Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day for Darfur

One year ago today, the governments of the world through the United Nations pledged [PDF] to

take collective action... [if] national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Since that pledge was made, more than 100,000 people have been killed by the Sudanese government's campaign of genocide in Darfur. The total death-toll of the three-year war has been estimated at up to 400,000. In addition, two million people have been displaced, and 3.5 million are dependent on humanitarian aid and face starvation if it is disrupted.

Hence the Global Day for Darfur: an attempt by the citizens of the world to demand their governments live up to their pledge and protect the citizens of Darfur from their own government which is trying to murder them.

The practicalities of the situation are daunting; military intervention probably cannot be logistically supported without the cooperation of the Sudanese government. And so the goals of the Day for Darfur are limited. We want to see the international community

  • Strengthen the understaffed and overwhelmed African Union peacekeeping force now. We must offer extra help to the African peacekeepers already on the ground.
  • Transition peacekeeping responsibilities to a stronger UN force as soon as possible. The UN must deploy peacekeepers with a strong mandate to protect civilians.
  • Increase aid levels and ensure access for aid delivery. Shortfalls in aid continue to mean that people are at risk of starvation. Humanitarian organizations must have unfettered access to all who need help.
  • Implement the Darfur Peace Agreement. For the violence to end, all parties to the agreement, in particular the Sudanese Government, must live up to their responsibilities.

This doesn't sound like much, but it will help, and be a remarkable improvement on what is going on at the moment.

Events and demonstrations are taking place all over the world on this, from Addis Ababa to Ulaanbaatar. Unfortunately, there aren't any in New Zealand, so I've added my name to the Day Against Darfur's petition (at the bottom of any of the pages linked above). And I'd encourage everyone who wants to see an end to genocide to do the same.


And OTOH, Bush weighing in with a call for another "coalition of the willing" to act outside of international law and without a UN mandate is the last fucking thing we need...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/18/2006 12:50:00 AM

May we one day be able to say "never again" of genocide and not be proved wrong...

This is a good post, but precisely WHY is the UN again standing by doing nothing whilst genocide rages?

I would support any intervention in Sudan, within or outside of the mandates of a corrupt UN. There are many times, and this is one of them, when doing nothing is the greatest moral crime. You say this is the "last thing we need", Idiot, but how would you feel if you were a Black Sudanese?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2006 01:05:00 AM

123: the short answer for UN inaction is China; they have a veto, and they've been prepared to use it to protect the Sudanese regime (oil contracts are of course involved). The longer answer is that without the consent of the Sudanese government, there is very little the UN can do - its just logistically impossible to protect and provide aid to civilians in an area the size of France unless your supply lines are secure. So, the UN has focused on trying to gain that consent through diplomacy, limited sanctions, and threats - all undermined by China's desire to protect its client.

(Memories of Mogadishu and Iraq providing a potent reminder both of the limits of military force, and that the road to hell is paved with good intentions may also play a role).

As for Bush, quite apart from wanting to see this done within the bounds of international law so that it sticks, I can think of no better way of ensuring that the international community refuses to act than for Bush to open his stupid cowboy mouth and indelibly link Darfur in the public mind with Iraq. If he wants to help, the best thing he can possibly do is shut the fuck up - because after Iraq, he is pure poison.

(And as a general principle, given US behaviour in Iraq, if I heard that the US Army was coming to "save" me from my government, I would run a mile...)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/18/2006 01:36:00 AM

I'm aware of China's continuing obfiscation, Idiot, but you do well to explain the situation concisely. However, this shows what a corrupt horror the UN has become. The sooner this charade of gangster-states spending my money ends the better.

But I must say that I'm really unimpressed by your comment here: "if I heard that the US Army was coming to "save" me from my government, I would run a mile..." On the contrary, I would imagine that if you were a black African refugee sheltering in a camp you would be overjoyed that a country like the US was putting its soldiers' lives on the line to protect you. If the UN fails again to do anything here, I would charge that all supporters of that institution must bear responsibility for the failure. You spend a lot of time protesting the US invasion of Iraq; yet from Rwanda to Kosovo to Sudan, far more civilians have died while the UN has dithered and debate and raised barely a finger. I support and will continue to support the US presence in Iraq and the efforts of Iraqis to rebuild their country: what moral ground have to to speak from about civilian casualities on Iraq if you support the UN; an institution that was created to stop genocide and has repeatedly done nothing whilst civilians are slaughtered by the armies of those who sit at the UN table?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2006 03:45:00 AM

Actually, before I return to the ever-waitng tasks of the day, the Guardian has a very good article on Darfur and the shameful UN inaction.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2006 04:46:00 AM

Actually, let me qualify that. The comments below the article show how obsessed with conspiracy theory the whackier sections of the Guardian readership are. May the UN prove me wrong by managing to take action for a change.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2006 05:19:00 AM

> wanting to see this done within the bounds of international law so that it sticks

I have to agree with 123. I believe that there should be a UN and that I should be given a lot of power and respect BUT the UN that we have now doesn't work.

