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 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...

Stand Chapter Digest: March 2009

The Stand Chapter Digest is dedicated to connecting Stand members across the country by sharing news, events and advocacy ideas!

Attention Stand Supporters! Stand is holding a national 1-800-GENOCID(E) Day this Friday, March 20th. Please help us out by calling repeatedly, and recruiting others to do the same! It is now more urgent than ever to push our elected officials to act for Darfur. Sign up here and spread the word!

Stand Chapter Director Evan Cinqmars is excited for you!
Watch our latest video blog to find out why.

Darfur 101
This is a new ongoing series by McGill chapter leader Laurie Drake.

Whenever I try to learn a new subject, or catch up on current events in a particular part of the world that I’m not to savvy about, I often wish for a nice little summary detailing some the pertinent background necessary to understand the current situation. I guess you could
say I like context. So, when I was asked why it was so hard for many to understand the current conflict in Darfur, the answer seemed pretty easy: context. Over the next little while, in order to help others understand some on the simpler issues at hand, like who’s who, why is this significant, and what does this all mean in the greater scheme of things, I’ve decided to write about Darfur basics..

Khartoum in the capital of Sudan, and name attributed to the current government led by Omar al-Bashir.Khartoum is located in the Northern part of the country and is often associated with the Arab and Islamic world. The Khartoum government has been associated with the Janjaweed and is accused of proliferating the genocide, which has been taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan since 2003.

Omar al-Bashir
Omar al-Bashir is currently the president of Sudan and the National Congress Party. He acceded power in 1989
during a military coup, which ousted the democratically elected Sadiq al-Mahdi. Al-Bashir ended the Second Sudanese Civil war in 2004 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). However, he has since been reprimanded for his support of the Janjaweed, and has recently come under harsh international criticism, including an indictment and a possible arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Taken to mean “Devil on horseback” the Janjaweed is an umbrella term given to armed militia groups who have and are currently attacking the Southern and Western region of Sudan (mostly Darfur) and Chad. The Janjaweed receives its funding from the Khartoum government, despite their many denials. Largely consisting of Arab speaking Africans, the Janjaweed are often described as nomads, a term used to describe the age-old conflict between sedentary populations (mostly found in the South) and nomadic tribes (mostly located in the North).

Rebel Groups in Sudan
The number of rebel groups and armies has escalated since the outbreak of the conflict in 2003. With increasing factionalism
occurring among many of the groups I will only cover some of the larger and more prominent groups whose names appear more often in literature on the subject.

Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M): This is a political (SPLM) and militant (SPLA) rebel movement that originated in the South mostly among Christians. Originally led by John Garang, this movement turned political party fought the North (aka: Sudanese government) in the Second Sudanese Civil War, and signed the CPA in 2005. SPLA/M is currently part of the oppositional party within Sudan’s government, and is the main constituent in the semi-autonomous Southern State, whose capital is located in Juba.

Sudanese Liberation
Army or Movement (SLA or SLM): Although this rebel group looks like the previous one, it isn’t. The SLA was created in 1992 during the Second Sudanese Civil War. They are a multi-ethnic, secular party that argues for the secession of the South. There has been less literature on this rebel group in recent years because it was forced to retreat in 2006 and has since been unable to effectively reorganize itself.

Justice and Equality Movement (JEM): Led by Khalil Ibrahim, JEM, is once of the most prominent groups since the outbreak of the crisis in Darfur. This group traces its origins to the “Black Book,” a text published in 2000, which argues for more equality for the marginalized groups in Sudan, namely Southerners and Darfurians.

Stand on the Hill: Member of Parliament Justin Trudeau

On February 24th, Stand Parliamentary Engagement Chair Luke Kujawa and Advocacy Director Jackie Bonisteel met with Liberal MP Justin Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau was very responsive to Stand's message, and expressed his willingness to continue working with us going forward.

Upcoming Stand Events

1800Genocid(e) Day (March 20th, all day): Call 1800Genocid(e) and let the Canadian government know you care about Darfur!

Stand Western Presents: Dunks for Darfur (March 21st, 2-5 pm):
*A round robin basketball tournament of teams with 3-5 players
*Free refreshments and snack food, lots of cool prizes!
*Email for more information.

Stand UofT Presents: Remembering Rwanda (March 20-22):
*A three day conference focusing on the lessons learned and not learned from the Rwandan genocide. Featuring some of the world's most renowned genocide scholars and genocide activists.
*Visit for more information.

Stand UBC Presents: UBC Improv (March 20th & 21st, 7 pm):
UBC's annual international improv tournament—a part of IMPULSE: the UBC Improv Festival.
* All profits benefit the Darfur Stoves Project, an organization that helps women displaced by the Darfur conflict.
* Email for more details.

