Welcome to the Monday, July 30, 2007 issue of this Peace&Justice action email!
This email is divided into two sections: Firstly, an update on Darfur and possible actions; Secondly, a list of two other actions: to stop the use of child soldiers; and (US-only) to strengthen the EPA's resolve to curb ozone pollution.
Breaking news: On July 31, the UN Security Council voted to create a peacekeeping mission to Darfur, consisting of roughly 20,000 troops. While this is an incredibly overdue and welcome action, certain cautions should be noted: Firstly, until the boots are on the ground, many things can still undercut the mission; and most importantly, it should not be seen as any form of panacea; for real peace to occur, it must occur alongside the negotiations mentioned in the information below, as well as all factors contained in the overview at http://www.untilall.org/darfur.htm
______________________________________________________A. DARFUR UPDATE AND ACTIONS
Some of the most promising background work in a long time is now taking place. In a few months we'll know whether it brings dynamics closer to resolution or is simply more empty gestures. In mid-July, a meeting took place in Libya in the first phase of an attempt to implement a peace agreement for Darfur. The 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement was a dismal failure and efforts are being made to try to avoid the previous mistakes by ensuring participation by a broader spectrum of stakeholders, and including attempts to unify the now highly splintered rebels (5 of the 12 rebel groups united, knowing the Libya meeting was to take place). In early August there will be a second meeting in Tanzania, which is aimed at actually beginning the start of the peace negotiations. Separately though related, the UN is working on the issue of creating and deploying the UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping force of about 20,000. The UN Security Council will be considering a resolution on it shortly.
On the other hand, Sudan recently did some bombing missions in Darfur again; many Arabs (largely Janjaweed) are settling land that is the home of civilians who fled the violence, making any form of just-peace more problematic; and the UN Security Council resolution has already been watered down due to Sudanese (& other parties') objections. In short, Sudan's ploys have not yet changed. But while such actions are painful and aggravating, the real question is not what Sudan does before negotiations, but rather during the negotiations and afterward.
Thus, it is crucial for the international community to maintain all forms of pressure that might help change the calculus of the government of Sudan. Current actions are listed below.
Before ending this synopsis, mention should also be made of the underground lake discovered beneath Darfur. This is wonderful news for the Darfuri people if a just-peace deal can be achieved. As mentioned earlier, environmental issues are not a crimes-against-humanity initiator (people and policies are), but rather a "threat multiplier"; thus water can wonderfully reduce normal tensions and elevate the grinding level of living so close to drought and starvation (although even that will partly depend on who controls it), but reducing environmental pressures will not eliminate genocidal or ethnic-cleansing motivated dynamics.
1. DARFUR: SEND MESSAGE TO 2008 SUMMER OLYMPICS COMMITTEES:
As noted in previous emails, the threat of calling China's 2008 Summer Olympics, the "Genocide Olympics" has been one of the most influential leverage points thus far in changing the calculus of Sudan. For China their Olympics is their highly coveted signature event that they have fully arrived on the world stage. Thus they do not want them discredited. Yet the link is clear - they buy over 70% of Sudan's oil and have previously protected Sudan from international pressure with their veto power threat in the UN Security Council. But since the threat of the "Genocide Olympics" label took root, they have been applying pressure on Sudan.
To be clear, this is NOT a call for a boycott of the Olympics, but a simple clear message that unless they expend their complete influence on Sudan, the world will remember the 2008 Olympics as the "Genocide Olympics" and not as an ennobling signature of a maturing international player. Please note that there are two web-based actions in the following link - one to petition the IOC; the other to send an email to your country's counterpart.
2. DARFUR: URGE RUSSIA TO SUPPORT RESOLUTION OF DARFUR CRISIS:
Russia has been one of the chief arms suppliers to Sudan (for instance, Russian-built Antonov planes are used for the bombings). Russia has both threatened to use its veto power in the UN to protect Sudan, and has also supported the UN in resolving the conflict. You can send an email encouraging Russia to extend further support to end the Darfur crisis.
Send email to President Putin (you can edit the contents):
3. DARFUR: CANADA-ONLY: SEND MESSAGE TO PRIME MINISTER HARPER:http://www.amnesty.ca/instantkarma/petition.php
4. MARK SEPT 16 AS NEXT GLOBAL DAY FOR DARFUR
These global protests are a highly needed part of the process of applying pressure. As noted above, it sends clear signals to China and Sudan that people around the globe notice. It also gives added weight to all those working behind the scenes to help resolved the issues. Stay tuned for actions and locations; or better yet, try planning your own event - it can be as simple as a candlelight vigil with a few readings at a church or community center. Just make sure you let the organizers know - the more known locations, the bigger the impact. Contact: http://www.savedarfur.org/
______________________________________________________B. STOP CHILD SOLDIERS
While the number of child soldiers has declined, it is still appallingly high. The following set of actions can be taken by using the link below. Please note that most of them require a FAX or phone call. The primary one is to call upon all parties in Sri Lanka to stop using, and demobilize, child soldiers. Other actions call upon the US and Russia to take various steps in strengthening international efforts to stop the use of child soldiers.
On a side note, the New York Times bestseller "A Long Time Gone" by Ishmael Beah, is probably the best window ever written about the world of child soldiers. Ishmael, a highly gifted writer, chronicles his life, from a care-free 12 year old, transformed into a killing machine, and then the excruciating trip back after he was demobilized. An extremely insightful read, but make sure to take the action below first!
______________________________________________________C. US-ONLY: TELL EPA TO TIGHTEN AIR STANDARDS
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized the substantial health threat of low level ozone, but appears to be advocating little change. Urge them to take stronger action:
Background (American Lung Association):
UWAA: This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of "Until Well-being is Achieved for All."
Volunteers Needed: If you can provide one hour per week or month, tracking down concrete actions to help strengthen this effort, please click the UWAA Reply button below, and add a Subject Line: “UWAA: Edit” and place any comments in the body. Diverse perspectives especially welcome.
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