Archive for September, 2008

September 29th, 2008

Go Jackie!

Stand’s own ubiquitous Jackie Bonisteel has an op-ed published in The Charlatan, Carleton’s independent newspaper. There’s nothing to comment upon – she says it all. A must read!

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September 26th, 2008

Standing above the Fray: Kate Heartfield & Ben Hoffman

I would like to point out another great blog post put up by Kate Heartfield at the Ottawa Citizen on her blog the World Next Door. Once again focused on Darfur, this time she posts the transcript of a meeting with Ben Hoffman, the Green Party candidate for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke and a world class conflict mediator.

The comments that Mr. Hoffman makes are extremely interesting because they are based on past experiences. In 2000 he was given the task of bringing about peace between the North and South in Sudan by ex-President Carter. That war had raged on and off since the country’s independence in 1956, with the 1990s seeing some particularly brutal violence as the government in Khartoum began arming and supporting proxy militias to do their dirty work for them (sound familiar?). Particularly brutal were the campaigns waged to clear the oil fields of certain ethnic groups that identified as Southerners (African, Christian or animist) as opposed to Northerners (Muslim, Arab).

As with Darfur, this conflict was extremely intractable. As with Darfur, heinous crimes were committed by both sides, though the government in Khartoum definitely stands out as particularly savage. As with Darfur, it required a sustained and committed international effort to bring about a peace agreement.

Ben Hoffman saw all this first hand. It really pleases me to hear a candidate discussing how it is possible to solve seemingly intractable conflicts through unified and consistent international pressure. Too often politicians as well as citizens get caught up in the myth of “primordial hatreds” in which the conflicts are seen as too deep and complicated to ever realistically address. This is not true.

Similarly, it is wonderful to hear Mr. Hoffman talk about the ways in which Canada can take a lead on this issue. No one doubts that the US (and now China) have to be involved in some way, but it is refreshing to hear someone admit that Canada has the ability to get the process rolling and keep it on track.

Another aspect of his comments that stood out to me is the mention of a Canadian Special Envoy to Sudan in 2000. Now, why, oh why did Sudan merit a special envoy back then but not now? Why is this not being more seriously considered as a policy option? This just proves that such a move is possible and can possibly play a big role in working towards a peace agreement.

Don’t get me wrong: there are quite a few differences between the North-South conflict and the situation in Darfur, not least of all the myriad of fractured rebel groups in Darfur and the ICC indictment against the President of Sudan. It cannot be doubted, however, the importance of taking lessons learned from the resolution of that past conflict and applying them wherever possible to the current conflict.

Congratulations to Ben Hoffman of the Green Party (and Kate Heartfield) for pointing that out.

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September 25th, 2008

I’m sorry, but how is that different again?

Embassy Magazine on foreign policy has an article praising the Liberal Party for mentioning key issues such as Darfur in their platform but criticizing them for lacking substance.

As it stands now, the Liberal platform has this to say on Darfur:

In Sudan, the United Nations faces an historic test. January 2008 marked the deployment of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission to Darfur. If fully deployed, it will be the biggest peacekeeping mission in history. Canada has a duty to ensure this mission succeeds and a Liberal government will ensure Canada does its part. As a first step, a Liberal government would contribute resources to the mission so it can contract the tactical and heavy lift helicopters it needs.

Here at Stand, we are encouraged and excited to see the situation in Sudan mentioned in the party platform, especially in the context of proposing some sort of action. BUT…I cannot help but agree with the Embassy Magazine a bit.

While it’s great to see the Liberal Party commit to the peacekeeping mission in Darfur, this paragraph does not really inspire a lot of confidence in a new and compelling direction towards the situation. It promises to commit “resources” to the mission, but the current Canadian government is already the second largest voluntary contributor to the mission. It emphasizes the need for helicopters but doesn’t mention where those helicopters will come from.

Furthermore, in nine pages of foreign policy pledges, the Liberal Party never mentions the peace process in Darfur, or Sudan as a whole. This is extremely disappointing as, at the end of the day, the peacekeeping mission can only be as good as the peace agreement it is sent to support. Currently, there is no peace agreement, making the peacekeepers’s job extremely vague and difficult.

Without an inclusive peace agreement, the joint UN-AU peacekeeping force will not be able to effectively stop the killings, no matter how many helicopters they have (though a few would definitely help). The best form of support, therefore, a future Canadian government can give the mission is to vigorously and whole-heartedly support a comprehensive and inclusive peace process in unison with a committed group of other states. That would be a commitment that would drastically differ from the current government’s approach to the conflict.

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September 23rd, 2008

Ontario Young Liberals on Darfur

The Ontario Young Liberals (OYL) have just sent us their resolution on Darfur. A big presence at many Stand fundraisers and gatherings, the OYL deserve a big ol’ thanks for their constant support and encouragement of Stand. Please read below:

A Policy to End the Atrocities in Darfur

Submitted by Terry Chemij, Etobicoke Centre Federal Young Liberals

WHEREAS reports suggest approximately 400,000 people have been killed as a result of the conflict in Darfur;

WHEREAS approximately 2.5 million people are displaced in Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic in refugee and internally displaced persons camps (IDP);

WHEREAS life in the IDP and refugee camps is decrepit due to a lack of basic life necessities, sporadic attacks from the Janjaweed, and an overall lack of security;

WHEREAS violence against women, including acts of sexual assault and rape are commonly used as a tool of war within the camps and in Darfur;

WHEREAS the severely under equipped African Union (AU) troops have been unable to control the violence, or protect the people of Darfur and international humanitarian workers; therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that the OYL urge the Canadian Government to contribute military and or civilian personnel to facilitate the essential operational policies of UNAMID to ensure an efficient and effective peacekeeping mission.

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September 22nd, 2008

Standing with the World Next Door

The wonderfully astute Kate Heartfield has a post at the moment on her blog the World Next Door about Stand’s Speak the Name campaign and the importance of making Darfur an election issue.

As most of you know, Speak the Name works by rewarding politicians who mention Darfur or Sudan in their campaign. We give them free publicity and possibly even volunteers.

Check it out and check out some of her other posts as well. Leave her a note – Thank her for talking about Darfur. It seems to me that Canadians really need to start a coherent debate about our place in the world, and kudos to Kate for picking up the challenge.

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