Continue reading this article...

Once You've Started, You Just Can't Stop...

USA Today reports that President Bashir is now kicking out every aid group in Sudan within the next year.

I guess once you start, it's difficult to stop. I worry that this is a slippery slippery slope. And with the entire world caught up in debates over financial stimulus measures, Bashir has a free pass to do what he would like.

This cannot continue. What am I going to do about it? Write a letter, send an email and make a phone call.

What are you going to do about it?

Let me know in the Comments section so that other people can do it too.

Continue reading this article...

Darfur and the Media

The New York Times Nicholas Kristof was among the first journalists to report extensively on Darfur, and his writings contributed immensely to a gradually expanding awareness of the volatile region. However, like many reporters, Kristof described the conflict as a struggle between Arab rulers and ‘black Africans.’ While Kristof glossed over the more complex realities of the conflict, his approach served a useful purpose and was widely emulated by the international press. Matched with ‘genocide,’ the native African versus oppressive Arab rendition offered a badly needed angle. It made Darfur simple. It made Darfur saleable. It made Darfur a war of religion and ethnicity.

When reporters describe the combatants as ‘black Africans’ and Arabs, they imply that non-Muslim native Darfurians are being expelled by foreign Arabs, people totally unlike themselves in culture, language and ethnicity, recent arrivals searching for new lands to conquer. Understanding the conflict in these terms only raises the misconception that the Government of Sudan is not responsible for the violence, that the fighting is waged for localized reasons only. It also reinforces false stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings against Arabs perpetuated and strengthened by other ongoing international conflicts. Encouraging such assumptions, even unintentionally, perhaps threatens to discourage people from believing that a solution can be reached. Put bluntly, it angles the conflict as "just another Jihad."

It is this misconception that I would like to address here. This entry will only serve to provide a brief introduction, while a forthcoming entry will offer an alternative way for media to report on Darfur that is just as saleable as the current one.

Painting Darfur as a war of religious and racial tensions is a tempting mistake to make. The idea that Darfur is a race war extends from our popular understanding that Africa is divided between two distinct halves. To the north, we assume, are the Arab lands stretching the length of the Mediterranean coast and the Red Sea, with the non-Arab, non-Islamic and black Africa south of the deserts. Sudan, and particularly Darfur, simply does not conform to this tidy geographic fault-line. Sudan is among Africa’s most diverse countries, with a plethora of distinct religious practices, languages and ethnicities. To package Darfur’s conflict as one between ‘black Africans’ and ‘Arabs’ is simply untrue.

To begin with, the majority of Darfurians are Muslims, either followers of the Sufi Tijoniyya sect from Morocco or the Ansar followers of the Mahdi, a movement that originally arrived from the Middle East. Darfur’s adherents adopted a relaxed approach to Islam and became renowned for their memorization of the Qur’an. Islam was adopted as the state religion of the Dar Fur Sultanate, and remains central to the spiritual and social lives of Darfurians today.

The ‘native black Africans’ are composed of six principle peoples, though in reality there are many more. The Fur were the founders of the ruling Dar Fur Sultanate and the engine of Islamic expansion, but they have always been a minority. In the north there is the Tunjur and Zaghwa, in the east the Berti and Birgid, and to the west the Masalit.

Darfur’s Arabs arrived in their greatest numbers between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. They predominately emigrated as two groups: from east and west Africa came scholars and traders; and slowly moving south from the northwest came nomadic Juhayna Bedouins in search of grazing lands. For hundreds of years Arabs and non-Arabs intermarried, traded and co-existed peacefully. A common and resilient culture naturally emerged between them. Therefore, it is unreasonable to imply that the conflict is a war between native black Africans and foreign Arabs.

So who is fighting and why? The long answer is best left for another entry. While it is true that resource conflicts in Darfur during the 1980’s intensified because of ethnicity, and while it is true that both rebel groups and the Sudanese government are promoting the conflict as one of ethnicity to bind disparate groups under a common banner, the conflict does not strictly adhere to such simplicities. Darfur is ultimately a conflict about resources. It is about access to water and arable land, precious commodities that are found in increasingly short supply. It is also about having a voice in the central government, about a political disconnect with the capital Khartoum that overrides local differences.

Links and Sources:

An excellent article found in a news magazine often overlooked in the West: Carina Ray, “Are ‘Arabs’ killing ‘Black Africans’ in Darfur?” New African (January 2009)

For an explanation of Nicholas Kristof’s Darfur reporting see: Nicholas Kristof, “Genocide in Slow Motion,” The New York Review of Books (February 2006)

Alexander De Waal, “War in Darfur and the Search for Peace” (Harvard: Global Equity Initiative, 2007). Of particular interest is Chapter 4, “Islam and Islamism in Darfur” by Ahmed Kamal El-Din.
Continue reading this article...

