Monthly Archives: July 2009
My post on the declining utility of a Save Darfur movement has sparked some debate.
John generally agrees with Newcomb and Norris, saying that the movement’s next challenge is, in fact, pushing the Obama administration to take a hard line approach on Sudan. Similarly, a movement leader writes me, “can’t we generate noise on this so Hillary and others push back [on the more conciliatory approach favored by Sudan Envoy Scott Gration]?”
Again, I think both sentiments place unrealistic expectations on the movement’s constituency to get into the weeds of an inter-agency policy debate. The movement has been a singular success in making Darfur a household name and infiltrating the White House with its members. But as I wrote earlier, it now up to the movement alumni in the White House to see that their policy options are implemented. Outside activism has brought us to this point–but change is now dependent on the ability of vanguard policy makers to press their case to their colleagues.
That said, I don’t think the movement should just dissapear. One of the best things to emerge from the Save Darfur movement are new institutions and organizations that nurture an activism beyond Darfur to the problem of genocide and mass atrocity more broadly. The Genocide Intervention Network and the Enough Project are two sterling examples of organizations that are directing the energy of the Save Darfur movement to places and issues that are not yet household names.
For example, the Enough Project just announced a video contest to show the connection between minerals used in the manufacture of cell phones and conflict in the Congo. A year ago, I’d bet only a handful of experts would have known this is an issue. By the end of this contest, many thousands will have a passing familiarity with it, and of those thousands, a certain percentage will want to do something about it. Pretty soon “conflict minerals” from Congo may be as familiar to Americans as “conflict diamonds.”
Ultimately, I’d argue that the results of these sorts of efforts are a better way to judge the success of the Save Darfur movement than the outcome of the inter-agency debate on Sudan policy.
pic from flickr user onthedecline
At 4:45 pm this Friday, President Obama will sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), beginning the process of U.S. ratification. This is a good thing.
The CRPD addresses barriers that impede the full participation of people with disabilities in their communities on all aspects of daily life. The treaty enhances opportunities for community access, employment and entrepreneurship, international exchange, and the attainment of an adequate standard of living for all individuals, children and families affected by disability.
53 countries have already ratified the Convention, which went into effect in May 2008, after the 20th state ratification. According to U.S. law, though, for the United States to ratify the treaty, the Senate will still need to vote in favor of it. And due to what seems to me a very silly protocol, the Senate can only consider one UN treaty at a time. This means, among other things, that the United States cannot ratify a convention upholding the rights of women at the same time as it ratifies an equally overdue treaty upholding the rights of children, nor, it seems, one that affirms the rights of people with disabilities.
Just add a little techno-trans music whilst explaining what that means. John Bolton would argue (and has!) that agencies like the WFP that depend on voluntary funding mechanisms as opposed to dues payments tend to be better managed. To be sure, this accomplishment by WFP would seem to bolster that argument. Still, there is a real downside to funding a international relief agencies via donations.
Just two days ago the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes reported a $4.8 billion shortfall for humanitarian assistance programs. Though there were no big natural disasters this year, the money that countries were willing to shell out for these assistance programs dropped dramatically amidst an unforeseen global economic crisis. So, while voluntary funding mechanisms can make recipients more receptive to the needs of donors, the downsides to this financing method ought to be recognized as well.
Remember Prince Johnson, the Liberian senator accused of war crimes and threatening to re-ignite the civil war? He’s now claiming that the US paid ten million dollars in the 90s to fight the war. He isn’t entirely clear on just who from America paid him – he mentions both countries and the Liberian Diaspora. Five million, he says, went for arms and ammunition for Charles Taylor to use to launch the war. The rest, we can assume, was profit. But hey, at least he’s no longer threatening a new civil war. Maybe. It’s hard to tell from this quote “Senator Johnson said he is no longer interested in any war again, but rather total peace and forgiveness, he will resist any punitive actions against him as recommended by the TRC.”
While diasporas have a long and ugly tradition of supporting violence in their countries of origin, (See Boston Irish community and the IRA, a radicalized Sri Lankan diaspora, and the role of Somalis abroad in financing the conflict there) and it’s in keeping with Charles Taylor’s claim that the CIA helped him break out of jail, I just don’t buy it. The US has been accused of supporting pretty much every side of the Liberian war. Taylor, and Johnson, probably did receive funding from the Liberian diaspora, but I can’t quite believe in a US government conspiracy to support 14 years of misery and child soldiering.
I largely agree with Mark’s analysis, but I’d offer a different possible conclusion: instead of the end of the “Save Darfur” community’s role, this may be a make-or-break moment for Darfur advocacy, or even for foreign policy advocacy writ large.
Most savvy Darfur advocates already know this, but the time for sloganeering and awareness raising is long past (and endured well past what should have been its expiration date). In some respects, the kind of misguided, generalist “stop genocide” tactics that one could find in early Save Darfur campaigns and that are so maligned by critics like Mahmoud Mamdani have affected the position we find ourselves in now, in which rhetoric that generates a lot of heat but no light can supplant directed action. This is not entirely the fault of vapid aims by advocacy organizations, to be sure; policymakers actually need little excuse to make noise instead of policy, and stopping genocide provides the perfect soundbite.
Darfur advocacy organizations for the most part adapted their tactics, targeting their energies and substantial constituencies toward specific aims, such as deployment of UN peacekeepers and the provision of long-needed helicopters. Some have had more, and some less, success (and in ways intended and unintended) than others, but the trickiest of them has always been the promotion of a robust peace accord.
This may be simply past the ability of advocacy organizations to effect, as Mark suggests, but it could also represent a stunning opportunity for transforming the nature of grassroots foreign policy campaigns. If the “Darfur movement” is successful in navigating the complicated and unsexy terrain of policymaking, then it will be a major victory for Darfur, for citizen activism, and for democracy.
One of the snippets from Hillary Clinton’s ASEAN speech in Thailand tomorrow, as obtained by Laura Rozen:
We are also asking every country to join in demanding transparency from the North Koreans. A recent incident involving the North Korean ship, the Kong Nam, led the United States to conduct intensive conversations with states in the region to avert North Korea’s efforts to send shipments abroad without declaring their contents. We were pleased that the ship turned around and returned home. The bottom line is this: If North Korea intends to engage in international commerce, its vessels must conform to the terms of 1874, or find no port.
1874, of course, is UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which carries with it the remarkable power to make North Korean cargo ships cryptically turn around before they can deliver any nuclear material (to Burma or elsewhere). Well, okay, maybe the U.S. destroyer following the North Korean ship had something to do with it.
Still, the resolution, which also tightened sanctions on top North Korean officials, has certainly brought some pressure to bear, and it’s good to see that it forms the crux of the U.S. position on the matter. 1874, agreed to by even frequent Pyongyang ally China, represents the best leverage the international community has right now, both because of its own strengths, and, more importantly, because of the consensus that it brought together.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.