Water Wars

In the spirit of the Copenhagen climate negotiations I thought it would be appropriate to discuss Darfur in the context of climate change. Darfur is perhaps the first armed conflict sparked by environmental erosion –particularly drought- and judging by the severity of the fighting it is rather disturbing to imagine how resource conflicts between major armed powers (for example, competition for water between Pakistan, India and China) might unfold in the near future. Indeed, professional militaries around the world have already commissioned studies into the potential for climate change-induced warfare. For these reasons Darfur is more than another example of civil war, of which it is not even the latest, but a dark omen for a future that may well materialize around the world if the Copenhagen talks fail to decisively address climate change.

Darfur activists have been accused of ignoring the environmental roots of the conflict, arguing that such attention absolves the Sudanese government of any wrong-doing despite its brutal military response to the region’s suffering. However, it is critical that we recognize desertification as the crucial element of the conflict’s outbreak, and acknowledge that without an alternative source of water no lasting peace can be sustained in the region.

In recent years climate scientists have plugged historical records of sea-surface temperatures into atmospheric computer models and concluded that African monsoons will decline still further, leaving the continent with less water. As the Sahara desert maintains its relentless march southward nomadic herders from northern Darfur are becoming increasingly dependent on the more plentiful water supplies of southern farmers. Where historically cultivated water agreements once governed the peaceful distribution of the precious resource, northern arrivals are now finding themselves forced to pay for access to wells. With a 40 percent decline in annual rainfall over the past 25-30 years, sedentary farmers feel obligated to guard their water against outsiders.

The competition for water does not end in Darfur, however, but reaches across the border into Chad where countless refugees queue up every day for miserable rations of water from humanitarian agencies. Water is no more plentiful in Chad than it is in Darfur with Lake Chad, that great inland sea that once sustained twenty million people in west-central Africa, losing 90 percent of its surface area over the past three decades. With Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger heavily dependent on the fast disappearing reservoir, a far broader conflict threatens to erupt on the very doorstep of Darfur.

Underground reservoirs may offer an alternative, though temporary, source of water. A more permanent supply of water may be provided by artificial catchment basins, a system that is simple enough to be built at the community level and therefore easier to repair and maintain in the absence of technical experts from humanitarian agencies. Whatever the response, without arable land Darfur refugees can never return to their homes, and without land local authorities cannot build political alliances, conclude land deals or buy-off other tribes. In short, without land the social fabric of Darfur unravels. Darfur, Sudan and the entirety of central Africa can expect no permanent peace without water. The world should take heed, for what were problems once considered exclusive to Africa are fast becoming global.

Relief Web, “Sudan: Climate change escalates Darfur crisis,” http://www.reliefweb.int/rwarchive/rwb.nsf/db900sid/EKOI-75H3R9?OpenDocument&Click=

Global Policy Forum, “Shrinking of Lake Chad,” http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/198/40377.html

Stephen Faris, “The Real Roots of Darfur,” The Atlantic Monthly April 2007.

Also see Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer. Continue reading this article...

We've moved

Dear readers,

The STAND Blog is no longer being updated at this address. Please continue to read the blog on our main website at www.standcanada.org. For those reading us through RSS, please update the feed URL to standcanada.org/feed.
Continue reading this article...

Darfur Digest - October 2009

The October 2009 issue is now available.

Stand Canada's Darfur Digest is a report which contains analysis on current events relevant to the crisis in Darfur and offers a unique Canadian perspective.
This month, the digest chronicles developments in four areas: The Negotiations and Peace Process, Humanitarian Affairs and Security, The Friends of UNAMID, and Darfur in Canadian Politics.

NEW: The Digest has undergone a design overhaul. We will be continuing to improve the format over the next months.

Continue reading this article...

A Big Day!

Vote for google to give money to create a genocide early warning system!


BREAKING NEWS: Canada supplies Darfur peacekeepers with equipment http://ow.ly/tbNs Continue reading this article...

Peacekeeping Privatized: Mercenaries and the future of humanitarian intervention

The fighting in Sierra Leone ended rather abruptly, considering three years of civil war had been resolved in little more than a month. In Freetown, the British Parachute Regiment had secured the international airport and was busy evacuating British nationals. Just offshore a powerful British naval task force, one of the largest assembled since the Falklands War, waited in support. While international media was riveted by British efforts to prop up the failing UN peacekeeping mission, British forces were not acting alone. On land, deep in the interior of the tiny West African nation, another army was busy mopping up the shattered remnants of Liberian President Charles Taylor’s proxy child militias. This army wore no patches revealing identity and belonging, and while it was fighting under the banner of Sierra Leone, it was beyond the reach of that government’s jurisdiction. This army was in fact Executive Outcomes of South Africa, one of the first private military companies (PMCs, better known as mercenaries) to offload responsibilities from militaries that were either too weak (such as Sierra Leone) or too expensive (such as the United States) to go it alone. It is likely that PMCs will see more business in civil wars and humanitarian operations. So the question is: if Executive Outcomes was so effective in ending the fighting in Sierra Leone, could another mercenary firm provide better security for Darfur?

Hundreds of mercenary firms are operating around the world today, most offering training and logistical support to their varied clientele (sometimes governments, sometimes rebel movements, sometimes crime lords). The largest firms, however, such as Executive Outcomes during the late 1990s and Blackwater Worldwide today (now Xe Services LLC), are capable of deploying their own self-sufficient combat units trained in VIP and convoy protection and offensive operations. With mercenary firms handling a rapidly expanding repertoire of military operations it was inevitable that peacekeeping would be suggested as well.

In the July/August 2009 issue of the Atlantic Monthly (“Quick Fixes”) James S. Gibney argued that mercenaries offer the most effective solution to civil conflicts around the world. Gibney points out that despite the deployment of more than 18,000 peacekeepers to the Congo the UN has failed to protect the lives of millions since first arriving in 1999. With echoes of Srebrenica, one contingent of UN soldiers “failed to stop a massacre of 150 people taking place less than a mile away.” Other troops have rearmed militias by trading their weapons for ivory, gold and drugs.

Gibney argues that mercenaries, “small, highly-trained” strike forces who are proven insurgency-killers, offer the most promising future for peacekeeping. Most importantly, mercenaries will “go where they’re paid to go” (Gibney), allowing governments to act regardless of public opinion or military constraints. Prominent military historian Max Boot worries that without the more formidable security capabilities of PMCs, the many “pieces of paper” produced by the recurring rounds of negotiations will never carry any significance. So should the United Nations start thinking about deploying mercenaries on peacekeeping missions? Or is the use of private military forces more dangerous than Gibney and Boot would have us believe? A review of the following considerations may help clarify the issue.

-Casualties have undermined Western war efforts since Vietnam, and the images of a dead American soldier being dragged through the dusty streets of Mogadishu in 1994 effectively killed Operation Restore Hope. However, because mercenaries are not members of national militaries, their deaths are not included in the official casualty counts released to the public. If you want more sustained support for a combat mission use mercenaries to lessen the number of casualties that appear on the evening news. Few people can sympathize with shadowy organizations whose official presence is secreted by the government, and media will not be as interested in reporting their losses.