Special Envoy Woes

Apparently, the latest must-have fashion accessory for Western countries is…a special envoy to Afghanistan. Now that the United States, Britain, France, and Germany have them, it seems that Canada needs one as well, for fear of being left behind in the race to wield influence on the world stage.

This begs the following question: why isn’t Canada considering the appointment of a special envoy to Darfur or even Sudan? We did, after all, have one, in the person of Senator Mobina Jaffer, who was Canada’s Special Envoy to the Peace Process in Sudan from 2002 to 2006. Why now, when the crisis in Darfur is entering its sixth year, has the momentum on this country seemed to fade in favour of the (it seems) more immediately relevant to our national interest? Perhaps a better question to ask would be how we can make Sudan and the ongoing genocide a national priority once again.

Sudanese President Bashir’s move to expel aid agencies from Sudan in response to the International Criminal Court’s issuing of a warrant for his arrest is a shining example of what a Canadian special envoy to the region could have brought to the table. The UN Security Council flailed about in search of a statement in response to the expulsion, ultimately failing to agree on one. A Canadian envoy could have added his or her voice to that of Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, to publicly speak out against Sudan’s move. A Canadian envoy could have put pressure on the Security Council to enact a strong response to the expulsion. With a special envoy to Sudan or Darfur, Canada would have been in a position to provide a coordinated response to the expulsion of humanitarian NGOs from Sudan. Without one, Canada was just flailing like the rest.

Continue reading this article...

Save Darfur Action Alert

Check out the Executive Director's Corner on the Save Darfur website. I have included some of the action alert below.

16 aid organizations expelled from Darfur in response to the ICC indictment of President Omar El-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir
A defiant Omar El-Bashir (right) threatens further repercussions for his indictment by the International Criminal Court (Reuters)

On March 4th, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced its decision to indict Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes for atrocities committed in Darfur, Sudan, since 2002. There will be no "quick way" to arrest Bashir and bring him to trial.

In response, the Sudanese government made good on its threats for retaliation against an indictment and expelled 16 humanitarian organizations from Darfur. Together, the 16 agencies provided more than 50-70% of all essential relief to Darfuri civilians, and up to 40% of aid workers in Darfur have been affected by the move. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, warned "that the effects could shake the region," and launched an "urgent appeal" to Sudan to reverse its decision.

Learn more about the ICC announcement in Save Darfur Canada's March 4th Executive Summary. Read Reuters' "Snap Analysis" of the consequences of the indictment.

See a list of organizations affected by the recent aid agency expulsions which include 13 international and 3 Sudanese groups. The list is provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

A Canadian nurse was one of four aid workers from the Belgian branch of Doctors Without Borders abducted by armed men in Darfur on March 12th. The Sudanese government is currently negotiating with the kidnappers of the aid workers.

The United Nations (UN) is investigating whether the expulsion of aid organizations is a war crime, but for the moment, the UN Security Council is "deadlocked" over how to respond. Bashir is threatening further aid agency expulsions, as well as the expulsion of foreign diplomats, and says that his indictment will affect the Darfur peace process.

Human Rights Watch criticized the aid agency expulsion, calling on the Government of Sudan to respect its "obligation under international humanitarian law to ensure that relief aid reaches people in need in conflict situations." Amnesty International warned that "2.2 million people face the risk of starvation and disease," accusing Sudan of "effectively holding the entire civilian population of Darfur hostage – an aggressive act that must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by the African Union, the League of Arab States and the international community as a whole." Save the Children has estimated that 1 million of those affected will be children.

Canada must continue to condemn the expulsion of aid agencies from Darfur, and push the Sudanese Government to comply with its international obligations to protect civilians within Sudan.

to the Prime Minister and party leaders.

Darfuri advocates in the United States and across Europe celebrated the ICC's announcement, with 100 international Darfuri leaders issuing a public letter of support for the indictment which included diaspora signatories in Canada. Read responses from Darfurians in and outside of Sudan.
Not everyone is in agreement that the Bashir indictment was a positive development. Academics Alex de Waal and Julie Flint accused the ICC's Chief Prosecutor, who made the case for Bashir's indictment, of going too high in the chain of command and of having bad timing. However, the Chief ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, responded that he was given the mandate to end impunity in Darfur by the UN Security Council in 2005, and that it is not his role (but the UNSC's) to make political considerations. He went on to explain that as the Chief Prosecutor, it is his job to present evidence for the crimes in Darfur, and that in this case, three ICC Pre Trial Chambre judges agreed that the evidence was sufficient to proceed with charges. He noted that "Mr. Bashir is killing, torturing, raping, exterminating entire communities today." Click here and fast forward to the 9:20 mark to listen to a CBC radio interview with Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

On March 10th, the Canadian ICC president defended Bashir's indictment, explaining that the Court's mandate is not to interpret politics but to prosecute the most senior war criminals.

