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

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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...