-Possibly the most professional soldiers in the world, many mercenaries are veterans of elite commando units such as the British Special Air Service. Their ranks are filled by adventurers, fortune seekers, unemployed soldiers and idealists. Whatever their individual backgrounds they make for a highly potent rank and file. However, few mercenaries have any familiarity with the more delicate demands of humanitarian intervention, operations that require significant restraint and flexibility (as we will see below, these are not skills common to PMCs).

In addition to employing soldiers with elite military training, security companies also arm their mercenaries with considerable firepower. While operating in Iraq, for example, employees of Blackwater Worldwide regularly hit the streets of Baghdad armed with M4 rifles, M240B machine guns and M203 40-millimeter grenade launchers, backed up by armoured cars and attack helicopters. The larger firms are also equipped with significant intelligence and logistics assets which can be used to support their own armies or those of national governments.

For small and medium military powers like Canada, mercenaries offer governments a readily available force multiplier, that is, they provide a trained and self-sufficient army ready for deployment upon payment. The Canadian government can hire a mercenary firm to provide such services as logistical support and intelligence in Darfur, even though most of the Army’s strength is already committed to Afghanistan.

-The occupation of Iraq has demonstrated that private military contractors operate in a legal grey zone, apparently immune from both civilian and military law. This is particularly worrisome given the amount of firepower they carry and their willingness to use it. In 2007, while escorting a VIP convoy, Blackwater operatives massacred 17 civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square after receiving enemy fire. While it was quickly established that the convoy had not come under attack and the killings unjustified, Blackwater was not seriously punished and resumed operations after a short hiatus.

The legal vacuum that protects PMCs is partially a result of their sudden reappearance in conflict zones. Where state security forces are subject to a detailed legal code developed over hundreds of years, there has been insufficient time to integrate mercenary forces into military law, or develop parallel legal structures for PMCs alone. Nor is this likely to happen anytime soon. Because civil law prohibits the state from interfering in the personnel affairs of a private corporation, it is up to the PMC to ensure that its mercenaries respect national laws and international regulations.

-But modern military contractors have raised more ethical challenges than legal ambiguities alone. As Rolf Uesseler wrote in his introduction to Servants of War,
“Seldom is it clear for whom they’re fighting, or who pays them or has sent them into action. Often no one can say to whom they’re responsible, if indeed anyone. Nor is anyone in any great hurry to inquire where they acquired their state-of-the-art military hardware, including tanks, attack helicopters, grenades, and missiles.”

-Finally, even if mercenaries were deployed in place of national soldiers as UN peacekeepers, they would (presumably) still have to operate under a United Nations mandate, one that is just as prohibitive to private soldiers as public ones. Gibney and Boot can argue that PMCs would bring their professionalism and resources to Darfur and deal with insecurity more effectively than the present UN mission, but it seems unlikely that Khartoum would consent to anything other than a traditional UN deployment, that is, one with national contingents and Security Council mandates. Using mercenaries as peacekeepers would be too tempting a loophole for Khartoum to ignore, and its inevitable demands for immediate withdrawal would carry some real legitimacy.

Some more pros and cons in point form:

-Pro: Rapid deployment of military forces to conflict zones.
-Pro: Potential UN area of operations expanded.
-Con: Use by the UN endows PMCs with significant legitimacy.
-Con: Refugees protected by PMCs viewed as "taking sides", making them
more legitimate military targets. (Uesseler 196).
-Con: Aid organizations protected by PMCs lose their neutrality.
*See Uesseler Servants of War
So what do you think? Should we “unleash the dogs of peace” as Gibney and Boot advocate, or resist the temptation to use (probably more effective) mercenary forces in Darfur, thereby confronting the ethical dilemmas of using mercenaries more generally?

James S. Gibney, "Unleash the Dogs of Peace?" Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2009.

Max Boot, "Send in the mercenaries: Darfur needs someone to stop the bloodshed, not more empty UN promises. Council on Foreign Relations", http://www.cfr.org/publication/10798/send_in_the_mercenaries.html

Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The rise of the world’s most powerful mercenary army, (New York: Nation Books, 2007).

Rolf Uesseler, Servants of War: Private Military Corporations and the Profit of Conflict, (Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 2008).

Nicholas D. Kristof, "Sending Mercenaries Into Darfur", The New York Times

Blackwater’s ‘humanitarian’ subsidiary: Greystone LTD., http://www.greystone-ltd.com/security.html Continue reading this article...

What ARE they doing? Part Three

Photograph from Government of Canada, http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/sudan-soudan/assets/images/10-03-10.jpg.

I’d like to start this entry by apologising for the long hiatus in my blog entries. This was partly due to the fact that I spent the month of July doing research in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which was fascinating, difficult, and above all, time-consuming!

I’m now back and would like to pick up where I left off, which is with looking at security, the third and final pillar in Canada’s three-pronged strategy towards Sudan (the other pillars are aid and diplomacy). Here I return to the Canadian government’s website on Sudan – which, just to remind you, can be found at http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/sudan-soudan/index.aspx. According to this site, Canada is a contributor to both of the UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan: the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS). The government reports that “in addition to diplomatic, financial and material support, Canada has committed up to 50 Canadian Forces personnel and 25 civilian police officers to these peacekeeping operations in Sudan.”

The website explains that “Canada provides, on a voluntary basis, training and equipment for African countries deploying civilian police, military and Formed Police Units (FPUs) to UNAMID” – the example given is Canada’s provision of GILA armoured vehicles and non-armoured equipment to four African FPUs taking part in UNAMID: two units from Senegal, one from Burkina Faso, and one from Uganda. Apparently Canada also funds training “to help prepare peacekeeping personnel and units deploying to UNAMID,” part of which was carried out by the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, but concrete details of this training are not provided on the site.

Operation Saturn, the website tells us, refers to the deployment of “Canadian Forces personnel...to UNAMID to provide needed expertise.” Task Force Darfur is the name given to Canada’s UNAMID contingent, which is commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Ken Moore and is headquartered at El Fasher. The contingent has seven members of personnel: three logistics experts working at the headquarters of UNAMID, and four soldiers who train UNAMID troops in the operation of Grizzly and Husky AVGPs (which stands for ‘armoured vehicles, general purpose’) lent to the mission by the Canadian government.

Finally, Canada is currently the co-chair (with the US) of the “Friends of UNAMID,” a group made up of UN member states with an interest in the mission, as well as UN personnel. According to the website, this group meets regularly “to facilitate the swift and full deployment of UNAMID and coordinate donor support for the mission.”
Previous to Canadian support to UNAMID, Canada also supported the old African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) – the precursor to UNAMID – from 2004 to 2007. The website states that Canada was “one of the most important donors to AMIS,” providing “essential airlift and ground transportation, as well as targeted expert deployments of civilian police and Canadian Forces personnel to the mission” within the framework of Operation Augural.

Operation Augural, as Canada’s military involvement with AMIS, had the aim of building “capacity in the areas of strategic planning, air operations, contracting, logistics and operations planning, and land operations with the Canadian “armoured vehicle, general purpose”, or AVGP.” Canada began supporting the mission in 2004, contributing “basic army equipment, including helmets, body armour, and maps,” totalling over 104 million dollars. Then, in 2005, the Canadian government lent 105 AVGPs, to Senegal, Rwanda, and Nigeria, three troop-contributing countries. As mentioned above, this loan was later extended to UNAMID for a three-year period from 31 December 2007 to 30 June 2009 under the auspices of Operation Saturn). Finally, the website refers to “[a]viation assistance provided by Canadian contracted helicopters to AMIS,” particularly during the transition from AMIS to the UNAMID mission. Canada’s mission of support to AMIS was named Task Force Addis Ababa., made up of 11 members of the Canadian Forces. This included five working in mission support, as well as with the Darfur Integrated Task Force (DITF) in Addis Ababa, two working on contracts and logistics in Khartoum, and four based in El Fashir in Darfur, providing “logistics support” and training Nigerian, Rwandan, and Senegalese troops in the use of the AVGPs.