State members of the Arab League and African leaders continue to call for an Article 16 deferral of ICC's investigations by the United Nations Security Council, though reports suggest that Arab leaders may “be hesitant to receive” Bashir as a result of the ICC warrant.

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, issued a statement urging Sudan to cooperate with the ICC, citing its obligation to do so under UN Resolution 1593. CIDA's Minister, Beverly Oda, urged the Sudanese Government to "reconsider its decision [to expel aid agencies] and to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law to facilitate full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to assist those in need."
Continue reading this article...

Help Alleviate the Suffering

This is a letter from a prominent Sudanese human rights defender.

Service to God is Service to Humanity

To: Every kind and loving heart, to help alleviate the suffering of people
through peace and Justice

I am born of Darfur soil. I am Darfurian and I am a Sudanese human rights
defender. I am a humanitarian aid worker with 4 years of experience, having worked in
South and West Darfur with Internally Displace Persons (IDPs) providing water,
medicine, food and shelter.

Since I came to the US five months ago, I have been asking for help with addressing
the needs of IDPs. In over 25 events and 30 meetings, I share with my audiences my
views about the current situation of IDPs; how IDPs lack essential services and security and how their suffering is vast.

I am now writing to you because of the current actions by the Government of
Sudan (GoS). The GoS has unjustly closed 13 non-governmental Organizations NGOs
working in Darfur who have been assisting 3,000,000 IDPs over the past six years. IDPs
depend 100% on these NGOs for the provision of basic life-saving services. To perhaps
better understand the severe negative impact the Government of Sudan has had on the
lives of these people with the closing of these NGOs, try to imagine the following:

• Imagine you do not have food when you are hungry!
• Imagine you do not have water when you are thirsty!
• Imagine you do not have access to medicine when you are sick!
• Imagine you do not have shelter when it is raining!

These are the conditions the 3,000,000 IDPs and affected populations remain in, that
these 13 NGOs were forced to leave behind. 70% of the IDPs constitute women, children,
the elderly, and the disabled. Imagine what will happen when the rains come in 4
months? This will absolutely lead to a state of further crisis.

When a Government, that is intended to protect and serve its people, instead punishes
them by denying them food, water, and health care.... is that not inhumane? If so, is that not, a crime against humanity? If so, are you going to stand by and allow that to happen with out taking action? If not, then take action by:

• Sending a letter to the UN Security Council to take urgent and
immediate action to help those suffering people and eliminate Article 16. Let the Humanitarian Affairs take over the intervention in Darfur
• Sending a letter to the Chinese mission at the UN and the Chinese
Embassy to act responsibly and humanely
• Encouraging the Government of Sudan to act responsibly and
mercifully toward its people and rescind their decision to closing NGOs
in Darfur
• Writing to the African mission at the UN, as well as their respective
Embassies to get involved with ending directorship on their continent
• letting human rights organizations the freedom to monitor human
rights violations more closely
• Raising money and launching food-drops, if necessary

With best wishes for Justice and Peace,

A Sudanese human rights defender Continue reading this article...

Notes From an Aid Worker

Dear xxxx,

As you may have heard in the news, one the implications of an arrest warrant against the president of Sudan has seen Save the Children US (SCUS) along with 12 other major NGO's getting expelled by a presidential decree earlier today.

Yesterday (WED 4th) evening, as the rally in the city centre was wrapping up, I was aware of Save the Children UK office was being raided by government officials, however, today about 10 am it came as a shock, when armed police and plain clothes security elements with senior ministry of humanitarian affairs officials came to our office and presented a letter accusing the agency of spying and started the takeover process to seize everything from our files to our computers and all vehicles, HF Radios, SAT phones in all 22 sub offices across the country. In one instance, approx 1700 people SCUS employs in Sudan are jobless. Our program delivery has stopped, essential lives saving interventions of the agency have stopped and the livelihoods of thousands of employees have been affected.

We have been accused of spying and providing the ICC with information against the state. As one security official from the humanitarian ministry put it to me (while he was reaching over me and my desk trying to snatch the mouse to shut my machine off), that I should be glad as most of us are not being arrested with crimes accounting to treason against Sudan... we are just being told to leave the country.

