June-July 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the June – July edition of this Peace&Justice action email!  To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed.

This issue provides actions on Syria, Sudan and Burma, among others.  The previously mentioned new feature of these newsletters – occasional sections that focus more in-depth on an issue – will be delayed until the fall.  The first such focus will remain the issue of “Mental Health”.

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SYRIA: STOP THE KILLINGS

What started as peaceful protests over a year ago in Syria has now escalated into an armed conflict throughout the country. Some 15,000 people are dead, thousands have been arrested and many tortured with hundreds dying in custody. Over one million people have fled or are internally displaced.  As well, opposition fighters have also reportedly tortured and killed captured members of the army and their supporters.

The international community has struggled to take effective action. On March 27, 2012 the Syrian government accepted a ‘six-point plan’ by UN Special envoy Kofi Annan and a ceasefire was agreed on April 12. Yet the fighting has continued unabated.

The Russian Federation supported the peace initiative. Yet that same government has repeatedly used its veto at the UN Security Council to block or weaken resolutions aimed at stopping the violence in Syria, while remaining the main weapons supplier to Syrian forces.

Please consider sending a message to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, calling on him to help stop the bloodshed.  While it would be naïve to assume such letters themselves would change his decision, it is important that the international community not be silent.  As well, given that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad could face war crimes charges, at the end of the day, what regime wants to be found on the wrong side of history?

Take Action:
Tell Russia to Help Stop Syria’s Bloodshed

Background:
Eyewitness of Houla Massacre [Guardian]
Battle for Aleppo [Globe&Mail]

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US: SUPPORT SUDAN PEACE & ACCOUNTABILITY ACT

Consider sending a message to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012. The act calls for a comprehensive strategy to end serious human rights violations in Sudan, to create incentives for other governments and persons to stop supporting Sudan and its resulting atrocities, and to reinvigorate genuinely comprehensive peace efforts in Sudan.  It aims to change Sudan’s calculus using diplomatic measures and {non civilian targeted} sanctions. It also advocates policy to help end human rights violations in Sudan.

This newsletter has highlighted how Darfur and Sudan move in and out of the news spotlight – such is the nature of long-standing conflicts.  But as noted in Current Status, there continues to be significant political oppression, and various areas of either atrocities or humanitarian crises.

Take Action (US citizens only: Enter your zip-code for correct Representative):
http://www2.americanprogress.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=205

Background:
Status of Bill HR4169

 

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U.S.: TELL US REPRESENTATIVES TO MAINTAIN SANCTIONS AGAINST BURMA

After such a long period of political oppression, and at times areas that verged on ethnic cleansing, it has been an almost stunning to see the signs of change, as indicated by recent events surrounding Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.  Yet while this forward momentum toward democracy should be encouraged, it needs to be mixed with much caution, so that it does not reward a government that is still carrying out severe human rights abuses against innocent civilians — particularly in Burma’s ethnic minority states.

Thus the following action calls on the U.S. to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act which will continue to prohibit products made in Burma from being imported into the United States — it will deny hundreds of millions of dollars from getting into the hands of Burma’s military.  While such sanctions punish everyone by prohibiting economic growth, in this case even Aung San Suu Kyi indicates that they need to remain until real political change occurs.  She sees this as a real leverage point that should not be lost.  Lifting them without real change will primarily reward the military with only minimal help for the citizens.

Take Action (U.S. only):
https://secure3.convio.net/sdc/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=723

 

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WALMART AT 50: DO MORE TO ELEVATE CONDITIONS

Walmart recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  As the world’s largest retailer, its policies hold tremendous clout.  Thus in the action below, you can send a greeting which includes birthday wishes to improve workers’ lives, and to sign on to national or global agreements that strengthen local communities, ensure labour and safety standards, and freedom of association.

Send Special Birthday Greetings:
http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/select-an-e-anniversary-card-for-walmart-below-2/

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Failure to Achieve Arms Trade Treaty

It has been hugely disappointing to see the failure to negotiate a new Arms Trade Treaty.  The proliferation of arms around the world has helped turn local conflicts into large-scale human tragedies for civilians.  Our longitudinal study of Darfur is a case in point, where the flood of simply small arms in the 1980s turned local conflicts in the deadly explosive scenarios we have witnessed.  The flood of arms did not generate the conflict, but they did allow the manipulation of the various conflicts to be highly magnified, resulting in enormous civilian tolls and allowing the entrenchment of political/power landscapes.  The only positive note is that the door is open for further talks and a vote could occur by the end of the year.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/28/arms-trade-treaty-william-hague

 

UWAA:  This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”

 

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