Finally, Canada also supports the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Sudan, or UNMIS, through Operation Safari, which is “the military component of the Canadian whole-of-government engagement in southern Sudan.” This refers to the deployment of members of the Canadian Forces, as well as civilian police officers, who have been deployed to Sudan’s southern region “as peacekeepers and military observers.” The contingent of Canadian Forces personnel, Task Force Sudan, includes 30 members. 20 of these act as United Nations Military Observers (UNMOs) across southern Sudan; another eight are staff members at UNMIS Headquarters in the Sudanese capital; and another two are with the “Canadian support element in Khartoum.”

UNAMID’s ongoing shortfall is well-known – particularly in terms of troops and helicopters – but could Canada do more than what it is already doing? In terms of troops, it is certainly falling woefully short, with no more than 50 Canadian Armed Forces personnel committed throughout the different peacekeeping missions that have been established for Sudan. What of helicopters and other essential equipment for the mission – can Canada be doing more than it is? According to the website itself, other than the “GILA armoured vehicles and non-armoured equipment” that Canada is providing to UNAMID, it appears that much-needed helicopters have not been a part of what Canada has able to provide, or willing to press other countries to provide. What is the reason for this? What is Canada currently doing as co-chair of the Friends of UNAMID? Watch this space... Continue reading this article...

Stand in the Summer

Guest Post by Anne Wagner, Principal Director

It's a Thursday in August - I would surmise that the majority of young Canadians, and our Stand members, are trying to make the most of their summers today, be it by working to earn money to get through the year, relaxing with friends and family while they can, traveling to see the world...all things we need to do rejuvenate ourselves and keep ourselves sane and functioning throughout the next year.

Summer is a relatively quiet time for Stand, at least outwardly so. We don't put on major events, our chapters aren't making splashes in the local and national news, our members aren't hosting and speaking at rallies...but the organization hums along quietly and with building momentum in the background. Summer is the time when here at National we take a step back and review our year, to try to gauge the impact of what we have done, and plan for the upcoming year. We toss around ideas, formulate plans and agree on a vision.

But that vision needs to be shared by all of Stand, which is why we hold a National conference, where we invite our members from all of our teams and chapters to attend and plan and learn to advocate even better together. This year we're changing our pattern - we used to have our conference in May so that we could have meetings with Members of Parliament in Ottawa before the House of Commons rose for the summer. This year, we will be having our conference in very early October to strengthen our chapters and team at the beginning of the year, once they have recruited new members. And this year, our action item won't focus on advocacy meetings, it will focus on activism in another context and on the focus for the year - growth. Now is the time to focus on growing the grassroots support for the anti-genocide movement, to give strength to our policy recommendations. Our conference will have a large component focusing on growth, and on capturing the attention of your community and new supporters. Check back at www.standcanada.org and here for further details about conference applications in the coming weeks.

I used to feel like we weren't doing enough in the summers, that I personally could have been doing more that would tangibly make a difference for the people of Darfur. But I've come to realize that the work of planning, of getting ourselves organized, inspired and pulling in the same direction, actually elicits better results in the long run. We are able to execute bigger campaigns, have stronger teams and see more impact and change when we take a step back over the summer and figure out our next moves. So Standers, enjoy your summers, take a break and rejuvenate, and spend a little time planning your next move. We'll speak to you in a few weeks.

Continue reading this article...

Point of Resistance

In recent years cash-strapped media services have closed foreign bureaus around the world and dropped foreign correspondents from their permanent payrolls. Inevitably, the quality of journalism has declined, with correspondents reporting from distant cities or traveling abroad only when a promising story develops (called ‘parachute journalists,’ they often lack the regional expertise necessary for effective reporting). The trend towards lean coverage is worrying, with reporters failing to convey the many ambiguities that make conflicts so difficult to resolve. Worse, with such diminished numbers of correspondents in the field, the public no longer benefits from the “diversity [of opinions and analysis] and competition” that once defined foreign correspondence. Darfur itself has been effortlessly described as an ethnic struggle between identifiable aggressors and victims, invaders and invaded, foreigners and natives. This frame is sufficiently concise to satisfy the lean editorial standards of the ‘wire,’ but not the kind of image Darfur needs to establish a lasting peace.

Of course, so long as media consumers show no appetite for more comprehensive and time-consuming analysis, media outlets will not bother to front the money necessary to provide it. But in a world where global problems demand global solutions, where even the distant conflict in Sudan is only days away by plane, reliable and accurate journalism must be joined with an attentive public. Without a committed public, the thinning ranks of foreign correspondents have little choice but to rewrite Darfur in sensationalist frames. These frames offer nothing to the conflict’s resolution but are vastly more user friendly, that is, they pack a lot of excitement and emotion in a very small package.

The power to reverse media’s march towards bare-bones sensationalism lies in the internet, both in its ability to globalize local political issues and to redefine the functions of more traditional mediums such as newspapers. More detailed and problematic coverage has already appeared among some major publications, owing largely to the growing dominance of internet news feeds. The Wall Street Journal, for example, is “shifting the coverage of breaking news to its website, while directing longer, in-depth stories to the print newspaper.” The Los Angeles Times has announced similar plans for its web and paper publications, while the Globe and Mail may adopt the new format in 2010. If media users take advantage of the more comprehensive coverage offered in the remodeled newspapers, the quality of journalism may very well improve.

However, because media providers are owned and operated by business moguls with implicit political agendas and the power to label people and actors, major news providers are never entirely dependable. While Western citizens were shocked by the violent British response to the Irish Troubles of the 1980’s, particularly the events of Bloody Sunday, journalists and editors insisted on describing the warring factions as mindless religious extremists and the British military as benevolent but hapless peacekeepers. Alternatives to mainstream media are readily available online, and in Darfur radio broadcasters have used the web to relay their local programming across the world. A new point of resistance (this time a badly needed pacifist one) has emerged in Darfur’s Radio Dabanga. Established by the Project of the Radio Darfur Network –a coalition of non-governmental organizations, Sudanese journalists and international sponsors- the new station employs fifty correspondents covering Darfur and provides news in three, soon to be four, local languages. English transcripts of broadcasts are posted on the station’s website.

More broadly, the entire Sudanese press is vibrant and relatively free of dissident persecution, while also available in English. Op-ed pieces, columns, editorials and letters on Darfur make frequent appearances in Sudanese papers, while six papers maintain their own correspondents in Darfur. Sudanese journalists have the advantage of being Sudanese and understanding the culture and politics of their own country in a way parachute correspondents rarely can.

The benefits of local journalism are obvious, with plenty of critical coverage of issues often ignored by Western media (such as the atrocities committed by Darfur rebel groups). In addition, by utilizing the Sudanese press international media providers can supplement their meager presence on the ground. Finally, if media audiences are more willing to learn about the complex realities of a conflict by following local coverage, correspondents may respond with more nuanced coverage of their own.