What saddens me is the resulting impact of the general populations and IDPS in the camps. Just with SC US programs in Darfur, approximately 400,000 people in 5 major camps and surrounding villages received food through daily distributions, 200 health clinics overlooked treatment of thousands of patients daily, and 400,000 ppl had access to clean water. The list is endless, South kordofan and Nuba have seen major developments in terms of Save programs in water, sanitation, livelihoods, health, nutrition, education, women and child protection. We are just one agency, collectively, the 13 NGOs meant the whole Sudan though these agencies was receiving millions of dollars in rehabilitation and development funds in the post conflict transition phase. Where will all these people turn for help to? Did the ICC even think about what the backlash was going to be? They have made it worse for the very people they are looking to help.

xxxxx (my brave sister working with SCUS as well) on the phone from Darfur where the whole team awaits flights to evacuate, during our conversation stopped talking and asked me to listen to the announcement being made on loud speakers by armed men on horses roaming the streets of Geneina town (janjaweed) warning all the people, as to anyone seen celebrating this warrant issue will be publicly humiliated and killed. I hope she and the others can make it back by Sunday so we all can breathe easy again.

We have been given a few days to leave the country, our country director is working very hard to buy us time to wind up and keep the process smooth, but as it seems we all will be out of Sudan with the coming week if not earlier. So far all staff is being sent to Addis Ababa.

I thought of giving you an update, as i'm sure you would be closely monitoring the situation.

All the best
Apologies for the scattered ideas and thoughts in this message, the last two days have been very tough
Continue reading this article...

On acting locally...

Guest Post by Jan Kool

“Canada protects us. Canada feeds us. Canada covers us with blankets. We will protect Canada. We are Canadian.”

These words come from Muhammad Abkar, a Darfuri refugee who came to Canada in 2007, and who was recently part of a meeting between STAND Western and members of London’s local Sudanese population. This latest meeting – one in a series of meetings that began last December – was held at the home and gathering place of one of the many Sudanese refugees who have come to call London their new home.

Crowded onto couches in the living room, with a European football match playing on the small TV in the background, members of STAND Western heard harrowing personal testimony from those who had seen and lived firsthand the crisis in Darfur, some as recently as only three months ago. Much of the testimony had to be translated from Arabic into English as our media person scribbled notes furiously. Two and a half hours later, after several glasses of pineapple juice and numerous offers of coffee and tea, the meeting concluded with an earnest request:
“People like you [STAND]. We would like you to forward on our information [about the conflict in Sudan]. We need you to advertise for us.”

These are not helpless people. They are strong, proud, and intelligent. They understand the situation in Darfur better than anyone. They are also faced with enormous challenges here in Canada as they try to adapt to a new culture and way of life. Poverty is rife, it is tough to find jobs, and their children have difficulty adjusting to the Canadian curriculum. They are thankful to be here, but finding peace and good governance in their homeland is what they want most.

Muhammad, for example, has lost his father and brothers to the conflict. He still has many family members in refugee camps in Chad, Darfur, and South Sudan. He and his wife had their first child two months ago. Even before fatherhood, however, Muhammad was supporting 17 family members here and in Sudan.

Stories like this help us better understand the human cost of the conflict. Meeting local Sudanese and hearing their experiences firsthand allows us to realize the importance of what we are doing as student activists here in Canada.

These meetings have also led to a new STAND Western initiative that has gathered widespread support and attention on campus and in the community: an afterschool tutoring program for Sudanese and other children from London’s other refugee populations. With over forty excited volunteer tutors signed up and currently undergoing cultural awareness training, the program is set to launch in two locations, twice a week, in early March.

For STAND Western, meeting with London’s local Sudanese population has proven enormously enlightening and beneficial for both groups. Most major cities in Canada have their own refugee populations. We encourage all STAND chapters to reach out into their own communities and see what they can do locally to help. Once you have these personal stories, the advocacy part gets a whole lot easier.
Continue reading this article...

Stand Dalhousie in the Chronicle Herald

The Chronicle Herald has an article today about Stand Dalhousie's divestment campaign. The chapter has been working to find out whether the university holds investments that are supporting the Government of Sudan and have met quite a few administrative roadblocks along the way. The article has stirred up a lot of emotions over whether or not the students are entitled to this information. Chime in with your viewpoint here.

Great work to Kate, Tara and their awesome team! Continue reading this article...

We Can't Let This Happen

So the ICC made it's announcement...and now the fallout.

Apparently, 10 humanitarian groups have already been asked to leave, including Mercy Corps, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, and Doctors Without Borders. These groups are responsible for millions of lives in Darfur.

Additionally, the Justice and Equality Movement has just announced that it is pulling out of peace talks with the government. This is unacceptable.

I've said before that the ICC announcement will be what we do with it. Now it has happened and it is up to us to ensure that it is a positive development rather than a negative. So get calling or writing and tell the government that it is unacceptable that Sudan is kicking out aid groups, that it is unacceptable that the peace process doesn't continue, that it is unacceptable that the violence continues.

