to pick up on.

First and foremost, all of the panelists agreed that what's missing in the international community is any form of CONSISTENCY. With the possibility of an ICC indictment against key government leaders, there is a real chance for the international community to get its act together and come up with a strategy. The United Nations Security Council has the option of suspending any possible indictment under Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which could be turned into leverage against the government to make them engage in the peace process and follow through on their commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. While many human rights groups are against politicizing the ICC like this, there is a very real tension between justice and peace (and humanitarians not being kicked out of the country) which could be resolved to some extent by a well-thought out application of Article 16. Of course, this sort of consistency and coherency on the part of the international community has yet to be seen and probably won't be in the near future due to the chaos surrounding elections in the US and Canada. Additionally, the panelists seemed to think that Bashir probably wouldn't shape up even if Article 16 were invoked.

A second point that was brought up that really interests me is the fact that the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and the South created a little bit of space in Sudan for civil society and opposition groups in the country. I believe it was Fabienne Hara from the International Crisis Group who made the point that, for all the international community hates the government of Sudan, they do very little to engage Sudanese human rights groups, good governance groups, civil society, and opposition groups. An organization like Stand actually may have a chance to lead the way on this by getting to know respectable groups operating in Sudan (of which I don't know any yet) and figuring out how to support them. This point was further driven home by Salih Mahmoud Osman, a prominent Darfuri lawyer, recent speaker at McGill, and friend of Irwin Cotler, who said that Western attention and support can actually protect civil society groups from government repression. It seems to me that the idea of engaging with Sudanese human rights groups is a no-brainer and should be something that even the Canadian government could do in the future. The only possible danger, brought up by a colleague at work later, was the possibility that many of these groups have a strong presence of the Sudanese security apparatus. I have no idea to what extent this is true but it certainly seems plausible. At the same time, however, it doesn't kill my interest in pursuing the idea anyway. I have a few business cards and could possibly follow up on this so please leave comments to express your opinions on this issue.

Other than those two points, there were many interesting insights into the state of domestic politics in Khartoum and the future of elections, but I'm tired right now so you don't get to hear about it. Feel free to send me a comment or email if you would like more info. Continue reading this article...

Braver than I

The duo Mattafix are slightly crazy but definitely have their hearts in the right place. In this video for their song "Living Darfur" they actually film along the Chad-Darfur border, and have some wonderful shots of life in the region, replete with smiling children, soccer matches, and the lead singer bringing his club moves to the desert. Check it out.

Continue reading this article...

Speaking the Name: Out of the Gate with Simard and Neville

Here at Stand, we are determined to make the crisis in Darfur an important election issue for all Canadian parties. So...people within Stand much brighter than myself have devised the brilliantly catchy Speak the Name effort.

What is Speak the Name? Basically, when a politician mentions Darfur, we give that politician a bit of free press and publicity, regardless of the party. And seeing as how most politicians in an election cycle really like being supported by a vast network of active young folk, this really has the potential to get them fired up about finding a solution to the crisis in Darfur.

In fact, the Liberal Party has just given us a wonderful example to start things off in the right direction. This just in from Liberal candidates Raymond Simard and Anita Neville:

"Raymond Simard, MP for St. Boniface and Anita Neville, MP for Winnipeg South Centre, together with a team of Manitoba Liberal candidates chose the future site of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to announce that a future Liberal government would provide real aid and action on Darfur, as well as promoting human rights and international agreements that the Conservative government of Stephen Harper has abandoned."

Below that, they outline a four point plan to bring peace to Darfur: 1) appointing a regional coordinator and increasing aid and trade to Africa, 2) "rescuing" the North-South peace process, 3) committing to the Darfur peace process through a contact group and pressuring China, and 4) strengthening the peacekeeping force currently in Darfur.

There are a few really exciting parts of this outline for action. First of all, the idea of appointing a regional coordinator sounds very similar to Stand's longstanding recommendation for a Special Envoy to the region. It would show the rest of the world how serious the Canadian government is about this crisis and streamline efforts to bring about a solution. Has the Liberal Party been reading our policy recommendations in the Darfur Digest by any chance?

Second, these candidates seem to recognize the importance of an "all-Sudan" approach to addressing the conflict in Darfur. Focusing on Darfur without paying attention to the fragile North-South peace agreement signed in 2005 risks toppling the country back into an even more devastating civil war. Kudos to you, Simard and Neville, for having a slightly more sophisticated understanding of the situation.

Third, the United Nations-African Union joint peacekeeping force could really use some help, both politically and in terms of resources and expertise. It is often said that a peacekeeping force can only be effective if there is a peace to keep. At the moment, there are numerous cracked and shattered ceasefires and no signs of a peace agreement on the horizon. A contact group is a good idea to unify interested powers behind one approach to the peace process. In fact, this is a similar strategy to the one that was taken by international powers to bring about the North-South peace deal of 2005. And China needs to be included and engaged for this sort of pressure to be effective. (Another one of our longstanding recommendations...)

In terms of resources, the recent killing of 7 peacekeepers in July attests to the difficulties faced by an under-resourced, under-manned peacekeeping unit. It is yet to be seen what the Liberals actually mean by "strengthening the peacekeeping mission," but recognition of the problem is a very good first step.

So anyway, thank you Raymond Simard and Anita Neville for helping make Darfur an election issue! I look forward to a response from the other parties.... Continue reading this article...

Welcome to the Stand Blog!

Stand Canada is a collection of students, volunteers, and other Canadians unwilling to be complicit in genocide or crimes against humanity. We make it easy to act against genocide by providing people with the tools they need to affect policy. Currently, we are focusing on protecting civilians and bringing about a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Darfur.

On this blog, we hope to keep people informed on all the subjects having to do with genocide and Canadian policy. We'll praise the most supportive politicians and criticize hair-brained or lack-luster policies. We'll highlight international human rights movements and keep you updated on shocking news items. There'll be links to smart people saying interesting things and recommendations for good reading material, conferences, and other goodies.

I personally hope for lively discussions in the comments section. This will be the place to praise your local politician for speaking out against civilian deaths in Darfur or to criticize your government for not providing peacekeepers to the United Nations-African Union force in Sudan - whatever you want to say. Continue reading this article...