Radio Dabanga: http://www.radiodabanga.org/

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, “The Darfur Deception,” http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/06/the-darfur-deception/

John Hughes, “US media can’t cover the news if they don’t cover the world,” Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0207/p09s01-cojh.html

Fred Hiatt. “The Vanishing Correspondent,” http://ics.leeds.ac.uk/papers/vp01.cfm?outfit=pmt&folder=193&paper=2770 Continue reading this article...

Sudan's World Bank Woes

Activists must oppose the imposition of structural readjustment policies and neoliberalism in general, which have generally impoverishing effects on the targeted country’s population, and serve to further concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a small elite sector of society (Fake and Funk, 2009: 125).
While Sudan divestment campaigns have enjoyed sympathy and success across the United States and Canada, two core institutions of First World economic power remain active in Khartoum: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Since their inception following the Second World War, the IMF and World Bank have promoted free market values around the world, offering substantial loans to developing nations and encouraging the formation of vibrant capitalist markets with minimum state intervention. However, when a recipient nation defaults on its loan, harsh social and economic policies are imposed. As we will see, those policies have been decisive instruments of environmental degradation, starvation and ineffectual governance in Sudan. For these reasons, Steven Fake and Kevin Funk suggest that advocates must seriously consider encouraging action against the IMF and World Bank.
As a ‘reward’ for lending Arab support to the 1978 Egyptian-Israeli Camp David peace agreement, Sudan was loaned billions of dollars in development aid by the IMF and World Bank. However, the money “quickly vanished in the corruption ridden government and Western expatriate aid administrators, leaving Sudan with a debt equivalent to its entire GDP.” In response, the IMF ordered a slashing of the state budget and privatization of government services and corporations. The IMF and World Bank also encouraged the continued development of an export-based economy (particularly agricultural products).
These policies have damaged Sudan in the recent past and threaten further harm in the future. With cutbacks and privatization, the quality of public services (such as schools and hospitals) inevitably declined, while national wealth has been absorbed by Sudan’s upper classes. Equally troublesome are the potential consequences of low oil prices or disrupted production. As Fake and Funk demonstrate, privatization reduces the opportunity for government patronage -often the only way for weak national authorities to buy off dissenters- leaving foreign investors to seek protection from a black market economy of violence. While the discovery of oil has buttressed the Sudanese government and averted (for now) an authority meltdown, any long-term decline in prices or disrupted production could expose the Sudanese government to dissenting forces. Because Darfur is challenged by desertification, lawlessness and a communications disconnect with Khartoum, a lasting peace for the region depends largely on a strong and responsive Sudanese central government. Unfortunately, even a stable government under IMF sponsorship may feel more accountable to the concerns of its “external backers” than those of its domestic constituents.
The IMF’s agricultural policies have also negatively affected Darfur. Traditional agricultural practices throughout Sudan emphasized the preservation of bush and forest fallow (for animal protein, timber and private crop production), and smaller scale production that left adequate reserves for personal consumption and did not depend on experimental hybrids. Under IMF encouragement, however, hundreds of thousands of acres were clearcut, “reducing humidity and cloud formation and increasing soil salinity.” Famines became more frequent throughout Sudan and the climate dryer, forcing farmers to open up new lands. Despite the surge in oil prices and production, agriculture remains a valuable export industry for Sudan. Now, with IMF approval, foreign companies are buying up huge tracts of Sudanese land, securing new food supplies as global agricultural output falls behind rampant population growth. To date, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have purchased a combined total of 720,000 hectares, with another 378,000 in development. Unfortunately for the people of Darfur they will see none of that food anytime soon.
A new approach to Sudanese aid should be crafted, one that does not force the dismantling of state machinery and plants the interest of Sudanese people (including Darfurians) firmly before those of international creditors. The consequences of failure are already evident today, and under current regime no aid is better than IMF aid.

Gwynne Dyer, “African Land Grab”

Joseph Winter, “Khartoum booms as Darfur burns”

Steven Fake and Kevin Funk, “The Scramble for Africa: Darfur- Intervention and the
USA,” (Montreal; New York; London: Black Rose Books, 2009). (particularly
pages 28-30)

Jay O’Brien, “Sowing the seeds of famine: the political economy of food deficits in
Sudan” in World Recession and the Food Crisis in Africa ed. Peter Lawrence,
(London: Review of African Political Economy, 1986).

See also IMF and World Bank websites.

John R. Matchim Continue reading this article...

With charming ease, three young activists 'be the change'

Hello Standers!

I want to share a story with you posted by The Globe and Mail (below) about three extraordinary high school students that are making a world of difference for our cause, and making it easy to act against genocide.

A few months ago, Hannah Clifford, Daisy King, and Sarah Byres, three students from Northern Secondary School in Toronto, contacted me about a planning a benefit concert to raise awareness for the victims of the genocide in Darfur; a cause that we all have tirelessly championed.

I was struck immediately by their passion, enthousiasm, and dedication to making a difference for the people of Darfur - to being 'the change' they wished to see in the world.

This passion to 'be the change' drove the three girls to accomplish some extraordinary things in planning this event. The girls, mostly themselves, but with a little help from supportive parents, managed to receive sponsorships, book a live venue, build an event website, and most impressively, attract The City's 'Tamarama' and some local T.O. rock bands to perform at the concert. Like the Globe and Mail Article says, "As though organizing a benefit concert ain't no thing."

I can truly say that working with Hannah, Daisy, and Sara has been an incredible privilege and an inspiration. At every turn, through every bump in the road, the three girls have exemplified young leadership, determination, and kindness, and have made one thing very clear: You can make a difference at any age.

And so, I urge all of you that can, especially those in the GTA, to turn out to the Berkely Church and Event Centre (315 Queen St. E) this Tuesday, June 2nd at 6:30 PM, for what promises to be an incredible event organized by three extraodinary young activists.

Tickets are $25 at the door, but can also be purchased online at http://web.me.com/darfur/DARFUR/Home.html, or through the Stand website for $20.

Consider this event one of the easiest (and fun) ways you can act against genocide!

The Dreamer
Evan Cinq-Mars

Globe and Mail Article
"With charming ease, three young activists 'be the change'
May 30, 2009

Last week, three teenage girls from Northern Secondary School ended up channelling Gandhi. They were trying to come up with a name for their upcoming benefit concert and finally settled on the name “Darfur: Be the Change” – an unwitting reference to the maxim “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

“It was a nice coincidence,” said Daisy Kling, Hannah Clifford and Sara Byres in a collective e-mail. “His meaning behind the quote is so in sync with what the three of us are trying to accomplish.”

This trio of 11th graders are hoping that their musical fundraiser will raise awareness – and money – for the victims of the genocide in Darfur. On June 2 at the Berkeley Church, local bands The Cheap Kicks and Birds of Whales will appear along with guest speaker Debbie Bodkin, formerly of the United Nations in Darfur. Most notably, perhaps, the tenacious teens secured Tamarama, a folk-rock duo from Australia, famed for their recent appearance on MTV's The City .

“We contacted them through MySpace and then were directed to their booking agent,” said the girls, as though they've been booking famous headliners for years.