PS. Go sign the IRC petition to let them back in. Continue reading this article...

Stand in Support of ICC Arrest Warrant

Stand Canada Action Alert

Attention Stand supporters!

Today, the ICC announced that it has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. This is a remarkable development: the international community has just taken a bold stance against a murderous regime.

But this announcement also carries grave risk in the short-term. Bashir may respond with violent backlash against civilians or aid workers. We must be vigilant to ensure that this does not occur. It would be a travesty for an unprecedented step forward for justice to be followed by ten steps backward for those already suffering in Darfur.

Friends, this is a pivotal moment for Darfur. The world's attention will be focused on Sudan as the ICC announcement is publicized. This is an opportunity for Canada to assert its commitment to Darfur. And it is an opportunity for us to push our leaders to act!

Join us in calling on our government to:
1) Express support for an ICC process against Bashir that is robust, efficient, and sensitive to its short-term impacts on civilians.

2) Honour our commitments to UNAMID, and advocate for the Mission's full deployment. For the ICC's work to be effective, it must be supported by a robust peace process.

How can you do this? It's EASY:

1) Call 1-800-GENOCIDE and leave a message for Prime Minister Harper.

2) Email Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon at A few lines will suffice – the important thing will be to get as many emails as possible flooding his inbox over the next few days! Here's a template:

Dear Honorable Minister Lawrence Cannon,

Thank you for for your statement acknowledging Canada's commitment to Sudan and support for the ICC process. In light of this important development, I would request that the Government of Canada: 1) Commit to ongoing support for an ICC process against Bashir that is robust, efficient, and sensitive to its short-term impacts on civilians. 2) Honour its commitments to UNAMID, and advocate for the Mission's full deployment. For the ICC's work to be effective, it must be supported by a robust peace process. This is Canada's Forte.

Many thanks for your time.

Kind Regards,

3) Write a Letter to the Editor of a local or national newspaper. Let them know what you think about the ICC process, what Canada can do, why they should be covering the story more prominently … whatever you feel is important!

4) Spread the word! Forward this message to friends, or post a link to the Stand blog on your Facebook profile (

Many, many thanks for your ongoing support. Our work is making a difference!

In solidarity,

Jackie Bonisteel

Stand Canada Advocacy Director
Continue reading this article...

Q & A on ICC and Darfur

Nicholas Kristof has a Q & A on the ICC arrest warrants over at the New York Times website that are worth taking a look at. Continue reading this article...

A Great Day For Justice

Today is a great day for justice. One of the world’s greatest perpetrators of human rights abuses, a man who presided over a civil war in which 2 million of his countrymen were killed, and today presides over the 21st century’s first genocide, stymieing international efforts to quell it, was brought one step closer to justice.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, has been charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC). As you read this, the answer to the big mystery will be known, whether or not al-Bashir was charged with genocide. Regardless, the charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and/or genocide signify one thing, since they cannot be reversed, for the rest of his life, President al-Bashir will be a wanted man.

Not everybody, including Darfur advocates, is happy about this. The uncertainty and complications that will follow leave some feeling more harm than good will come of this, but that is simply not true. Two areas of concern warrant responses.

The first area is the probability over whether or not al-Bashir will ever appear before the ICC, thus making this a futile exercise like all the rest. After all, it has been almost two years since the ICC’s first warrants were handed down for suspects in Dafur and they have, thus far, escaped justice. In fact, Ahmed Haroun, one of the two, is currently serving as Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs in al-Bashir’s government.

However, one must never say never. As it has been said, the warrants do not expire. Some scholars are wondering if a provision in the ICC’s statute, article 16, which allows the UN Security Council to suspend an investigation, might allow for the nullification of the warrants. Yet, a careful reading of article 16 makes it plainly clear that this is not the case, there is no mention of reversing warrants. Thus, as the ICC Prosecutor has stated in the past about Ahmed Haroun, whether in one year or five years, al-Bashir’s destiny “is in the dock of the Court”.

Other sceptics will argue that al-Bashir can evade justice by hunkering down in Sudan for the rest of his life, away from the ICC’s reach. This is true, but it does not account for the fact that domestic enemies, of which he’s made many, might somehow orchestrate his arrest and handover. (There is even talk now that members of al-Bashir’s government are starting to think he’s the one doing more harm than good and; thus, needs to go.) The recent apprehension of ex-Serbian President Radovan Karadzic, who had evaded an arrest warrant for almost 13 years from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia by hiding in the Serb capitol Belgrade, stands to support this contention.

And for the families of victims of the genocide in Srebrenica, which Karadzic presided over, 13 years might’ve been a long time to wait, but when they saw him standing in court, I’m sure they felt it was worth it.

