Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Crisis in Darfur: Aid Orgs Report UN-AU Force "Set-Up for Failure," Spielberg Writes Hu Jintao Again; As the Solstice Approaches, What Will You Do?

"This mother's three children were burned alive." -- Mia Farrow's Photo Essay, Crisis in Sudan & Eastern Chad (November 2006)

Crisis in Darfur: Aid Orgs Report UN-AU Force "Set-Up for Failure," Spielberg Writes Hu Jintao Again; As the Solstice Approaches, What Will You Do?

By Richard Power

The Solstice is approaching. In the North, it is the Winter Solstice, in the South, it is the Summer Solstice. Either way, it is a powerful time of turning, and spiritual energy. Some observe this moment as "Christmas," some observe it as "Hannukah," some observe it as "Kwanzaa." Whatever name it has for you, I urge you to tap into its power to do something for the people of Darfur.

According to a joint report issued by 35 aid organizations, the "hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur in Sudan is "being set up to fail."

... the mission is hamstrung by Sudanese government obstruction and a lack of critical logistical support.
Khartoum has yet to agree to the deployment of non-African troops, is blocking night flights and insists on restricting the force's communications. ...
The 26,000-strong UN peacekeeping force is due to deploy in Darfur next year.
The joint report by organisations including AI and Human Rights Watch sets out five ways in which the Sudanese government is actively obstructing the deployment of the UN/AU Hybrid Mission for Darfur (Unamid):
No approval for non-African troops
No approval for night flights
Insistence on the right to block communications
No allocation of land for Unamid bases
No agreement on resources for Unamid. ...
UN member states also come in for criticism by the non-governmental organisations' report which says they urgently need to guarantee transport.
"It's also inexcusable that the international community continues to stubbornly refuse to provide the helicopters Unamid so desperately needs," said Amjad Atallah of the Save Darfur Coalition.
BBC, 12-19-07

Meanwhile, Mia Farrow reports that Steven Spielberg has written a second letter to Chinese president Hu Jintao, and she reiterates her call for Spielberg to resign from his association with the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing if the Chinese do not act in a meaningful and significant way.

It is a tragic failure of humanity's collective will and conscience that the murder, rape and displacement of the Darfuri people has been allowed to drag on for years.

I urge you to distinguish yourself from this collective failure, by supporting the humanitarian workers on the ground in Darfur and Eastern Chad:

International Rescue Committee

Medicines sans Frontiers

Oxfam International

United Nations Childrens Fund

United Nations High Commission for Refugees

The International Committee of Red Cross

Here is the full text of Spielberg's letter:

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People's Republic of China
Zhongnanhai, Xichengqu, Beijing City
People’s Republic of China
November 15, 2007
Your Excellency,
It has been several months since I last wrote expressing my concerns about the human tragedy in the Darfur region of Sudan, where more than 200,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced. In the intervening months, I corresponded with Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, and traveled to New York to meet privately with Special Envoy Liu Guijin. His appointment and China’s support of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1769 were hopeful and appreciated signs that China was willing to use its influence to bring an end to the genocide in the region. I, and much of the rest of the world, felt a sense of optimism and hoped it would bring a lasting peace to the region.
Unfortunately, since that time, the situation in Darfur has deteriorated and while China’s earlier efforts were encouraging, its silence in the wake of Sudan’s recent actions and the resulting chaos on the ground has been disturbing. Sudan is continuing to defy the international community, creating obstacles to the deployment of peacekeepers, increasing violent campaigns against Darfuris and expelling humanitarian officials essential to the very survival of millions of desperate citizens.
This week the United Nations warned that unless Sudan quickly accepts the hybrid peacekeeping force and key countries contribute critical equipment needed for the peacekeeping efforts, the force will not be prepared for deployment in January 2008 - already two long months away. So I write to you now with a renewed sense of urgency in the hope that China will redouble its efforts to pressure Sudan to join in a fair peace agreement and, at last, bring an end to the genocide.
China’s economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide you with the influence and the obligation to press for change. Please urge Sudan to accept - and rapidly facilitate - the United Nations authorized hybrid force and please join with other nations to contribute the much needed helicopters and heavy transport vehicles needed to conduct these peacekeeping missions. Without China’s insistence, I fear Sudan will simply “wait out the clock.”
I believe the decisive hour for Darfur is now. There must be meaningful and measurable progress on the ground for Darfuris within the next few weeks. The world needs China to lead here. So many lives are at stake.
Most Sincerely,
Steven Spielberg

I encourage you to follow events in Darfur on Mia Farrow's site, it is the real-time journal of a humanitarian at work; the content is compelling, insightful and fiercely independent.

For a Words of Power Archive of posts on the Crisis in Darfur, click here.

Here are other sites of importance:

Dream for Darfur

Enough: The Project to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Genocide Intervention Network

Divest for Darfur.

Save Darfur!

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