They're part of a generation that approaches activism with a charming ease. They came of age with Craig Kielberger, the now famous activist from Thornhill who founded Free The Children at the age of 12. Like Daisy, Hannah and Sara, he read something that didn't sit well with him and responded with action, perhaps a novel concept to older (or lazier) individuals.

Consider the 100 students camping out all night at Queen's Park (in the rain) last month, raising awareness for child soldiers. Or the week-long conference for young activists earlier this month, organized by Toronto's Youth Action Network.

Daisy, Hannah and Sara name Mr. Kielberger as an inspiration, but are quick to point out the real source of their motivation: the people in Darfur whom they are aiming to help. “Learning about the cause and knowing something must be done makes us determined.”

In addition to a night of great tunes, consider your $25 ticket ($20 in cash) an investment in two worthwhile causes: the aid effort in Darfur, and the gutsy activism of the next generation. “You can make a difference at any age,” they write.

As though organizing a benefit concert ain't no thing.

Proceeds will benefit the Canadian Red Cross, and STAND, a youth-based initiative promoting advocacy and activism. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit the website at www.darfurbenefitconcert.com. Special to The Globe and Mail

Continue reading this article...

What ARE they doing? Part Two

In my last blog entry, it was my aim to look at what Canada is concretely doing to take action on the situation in Darfur. I wrote about Canada’s relations with Sudan, and, drawing on the Canadian government’s website, outlined Canada’s approach to Sudan in the realm of diplomacy (one of three pillars including aid and security). I will now turn to the first of two remaining pillars, aid, looking at what the Canadian government website says it is doing to assist Sudan in this area.

Through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Canada “provides humanitarian assistance to meet the immediate basic needs of conflict-affected populations in Sudan, mainly in the Darfur region, as well as support for the return and reintegration of millions of people displaced by the separate civil war in southern Sudan.” According to the government website, Canada has made over $143 million available in relief aid to civilians affected by war in Sudan.

Through CIDA, Canada also makes early recovery support available to underpin the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This refers to CIDA’s support for “governance, education, health care, mine action, and reintegration of internally-displaced and refugee populations.” According to the website, since January 2006 Canada has made over $89 million available for early recovery efforts.

Finally, in addition to Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK, moreover, Canada is part of the Joint Donor Team, which is “mandated to assist to Government of southern Sudan to promote policies in support of sustainable peace, poverty reduction and the attainment of Millennium Development Goals.”

There is no mention on the government website about Sudan’s recent move expelling 13 foreign aid agencies from the country following the issuing of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Sudanese President Bashir – an act that, in my view, has tainted the rosy picture painted of Canadian involvement in Sudan. Of late, moreover, the situation for aid workers (including Canadians) has become more perilous, with several of these workers having been kidnapped in recent months. How will the Canadian government respond to the imperilling of humanitarian activity in Darfur, which will further compromise the lives of Sudanese civilians?

The briefness of this section of the website makes it seem like a dollar figure should be sufficient for Canadians to feel that we are doing our very best to help those in need of humanitarian assistance in Darfur. It isn’t enough, for these aggregate figures can disguise many realities. If you go to the link http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/sudan, there’s the good stuff, for it gives concrete figures for what has been accomplished in Sudan. These figures, however, are problematic for they do not assess CIDA’s specific contribution, only the global results that CIDA has contributed to along with other donors. A useful resource may be the Mid Term Evaluation carried out by the Joint Donor Team in February 2009, which is available at http://www.norad.no/items/14798/38/4592453832/Mid-Term%20Evaluation%20of%20the%20Joint%20Donor%20Team%20in%20Juba,%20Sudan.pdf.

In my next blog entry: I will look at the last element in Canada’s three-pronged approach to Sudan, security. As always, I invite your comments and suggestions!

-Sarah Katz-Lavigne Continue reading this article...

Armed Humanitarianism: Can it work in Darfur?

This entry will examine military intervention (not including the No-Fly Zone, which was discussed previously) and its applicability to Dafur. I wish to emphasize my belief that Darfur is a conflict that will require international attention for years or even decades after the actual cessation of hostilities. Without long-term efforts to promote reconstruction and reconciliation of the Darfur provinces, the causes of the conflict will only fester and find expression through renewed violence in the not so distant future. We therefore need to consider policies that extend well into the future, while also considering the long-term ramifications of policies designed to immediately address the conflict. A military solution to the conflict, while not widely discussed at present, should nevertheless be seriously contemplated –both for its potential to end the conflict, and also to destabilize Darfur and Sudan for years or decades to come.
At its most basic, armed humanitarian intervention is the use of threat of military force to coerce an aggressor into respecting basic human rights. Usually, the violating power has not attacked any external enemies, nor has it challenged in any way those nations threatening its capacity of wage war. In principle, the lone justification for military action is empathy for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide (though in practice, the motives for humanitarian intervention are often grounded in more traditional geo-political considerations).
In Sudan today the United Nations and African Union are slowly deploying a 26,000 personnel peacekeeping force to the provinces of Darfur. With so few troops (Darfur is roughly the size of France), limited logistical and transport support, and a weak mandate, UNAMID has been unable to effectively monitor the entire region, while it is also vulnerable to attack by rebels, government forces and bandits. It therefore seems natural to consider a more forceful mandate or perhaps something more aggressive, such as a NATO-led intervention, as the obvious solution. Afterall, external military power has been applied to Sierra Leone, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia and East Timor, among other places, so why not Darfur as well? As will be outlined below, there are a number of problems regarding the use of military power to resolve conflicts, while it would also damage any prospects of establishing a permanent peace in the near future.
Short-term considerations leading to military interventions, without adequate situational understanding and driven only by a sense of urgency, can unleash a range of unanticipated developments. A most basic but serious problem is the inability of modern militaries to manage humanitarian tasks. As Gwynne Dyer observed in his book War, Western military powers (those capable of launching humanitarian interventions) are trained and equipped to fulfill a doctrine of decisive victory, achieved by the unrelenting application of superior firepower (witness the ‘Shock and Awe’ bombing of Baghdad). Western forces have so far failed to adjust to the post-Cold War developments of humanitarian warfare, operations that require patience, restraint and a thorough understanding of regional culture, society, language, history and political system. Lacking the necessary training, background and expertise, soldiers and commanders can make insensitive decisions based on fear and frustration, slowly but surely fuelling resentment and building resistance against them.
Resentment and resistance can fester in other ways as well, as veteran Canadian war correspondent Paul Watson observed many time over the last two decades. For example, in Somalia Watson argued that powerful warlords perceived intervention as an attempt to deny them their rightful inheritance of the government, while in Kosovo he witnessed fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Amy attacking Serbian forces and civilians under the umbrella of NATO airpower. For these reasons Alton Frey, an analyst for the Council on Foreign Relations, warned that the short-term deployment of military forces “can make little or no contribution to mitigating the conditions that led to the atrocities.”
The use of military power in Darfur today (either a better mandated United Nations, or another country or organization) would explicitly claim the Darfur provinces as protectorates of the international community, while branding Sudan the enemy of peace and justice. Considering that political dialogue (or lack thereof) was a significant cause of the current conflict, the editors of Explaining Darfur argue that armed intervention could have very serious repercussions for the foreseeable future.
What do you think? Has Darfur passed beyond the point of no return? Has the time finally and truly arrived to risk the perils of more aggressive humanitarian intervention?

See these books for information on armed humanitarianism and its discontents.