Also I note that with China already propping up genocidal reigemes and testing the japanese defenses with it's planes and subs - We are starting to re-enter the danger zone.

> Strengthen the understaffed and overwhelmed African Union peacekeeping force now.

the one good thing is it is so bad they can't make it to much worse - and having a black man rape your family in africa is less newsworthy than a white man. But I really don't have a huge amount of respect for the ability of african union troups to behave well.

Posted by Genius : 9/18/2006 07:26:00 AM

Yep, as long as you slaughter you own population the left is quite happy to sit on it's hands and do nothing!

WTF - I think that you are just as responsible as the people doing the killing.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2006 11:34:00 AM

I must admit that I find it incredibly strange that an apparently well-informed blogger will scream in horror about US troops, yet purr about UN ones. Troops under UN command have a justified reputation for committing human rights abuses on the very populations they're meant to protect. Here's what Wikipedia says about this:

Sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers. Numerous peacekeepers from several nations have been repatriated from UN peacekeeping operations for sexually abusing and exploiting girls as young as 8 in a number of different peacekeeping missions. This abuse has become widespread and ongoing despite many revelations and probes by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services.[17][18] A 2005 internal UN investigation found that sexual exploitation and abuse has been reported in at least five countries where UN peacekeepers have been deployed, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, and Liberia; in particular, "Liberian girls as young as 8 are being sexually exploited by United Nations peacekeepers, aid workers and teachers in return for food, small favours and even rides in trucks, according to a report from Save the Children UK" [25] The BBC carried a similar report, and also cited a member of the World Food Programme as an offender.[19]

Not nice, and anyone (justly) criticising the US Abu Ghraib scandals should be equally critical of the record of troops under UN control. Personally, I would be happy for the US to start landing troops in Sudan tonight, if their mission brief was to protect civilians from the genocidal attentions of government-sponsored militias.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/19/2006 02:49:00 AM

Just when it is ok for a foreign entity to step into a sovereign nation and put things to rights is a huge issue.

If it is ok in Sudan, why not in Iraq? That is a legitimate question.

What about West Papua? What about New Guinea? What about Algeria?

What criteria are going to be used to decide just when this is the course of action to take? The Sudanese governemnt has said it doesn't want any foreign intereference - do they not have the right to say that? When is that right lost?

And are the Christian peacekeepers and Mr Sooden heading off to Darfur ?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/21/2006 10:58:00 AM

Indeed it is a huge question, but a country that is believed or proved to be waging war on sections of its population must be seen to have surrended any rights to be treated as a sovereign nation. Lest we forget, the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo happened without UN authorisation, again showing how morally bankrupt and repugnant the UN structure is.

We live in a world where the death toll of civil wars and government repression within states far exceeds the much-more-publicised conflicts where different nations are involved. To reduce or eliminate these and further atrocities in my view demands confronting genocidal nations with force, and if possible arresting and trying their leaders. The following points set forth the basis of what I would consider just grounds for intervention:

1. There are strategic and moral advantages to expressly articulating a right of humanitarian intervention (jus ad interventionem) under international law to stop or prevent genocide or violent mass ethnic expulsions. Aside from acting as a deterrent to future threats to international peace and security, such a right to intervene may secure greater global support by seizing the moral high-ground.

2. This right to intervene must be limited in purpose, scope, and means in order to prevent its abuse by hegemons and aggressors and to quell concerns that this is a carte blanche for the use of force. International law should strive for comprehensible standards in the area of humanitarian intervention and provide for predictability in rules of behavior and, thus, enhance stability. An unlimited right of intervention or war is inimical to international peace and security.

3. Where feasible, the use of force should be applied in concert with pacific means of dispute settlement (Art, 33, UN Charter) and economic sanctions (Chapter VII) to halt or deter genocide (as defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention).

4. The use of force may be applied when the UN Security Council is unable or unwilling to act to prevent or halt genocide and there is broad collective support for action to intervene in the otherwise sovereign affairs of the state affected. This collective support may be evidenced by a decision of the UN General Assembly or other major international representative bodies.

5. The use of force must observe the customary principles of proportionality, discrimination/ humanity, and necessity by avoiding unnecessary harm to noncombatants and directing force against the actual wrongdoers.

6. The intervention should end as soon as practical and sovereignty be restored to the target state, but only after reasonable assurances that the acts of genocide will not be resumed and after reserving the right to reintervene if need be.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/21/2006 02:14:00 PM