Welcome to the Sunday, January 31, 2010, issue of this Peace&Justice action email! To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed.
The devastating impact from Haiti’s earthquake continues to make daily headlines. This newsletter suggests guidelines as well as a specific action that will help maximize rebuilding efforts. And in a slight departure from the usual action-only basis, it also contains a reflection on some of the more global implications of the disaster.
In addition they are actions on Darfur, on a U.S. loophole in law that allows alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity to live in the U.S., and on a very troubling proposed Ugandan law that would condemn to death people involved in certain same-sex acts.
HAITI – DONATE WISELY
By now you have probably been inundated by requests to help Haiti. I won’t add to it, but will reaffirm some basic principles. With rare exceptions give money not things – it allows the most flexible use for the most pressing needs. Go with reputable organizations or ones you have well-researched – there are scams out there. While limited, look for organizations that can buy or hire locally. While it will be impossible to avoid entirely when a nation’s complete infrastructure has collapsed, try to limit government-to-government funding, as it is susceptible to high overhead, corruption, donor-driven agendas, etc. Finally, don’t stop giving to other worthy causes; but also realize the very long-term component to Haiti’s rebuilding process – see Final Thoughts & Marshall Plan notions below.
HAITI – CANCEL THE DEBT
Avaaz has created an action, in conjunction with others, to have Haiti’s debt cancelled. While debt cancellation can be problematic, in this case it seems justified, especially when one realizes that some of the debt legacy goes back to the country’s creation in the 1820s. And while it can be argued that such an action isn’t as significant as it may appear to be (see second background article), one can argue that such a calculus may not be correct and besides it can still be a worthy action.
Tell International leaders to Drop the Debt:
HAITI – FINAL THOUGHTS
While it is wonderful to see the caring side of people as donations for Haiti pour in, and to have international agencies that are able to respond, difficult and uneven as it has been thus far, I wanted to end with three larger-scope issues that are raised. First is that as noted above, part of Haiti’s poverty is derived from its history, whether France’s original demand in the 1820s, or efforts since the 19th century, largely by the U.S., to influence Haiti’s history (see Background articles). Viewing the single island, where half is the lush Dominican Republic, contrasted with Haiti’s largely denuded landscape, makes a visible symbol of the effects of its troubled history.
Secondly, the extent of the devastation, agonizing personal loss that it has been for the Haitians, does open the possibility for a grand “Marshall Plan” type of response, that done properly, might actually allow Haitians finally to move beyond the poverty traps that have ensnared them. Of course one of the chief problems of such massive mobilizations is that vested interests may simply continue Haiti’s old history. But that is not an inevitable outcome. It is crucial for such a process to be transparent and accountable and be based on sound development principles (see http://untilall.org/dev.htm). And, that we keep the spotlight on the process.
Thirdly, stepping back even further, I simply want to name again how primitive we are structured internationally. The image remains clear – a Canadian helicopter plucking up Canadian citizens and taking them safely away from the chaos and screams of those who would remain. I don’t fault my country Canada or the other nations doing the same – that is their elected mandate. I am happy for the people and their families. I know that my donated money will eventually try to help others, and am grateful for those sacrificing to help achieve that. But I also mourn that any person should be categorically privileged over another. An incredibly uneven power distribution among entities called nation-states is the best we have achieved. I mention this to help spark vision and bolster efforts that might someday structure us closer to the true equality of all.
U.S.: CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY ACT
Loopholes in U.S. law allow people alleged to have committed crimes against humanity to reside in the U.S. There is currently a Bill to close such loopholes, but it needs support. U.S. citizens can email their Representatives to ask them to support the bill.
Take Action (U.S. citizens only)
DARFUR: APPLY PRESSURE AFTER ASSESSMENT MEETING
Last week a meeting was convened by the Obama administration (Deputies Meeting) to assess the situation in Sudan. This is part of a regular follow-up from the new Sudan Policy of Oct, 2009. A previous newsletter indicated that the new policy was the best yet, but its value would be determined by Sudan’s progress against benchmarks. This meeting was the first such assessment and was supposed to yield big recommendations on how to craft the right balance of incentives and pressures toward Sudan’s government. Instead, the meeting seems to have left the Obama administration's Sudan policy in limbo, having only reviewed the assessments. It appears a key briefing paper was not prepared.
Thus it is crucial to maintain the spotlight and pressure on this group. Given that Sudan will hold presidential elections in April, the group cannot afford to wait. Contact your Representatives below, urging them to contact the deputies and have them meet again to provide the administration with the urgently needed recommendations before Sudan reaches these pivotal events.
Urge your Rep. To Meet with Deputies:
UGANDA – PROPOSED ANTI-GAY BILL HAS DEATH CLAUSE
A proposed bill in Uganda, if passed, would alter their existing laws against same-sex acts to include the death sentence for certain cases. Since the most basic human right is the right to life, I would hope that regardless of one’s views on same-sex relations (this email goes to a wide audience), that everyone will consider taking action against this bill. In addition, the bill would jail anyone in authority who is aware of a same-sex act and does not report it, which threatens HIV/AIDS awareness programs.
It should be noted that this issue has roots that involve certain U.S. religious figures, including Rick Warren, a Christian pastor (Saddleback church) and author of A Purpose Driven Life – he has links with Uganda, and indirectly to this issue (Mar/08). I was preparing an action for last month’s email which asked him to repudiate the Ugandan bill, in an effort to undercut its support. Fortunately he did publically repudiate the bill, shortly before my last newsletter was sent.
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