Frye, Alton. Humanitarian Intervention: Crafting a Workable Doctrine. New York:
Council on Foreign Relations, 2000. (particularly pages 1-20)

Dyer, Gwynne. War. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2005. (see chapter on guerilla warfare)

Watson, Paul. Where War Lives. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2007.

van Ardenne, Agnes, Mohamed Salih, Grono, Nick and Mendez, Juan. Explaining
. Amsterdam: Vossiuspers UvA, 2006.

John R. Matchim Continue reading this article...

Yes or No to a Darfur No-Fly Zone?

During the 2007-2008 Presidential election campaign, both Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden expressed support for the imposition of a (probably NATO) no-fly zone (NFZ) over Darfur, much like the one maintained by Anglo-American air forces over northern Iraq following the Gulf War. In 2006 Obama co-sponsored a bill broaching a Darfur NFZ, and reiterated his call in May of 2007. The previous month, in April of 2007, Biden expressed disgust at the Khartoum government and stated that he would use “American force now,” and specifically American airpower, to resolve the conflict in Darfur. More recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked that a NFZ over Darfur was a real possibility. But would the insertion of external military power in the form of a NFZ deter the government of Sudan and stabilize Darfur, or would it further intensify the fighting and erode any prospect for a negotiated settlement?

In a March 5 article that appeared in The Washington Post, Merrill A. McPeak and Kurt Bassuener argued that instead of “decisive action,” the international community provided Darfur refugees with “the palliatives of a sputtering aid effort.” Because air power –helicopter gunships, Fantan ground-attack jets and Antonov cargo planes improvised as bombers- is “central” to Janjaweed and government ground operations, McPeak and Bassuener urged NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Darfur that would operate out of Abeche, Chad. Equipped with fighter squadrons, aerial refuelers and command-and-control aircraft, the operation would quickly ground anything flyable west of Khartoum. With air superiority the West would be better positioned to negotiate a more effective peacekeeping mission. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times agreed, even suggesting that 10,000 Sudanese People’s Liberation Army troops could be moved into Darfur from the south.

Nicholas D. Kristof, “Watching Darfuris Die,” The New York Times, March 7 2009.

Merrill A. McPeak and Kurt Bassuener, “Grounding Sudan’s Killers, The
Washington Post, March 5 2009.

One week after the McPeak and Basseuener article, Guardian journalist Micah Zenko pointed out that despite a comprehensive NFZ over northern Iraq, a Kurdish rebellion in 1996 was still crushed after five Republican Guard and regular army divisions marched into Kurdistan as Anglo-American warplanes watched from above. Zenko also wondered why clearing the skies of Sudanese military aircraft would necessarily translate into inactivity on the ground. In addition, a letter to the editor that appeared in The Washington Post argued that a NFZ would change the balance of power on the ground, emboldening the rebel groups to take the offensive (much as the Kosovo Liberation Army did in 1999 under the cover of NATO air power). Finally, injecting air power into Darfur, rather than increasing Western/United Nations leverage, could only further distance the combatants by picking sides. Considering political dialogue (or lack thereof) was a significant cause of the current conflict, armed intervention could have very serious repercussions for the foreseeable future.

Micah Zenko, “Say no to a Darfur no-fly zone,” Guardian, March 12 2009

Alan J. Kuperman, “No to a Darfur No-Fly Zone,” The Washington Post, March 10 2009.

Also see Agnes van Ardenne, Mohamed Salih, Nick Grono and Juan Mendez, Explaining Darfur (Amsterdam: Vossiuspers UvA, 2006): 22.

The debate around the feasibility of a Darfur NFZ has only been touched upon here, and a simple Google search will yield dozens of hits. So consider the different arguments presented in this entry, do some research, and post your thoughts on a Darfur NFZ here.

John R. Matchim Continue reading this article...

What ARE they doing?

If you have been following the Canadian government’s action on the crisis in Darfur, you might feel that they – like the majority of governments around the world – have fallen short when it comes to taking action on the Darfur. There is no better proof than the fact that this sad situation persists even though the uprising of Darfuri rebel groups, and the corresponding counter-insurgency campaign launched by the Sudanese government, dates back to 2003. We all know that the failure to find a way to stop the atrocities sponsored by the Sudanese government in the Darfur region has been paid for largely with the blood of Darfur’s civilians. If more countries had taken a real stand on this issue, the situation might be very different today.

But for a moment, rather than focusing on what the Canadian government isn’t doing, let’s take a look at what they ARE doing. The following statement, which opens the “Canada: Active in Sudan/ Le Canada à l'œuvre au Soudan” section of the Canadian government’s website, makes it clear that Canada sees itself very much as part of the solution, not part of the problem:

Canada is part of a concerted international effort to support a just and lasting peace in all of Sudan. Canadian contributions focus primarily on resolving the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur, and supporting the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the southern civil war in January 2005.”

According to the website, moreover, “Canada’s whole-of-government approach applies to all of Sudan and is based on three pillars of activity: aid, diplomacy and security.”

Canada’s Measures

In this entry I’ll be focusing specifically on the diplomacy pillar (see later blogs for the rest!) According to the website, the areas where Canada has been active in diplomacy specifically relating to Darfur are:

  • Diplomatic involvement in the Darfur Peace Process (particularly with respect to the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) – including providing financial and diplomatic resources and supporting “the efforts of the United Nations and the African Union towards bringing the rebel movements together to prepare for the next round of negotiations.”
  • Multilateral initiatives: “Canadian diplomats take every possible opportunity to raise the issue of the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur in international and multilateral fora such as the G8, the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations, the International Organization of La Francophonie and other informal groups.”
  • Peacebuilding: “Canada’s Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Group, a component of the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START), is working with the international community to facilitate the full implementation of Sudan’s peace agreements, with special emphasis on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement…Canada is supporting the political and social consolidation of peace in Sudan by promoting initiatives in several key areas including: strengthening judicial institutions, federalism, corrections reform, improving community security, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), as well as building the capacity of all stakeholders to participate in the renewed talks for peace in Darfur.”
  • Bilateral relations: this refers to an “ongoing dialogue with the Sudanese government,” maintained by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum, and members of the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in New York, in addition to other “senior Canadian officials and diplomats throughout the world.”
  • For instance, “in March 2008, the former Foreign Affairs minister made an official visit to Sudan – the first visit to that country by a Canadian Foreign Affairs minister. The former minister took this opportunity to raise Canada’s concerns to senior Sudanese officials, including the Sudanese Foreign Minister.”
  • Measures: The measures Canada has put in place “ against Sudan in response to the current human rights and humanitarian situation, and in support of its policy for peace in this country…include: the withholding of support for commercial support services, including export finance and trade and investment development activities; and the withholding of government-to-government development cooperation.”
  • In addition, Canada has implemented in Canadian domestic law the sanctions mandated by the United Nations Security Council, including an arms embargo as well as an asset freeze and travel ban directed against designated persons.”

Finally, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has set up a Task Force on SudanIn order to coordinate Canada’s whole-of-government contribution to the pursuit of sustainable peace throughout Sudan.”

Key elements

I’ll point to some key items that stood out to me, and some questions that arose in my mind, when I was reading about Canada’s approach to the Sudan/Darfur situation.

