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....

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