The other, more complicated and larger point of debate in charging al-Bashir is that it will destabilize efforts to reach a negotiated settlement between the government and rebels in Darfur. The truth is, in the short term, it might.

Just recently the government concluded an accord, however disingenuous, with one rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement. Yet, any observer of Darfur’s drama over the past six years knows that al-Bashir has proved very adept at playing Western governments and institutions. In 2006, the Darfur Peace Agreement was hailed as a major step forward. Later that year, UN Security Council Resolution 1706 set out to help enforce the agreement, al-Bashir stonewalled. Today, the peace agreement and resolution 1706 and all the resolutions that followed are reminders of what hasn’t materialized.

President al-Bashir has blocked every international attempt over the past six years to end genocide in Darfur. He acts only when his back is pressed up against a wall, doing the bare minimum to grant himself some breathing space. Those who advocate reversing the warrants, so as not to provoke this man, root their contentions in the reality of Darfur, but we must also acknowledge the reality of the man.

He has never been genuine. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the country’s 19-year north-south civil war is hanging by a thread. But not because efforts to end genocide in Darfur aggravate the situation, instead, because the man with the biggest role in its implementation, al-Bashir, is more concerned with co-opting it. His priority is not reconciliation. It is to remain in power, continue his iron-fisted rule over the country and expropriation of its resources to benefit the Arab north.

Justice cannot play politics. The ICC’s creation signalled that the world saw justice as a priority. It was an attempt to institutionalize accountability and erase impunity. When the UN Security Council referred Darfur to the Court in 2005 it reaffirmed that commitment. Today the Court took one step further in that direction. There will be complications and uncertainties that stem from this, but really, they’d have been there anyway.

Josh Scheinert is the past advocacy director of Stand Canada. He studies international law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.
Continue reading this article...


My name is Evan Cinq-Mars, and I’m a dreamer.

And that’s what I’ve been asked to do. I’m here to dream ideas that will change the world and how it responds to genocide.

But I won’t be able to do this alone. I’ll need your help to change how the world responds to genocide.

After all, you’re reading this because you care. You have seen how the world responds to genocide and you want to change it.

If you’re like me, you were born in 1989 or just years before or after that.

While you may have been too young to remember, you watched Rwanda burn on the evening news with your parents. You heard of Srebrenica. As you grew older, you learned of the Nazi extermination of the Jews, Slavs, Roma, mentally ill, and homosexuals in your history class. You learned more about the Khmer Rouge, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo. You began to understand the scope and brutality of the word genocide.

If you’re like me, you’re watching as the same word has claimed lives of more than three hundred thousand people in Darfur and displaced millions more.

If you’re like me, you’re asking, “How? How is this still possible?”

“Never Again” has become a hollow promise. But it need not be that way anymore. I ask that you share your ideas to change the world and how it responds to genocide so that we can fulfill the promise of “Never Again”. Because something needs to change. The world needs us. The world needs our ideas.

We are here to dream ideas that will change the world and how it responds to genocide.

And we will succeed! In our posts, we will refuse to assume the tragic fate of dreamers and idealists. The dreams and ideas that you will read will not fall to the confines of reality. Instead, we will fuse our dreams and ideas for a better world with practical policy recommendations and realistic next-steps.

That is where my blog posts find their spirit: I believe that our dreams can become a reality. I believe that we can change the world and how it responds to genocide.

Let’s get to it.

The Dreamer
Continue reading this article...

Where is the partnership on Darfur?

If you watched or followed Obama’s visit to Canada and the Obama-Harper encounter – and chances are you did – you may have noticed that despite the urgings of STAND members and a number of other voices, the issue of the ongoing genocide in Darfur was not on the agenda. Obama’s visit was hailed as a success, but it did not reflect the hopes of many that Obama’s administration will be the one to push for a real breakthrough on Darfur.

Trade was on the agenda, as was NAFTA and the strengthening of economies at a time when the credit crunch is the most pressing concern for many. The environment and climate change were, of course, a top issue, and rightly so. In their discussion, Prime Minister Harper and President Obama highlighted our mutual interdependence and looked ahead to a strong partnership between Canada and the United States. Foreign policy did come to the fore, but when it did, it was in relation to the controversial mission ongoing in Afghanistan, and the future of Canadian involvement there.