  • Canada’s approach is a holistic one, which sees the Darfur situation within the larger context of the rest of Sudan, which includes the North-South dynamic and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This is surely a good thing, but may obscure the urgency of the situation in Darfur if one of Canada’s top priorities rests on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
  • Does the tendency to refer to the situation in Darfur as a “humanitarian and human rights crisis” obscure the Sudanese government’s responsibility in causing the crisis? Can the Canadian government employ language that does not do so?
  • In terms of the support that Canada is allocating the “political and social consolidation of peace in Sudan,” what does this mean in practical terms? How is Canada “promoting” different initiatives? What form has Canadian support taken, and how much of it has there been?
  • Has Canada taken a strong enough stance in its bilateral relations with Sudan? What tone have Canadian diplomats taken with Sudanese government officials, and has it reflected the urgency of resolving the situation?
  • Has Canada reviewed the measures it has taken to sanction Sudan, and whether these measures have been sufficient or have proven to be effective?

More to come! Please feel free to share any thoughts you might have!

Continue reading this article...

Toronto Rally for Darfur TODAY!

A RALLY AND CANDLELIGHT VIGIL WILL BE HELD TODAY (April 12) at 7 pm on Queen's Park South Lawn to urge the Canadian government to take action.

Featuring renowned speakers and performers, including the Honourable Irwin Cotler and Rwandan genocide survivor & musician The Mighty Popo.

As the genocide in Darfur enters its sixth year, it is crucial that Canadians unite to send a message to our government: the people of Darfur require immediate protection and relief and the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity should be brought to justice.


www.darfurtoronto.com Continue reading this article...

The Guns of Darfur

John R. Matchim

The conflict in Darfur has been fuelled by a decades long influx of foreign weaponry, ranging from small arms to helicopter gunships. China and the Russian Federation have been the most prominent suppliers of weaponry, but there are and were many other sources, some unknown. This entry will provide some basic background regarding Darfur’s weapons importers and highlight the international nature of the conflict, with both national governments and hidden gunrunners vying for a share of the slaughter's profits. The plethora of actors and factors involved in the arming of the region highlight the futility of international intervention without real negotiations between the warring factions.

The People’s Republic of China

Though Africa contains some of the largest proven reserves of oil in the world, its fields have been largely ignored by Western companies. China has recognized the potential of African oil to satisfy the demands of its growing economy, and has made some of its most significant investments in Sudan. In exchange for oil, China has offered Sudan large quantities of small arms as well as some its most sophisticated military equipment. The arrangement is doubly beneficial to Beijing as it provides a rare opportunity for its inefficient and poor-quality arms industry to manufacture for the export market. Because Sudan has no significant arms industry of its own, equipment received from China outfits a large number of military units, and also provides China additional opportunities to provide maintenance and operational training. While the Sudanese army has been the recipient of most of the heavy equipment, small arms have been supplied to the Janjaweed. Chinese manufactured Fantan ground attack aircraft have also been photographed operating from El-Fasher.


The Russian Federation

The Russian state-owned arms industry is another major source of military equipment for the armed forces and militias of Sudan. After oil and natural gas, arms are one of Russia’s most lucrative exports. Because Moscow considers an independent (not reliant on foreign technology) and sophisticated defence-industrial complex vital to its national security interests, it is eager to export weapons wherever the opportunity arises. In 2002 Russia signed a military-technical cooperation agreement with Sudan and forced through the sale of MiG-29 combat aircraft despite opposition from human rights groups. The infamous helicopter gunships that have shaped public imagination are also of Russian origin. Like China, Russia is interested in expanding its central African influence and developing untapped oil and gas fields.


Libya, Sudan and Small Arms

The government militias and fractured rebel groups of Darfur have never found themselves for want of weapons. While some of that weaponry has been supplied by China, there are many other sources of assault rifles, heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and light mortars. Many of those weapons were transferred by the government of Sudan decades ago, arming villages and groups considered loyal to the Khartoum regime at a time of increasing environmental tension. The government, wanting to remain clear of societal stresses, chose to flood the region with weapons and let the problem sort itself out. During the 1980’s Muammar Gadaffi of Libya also funneled small arms into Darfur as part of a larger effort to establish a pro-Libyan sphere of influence throughout the North African region. Most recently, instability in neighboring Chad has left government arsenals vulnerable to attack by rebels, with many of the seized weapons easily finding their way across the vast and undefended border of Darfur.
Iran, Belarus, Egypt and the United Arab Emirate are other major suppliers of Sudanese weaponry. However, arming Darfur is not limited to state governments alone, and the profit potential of Darfur is no less significant than that of any other conflict. Indeed, because of the official United Nations arms embargo, gun running is a very lucrative venture. In September of 2007 a United Nations Security Council Panel of Experts estimated that between September 2006 and July 2007 private cargo companies transported a combined capacity of 13,000 tons of equipment and supplies into Darfur, much of it military.


The multitude of actors, vital interests, vast and porous borders, regional instability and the profit motive have left Darfur awash in weaponry. Any United Nations arms embargo, no matter how tough, would be difficult or impossible to enforce without a significant military presence. However, easy access to weaponry practically makes armed resistance to such an effort inevitable. The problems of Darfur perhaps complicate and transcend the potential of armed international intervention, with a renewed emphasis on negotiations the best alternative. After all, if the causes of conflict are resolved, the demand for weapons will gradually disappear.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR54/019/2007 Continue reading this article...

Attention Ottawa Standers: Rally for Darfur TOMORROW: 7 April 2009!

The rally will begin on the University of Ottawa campus (in front of the Morisset Library terrace) at 1 pm and will proceed to the Embassy of the Republic of Sudan, located at 354 Stewart Street in Sandy Hill. At both the university and the embassy, political and community leaders, members of the Darfuri Community and student activists will speak about the need for public condemnation of recent events on the ground in Darfur. NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar, Sudanese activitst Tragi Mustafa and Darfuri community leader Abdul-Ghaffar Ahmed are confirmed as speakers.

Our goal is to raise public awareness of the dire and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Darfur following the ICC indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. We will unite to demonstrate our commitment to the people of Darfur, and our hope that Canada will take on a greater role in alleviating this crisis.

The date of the event is of utmost significance, as it is the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. As we reflect on the international community's failure to act in Rwanda, we will draw attention to the ongoing crisis in Darfur, which has been described as "Rwanda in slow motion". The theme of enduring hope will be represented through a constant beating of drums.

For more information, please contact Jackie Bonisteel at jbonisteel@standcanada.org. Hope to see you there!

Continue reading this article...

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Bashir shows his defiance in the face of the International Criminal Court’s warrant for his arrest (Photo from De Welt).

Some recent news coming out of Darfur is that a Sudanese aid worker with Canadian agency Fellowship for African Relief (based in Ontario) has been shot to death. It has been suggested that there is a link with the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudanese President Bashir, though at this stage it’s only speculation (UNAMID is investigating the crime). A clearer link can be made between the indictment and the kidnapping about two weeks ago in Darfur of three aid workers, including Laura Archer, a Canadian nurse. Happily, the kidnapped workers were released three days later, but Médecins sans frontières (MSF) had to withdraw almost all of its expatriate employees from the region. This will only compound the already drastic effects of President Bashir’s expulsion of a number of humanitarian NGOs from Darfur in the wake of the ICC indictment.

A dangerous trend is apparent here. There is no justification for transferring anger about the application of international criminal justice to aid agencies. Yet President Bashir has managed to take this position to the extreme with his expulsion of aid agencies from the country. But is it the government or other actors who are behind the latest attacks? World leaders, including the Canadian government, need to make sure that a high-quality investigation is carried out into these latest attacks, to prevent the impunity that already surrounds the expulsion of humanitarian agencies from going any further.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued a plea for the international community to pressure Bashir to reverse his decision to expel aid agencies from Sudan. This is certainly a welcome move, but I fear that without a targeted approach, international condemnation will only harden Bashir’s resolve. It’s time to get creative! Can some of the Arab states that Bashir considers his allies – who have already said they will not arrest Bashir on their soil – be harnessed to put some (friendly) pressure on Bashir to allow humanitarian agencies pursue their work in the country?

In this increasingly desperate situation, what will work best with Bashir – international condemnation, or a more conciliatory approach? Bashir is, after only, only a human being. Humans can be persuaded, but they can also be stubborn and inflexible. It’s an indication of how bad things have gotten that in this particular scenario, what’s at stake are thousands upon thousands of lives.

Continue reading this article...

Stand Events Coast to Coast tonight!

Stand Chapters coast to coast are holding events to make it easy for you to raise your voice in support of Canadian action in Darfur. Attend your nearest event(s) this month and show your support!


Toronto Benefit For Darfur
Featuring Birds of Wales & We Are the Take

April 2nd, 9 pm, Tattoo Rock Parlour (567 Queen St.W)

Stand Canada is having a concert with our friends Birds of Wales and We Are the Take! Come out to see some photos from our last trip to Sudan, and hear some great music.

Tickets are only $10 - order now! Space is limited. Cover is $15 at the door.

Email awagner@standcanada.org for more information.

Stand UBC Presents: Children of Darfur Film Screening
April 2nd, 6 pm, Room 106A in Buchanan A, Main Mall, UBC

Featuring the highly acclaimed short film, Children of Darfur, and special guest speaker Dr. Clement Apaak.

Come find out what you can easily and effortlessly do to initiate crucial and expedient change in Darfur.

Email ubc@standcanada.org for more details.

Stand McGill presents: Pub Night Fundraiser for Darfur

April 2nd, 10 pm, Brutopia (1219 Crescent Street)

Featuring Tara Hall and First You Get the Sugar.

Tickets $5 - all proceeds go to Stand & Doctors without Borders.

Email mcgill@standcanada.org for more details.

Continue reading this article...

April is Genocide Prevention Month

In what can only be called a gruesome coincidence, six acts of genocide and mass atrocity crimes have anniversaries in April: Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, the Holocaust and Armenia.

This month, anti-genocide organizations and advocates are focusing on the repeated pledge of "never again" and asking the question: what have we learned? It is important for us to look to our mistakes and learn from them in order to honour that pledge. Genocide Prevention Month calls for a strong policy framework that focuses on drawing from these lessons for prevention of genocide. Stand chapters across the country will be holding events and rallies to urge the Canadian government to make acting against genocide a key foreign policy issue.

Stand Canada friend and supporter Education for Change has launched a blog project to join the movement. A new entry will be up daily to examine what genocide prevention really entails. The blog will focus on a different perspective with each entry: whether it is the voices of those whose families and friends have been affected by conflict, or discussion on how our generation have many choices to make in the face of genocide in order to prevent future occurrences. Check it out, and join in the discussion. Continue reading this article...

The rationale for supporting Stand: A handy guide to inspiring supporters.

So I am standing with a new acquaintance, a friend of a friend at a social gathering. She recently read about Darfur because of Bashir's indictment in the news. She seems concerned about Darfur. We start to talk. After a few minutes, it seems she believes it is important to care about Darfur. She wants to know what she can do about it - but she is a busy person and she wants to make sure any action she takes with Stand actually impacts Darfur.

You've probably experienced this yourself, maybe volunteering at a Stand booth or discussing at family dinner or chatting when out with some friends. You begin to talk about Stand, but find yourself losing your audience. You know Stand and its advocacy is important, but you can't seem to articulate it.

Here are some of my ideas to make that conversation easy:

I want do help, what does Stand do?

We make it easy to act against genocide.

What do I mean "making it easy"? Genocide is a massive issue that most people find overwhelming. Most people care about genocide and want to do something but they don’t know how to do so effectively. We create simple and effective ways for people to take action against genocide.

What kinds of "simple and effective" things do you actually do?

Just a few examples: we create a monthly Darfur Digest that summarizes all of the key information on Darfur to make government action easy; we make it easy for ordinary people to influence government by calling 1-800-GENOCIDE; we train people who care about Darfur in how to advocate, we subsidize their trips to Ottawa and we set up meetings for them with MPs. You can multiply the impact of your individual efforts right now by joining a team of passionate Darfur advocates - on your campus, or working on a national project.

How do these tools you create actually have an impact?

Picture the desk of a Canadian politician. There is a stack of "issues" she needs to address. Each time she receives a call (through 1800GENOCIDE) about Darfur, it moves Darfur a little bit up the stack. 10 calls move Darfur up the list higher. 100 calls really raises her eyebrows. 1000 calls makes Darfur impossible to ignore. Through our Stand for the Dead campaign we want to send 10,000 calls to Ottawa.

As a US Senator once said: “If every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda when the crisis was first developing, then I think the response would have been different.”
We make writing those letters easy.

But what happens when Darfur ends up on the top of the stack of issues? What does Canada actually do?

The Canadian government has the international power and influence to lead the fight against genocide. It has proven that when it makes an issue like Land Mines its top foreign policy priority, the country can change the world for millions of people.

The Ottawa Process led by Canada was an impressive undertaking: in than one short year in the late 1990s over 100 countries has signed a treaty that banned landmines outright, led my small and medium-sized countries, outside the UN system, unimpeded by Superpower resistance (See http://www.icbl.org/tools/faq/treaty/significant). As of 2007, at least 38 nations have stopped production, and global trade has almost halted completely.

We are aiming for the day when Canada's top foreign policy priority is ending genocide. We want ending genocide to be Canada's next Land Mines.

If this is up to the government, what do I have to do with it?

Public pressure changes government priorities. Consider the issue of the Environment. In 2006, North American governments did nothing about the Environment. In 2008, every government had a "green plan" because a groundswell of citizens demanded it. After people like Al Gore helped transformed the latent energy in millions into a loud voice on the environment, governments began to listen.

Help us tell the government: we want to live in a world free of genocide.

Why should I support Stand and not a humanitarian organization?

Humanitarian aid is critical but not enough. Bags of rice alleviate suffering; they don't end genocide. When you support Stand’s advocacy you help achieve two important humanitarian outcomes:

First, you multiply your dollars for humanitarian aid. You could raise $100,000 for a single program in Darfur or directly advocate for $1,000,000 our (government) dollars sent to the right programs impacting Darfur.

Second, we can reduce the need for humanitarian aid by preventing genocide.

I think all we need to do is educate people about Darfur, or raise more awareness.

You educate people so that they will be compelled to act against genocide. One million "educated" people make no impact on Darfur unless they take action. Join us so that we can show the "educated" easy ways to get into action.

Any questions you seem to get stumped with? Any questions seem to veer you off course? Send them to me, post them here, and I am happy to offer my 2 cents. Or if you have good answers to share, please do!
Continue reading this article...