For those who were expecting the two “partners” to come out with a common stance on the issue of genocide, particularly with relation to the Darfur region, Obama’s visit was a disappointment. It hit all the key issues that one would expect, but neglected the much-anticipated question of Darfur and genocide. The failure to mention the question, still pressing, of how the world should react to Darfur in particular and situations of genocide more broadly was not addressed in the discussion between Obama and Harper. Yet one might have expected at least a mention – Harper, after all, is the top official of the country that actually spearheaded the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), while the US has been an important player in diplomatic efforts to pressure the Sudanese government to take concrete steps to improve the human security situation in Darfur. Yet sadly, domestic issues and issues of national interest clearly carried the day. Despite the promises of a strong partnership between the neighbour countries going forward into the new administration, there was no suggestion of a partnership on Darfur.

The absence of any mention of Darfur belies the reality that behind the scenes, much work is still ongoing at the level of US policy. Nicholas Kristof, for instance, has reported that Obama’s administration is actually reviewing its Darfur policy, with Samantha Power, well-known and respected for her seminal work “A Problem from Hell,” part of that effort. One can only hope that this review will have real meaning and will not remain behind the scenes for long. Like the partnership proudly proclaimed by Harper and Obama in Ottawa, Darfur should be front and centre for Obama’s new administration.

Continue reading this article...

Every Death Has A Name

Continue reading this article...

A Grim Milestone

This month we mark a milestone. The genocide in Darfur is now the longest modern genocide, ever. It is longer than the Armenian genocide, the Cambodian genocide, the genocides against Bosnian Muslims and Rwandan Tutsis. And yes, it is longer than Holocaust.

February 2009 is the six year anniversary of genocide beginning in Darfur. And it’s still going on.

A realization that we are now marking six years of genocide, which have unfolded and will continue to unfold before our very eyes as we largely engage in business as usual, raises three questions: the first is what does this mean, the second, why should we care, and third, what can we do.

What does this mean?

When asked why the world didn’t stop the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis, now president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, answered without blinking, “They didn’t care.”

For six years we’ve been hit with images of Darfur’s murdered men, women and children, burned out villages and survivors clinging to life in camps. We pause, shake our heads in despair and, for the most part, move on. Could it be that Kagame was right – that then, and now, we just don’t care, or care enough, to stop genocide?

Sure, there are obstacles to us being able to prioritize ending genocide. Our economy is crumbling, bills have to be paid and homework has to be done. Genocide isn’t a priority. Not now, later – when we have the time and energy, maybe.

Also, Darfur’s location and victims are almost too unfamiliar for us to relate too. But on their recent trip to Sudan, our colleagues met some of Darfur’s 3 million-plus displaced persons and discovered that our differences are trumped by our similarities. They share in the hopes and dreams common to people around the world – of life, health and sustenance for themselves and their families.

Truthfully though, obstacle is a synonym for excuse. Darfur doesn’t have to take the backburner in light of other seemingly more immediate priorities; it doesn’t have to seem so far away. Those are choices we make, because they are easy. Kagame might’ve been right.

So why should we care?

No human act is worse than genocide. It is a deliberate attempt to eradicate a people from this world for no reason other than who they are. In international criminal law it is referred to as the crime of crimes. Committing genocide means exterminating human beings.

One of the more sobering things one can do in one’s life is walk through Auschwitz, Cambodia’s killing fields or any other piece of earth stained by genocide. When you stand in Auschwitz’s gas chamber, or face to face with the ovens that cremated its 1.1 million victims, it becomes crystal clear – the cruelty and insanity of what happened can never, ever happen again. But it is. So we have to care.

What can we do?

We can be heard, in Ottawa and Darfur. Karashi, who after his village was burned, walked for nine days through scorched desert to reach safety. He told our colleagues, “Darfur is a forgotten place. The government is killing us and nobody helps.”

As members of a global community, we have to remember Darfur. Thus, the burden falls to us, ordinary Canadians to demand from our elected officials that we live up to our commitment to a world without genocide. When the government is confronted by our chorus demanding a more productive and effective Canadian response to Darfur’s genocide, by engaging more with the diplomatic attempts to end the genocide and with humanitarian efforts to protect and provide for its victims, they will be forced to act.

Six years is too long. Until now Canada’s politicians haven’t gotten the message. Only we can change that and force them to confront pledges they’ve already made.

In the guestbook at the Auschwitz museum there is an inscription from visit on April 5, 2008: “Let us never forget these things and work always to prevent their repetition.” The visitor was Stephen Harper. For Karashi and the millions of others, time is running out for the Prime Minister to make good on that pledge. Batika, another displaced person, once a mother of eight, now a mother of six, told our colleagues that for her the reality of Darfur is simple: “To die because of war or to die because of hunger.”

We have a choice to make. A year from now, will Darfur mark another grim milestone?

Ben Fine is the founder and past Executive Director of Stand Canada and a student in the Faculty of Medicine at University of Toronto. Josh Scheinert, Stand’s past Advocacy Director, is a student at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Continue reading this article...