Welcome to the Friday, February 26, 2010 issue of this Peace&Justice action email! To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed.
This newsletter starts with an issue previously covered – blood diamonds – and urges action to keep the process against them from unraveling. It also deals with landmines and cluster munitions, given that the Cluster Munitions Ban is now set to take effect.
In addition is an update on Darfur, given the recent deal between Sudan and one rebel group. As well, there is an action calling on expanded ratification of the Child Soldier Treaty, and a call on airlines to clean up their act.
BLOOD DIAMONDS’ SAFEGUARD IN JEOPARDY
Since 2003, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme has existed. Its purpose was to ensure diamonds were not funding violence (see the report below, for its positive effect on reducing violence, for instance in countries such as Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia). It now represents seventy-five countries, including Zimbabwe, and claims to cover 99% of the global rough-diamond industry. However in 2009 two investigations, one by the Kimberley Process (KP) itself and a separate one by Human Rights Watch, found that diamond mining in eastern Zimbabwe contained serious human rights abuses. But because the KP is governed by consensus and included such countries as Mugabe-friendly Russia, the KP didn’t suspend Zimbabwe but merely asked that it withdraw its military (which is has not).
KP did not threaten suspension because of a technicality: blood diamonds are defined as coming from abusive rebel groups, not abusive governments as was this case. HRW believes such a stance erodes credibility, as it will become unclear whether diamonds are blood diamonds or not. The whole scheme could collapse. Thus they have created an email to take stronger action.
Tell Kimberley Process member states to take action:
BANNING LANDMINES AND CLUSTER MUNITIONS
As noted in the “Articles of Interest” section at the end of this newsletter, the Cluster Munitions Ban comes into effect on August 1, 2010, having reached the ratification threshold. Previous newsletters have pressed for such initiatives, so this seemed like a good time to raise the issues again, given the available actions below. Both traditional landmines, and the newer cluster munitions which leave unexploded bomblets scattered over wide areas, are indiscriminate, killing or maiming innocent civilians. See Background for the full range of issues.
U.S.: Urge your Rep. to join the Min Ban Treaty
Canada: Urge political leaders to ban investments in such industries:
Other countries: Check your status on the treaties (and take similar action):
DARFUR AND RECENT SUDAN-REBEL SIGNING
On Feb. 20, 2010 Sudan has signed a temporary peace deal with one rebel group – Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - who is now generally considered the strongest group (see Reuters report on peace deal). While one cannot discount the possible openings that this act may present the announcement needs to be properly anchored. Firstly, nothing of substance has changed in Darfur. The IDP camps, having existed for 7 years now, are cauldrons of lost hope, despair, roiling emotions, fear, continued rape. Aid has become much more problematic. The countryside is largely chaotic and lawless, though, because there are less overt clashes between armed groups and less civilian causalities, it is labeled by the government as “peaceful.”
Secondly one must remember that President Bashir will do anything to remain in power – he has signed countless documents, only to ignore them when convenient This peace agreement can be seen primarily as part of his strategy to ensure legitimacy to the presidential election in April. And one must recognize that all parties have vested self-interests in this – see Recent Sudan-rebel peace deal, which list some and I will shortly update with other actors and interests. Such self-interests are not unexpected, and can even be used for much leverage; it is only dangerous when viewed naively.
Thirdly, it is crucial to highlight the markers that will determine whether this agreement moves in a direction that might actually help the Darfuri people. At this stage the agreement is only a sketch, to be fully negotiated by mid-March –a sign in itself of the forced agenda being placed on it, in this case by Bashir, to meet his election need. Some of the markers are whether: (a) it will include the other rebel groups; (b) it will include the broader civil society; (c) it will address issues of disarmament and security; (d) it will include issues of homes resettled by Arab outsiders, and more broadly the whole issue of land tenure; (e) ability of IDP camps to have a voice in any elections; and most importantly (f) whether this will give Darfurians a voice and ability to determine their own future and shape their development, the lack of which caused the rebel creation in the first place.
Since the announcement there has been much negotiation taking place and much aid proposed. But it is simply too early to know where all this will head. Stay tuned.
RATIFY CHILD SOLDIERS TREATY
Ten years ago, the United Nations adopted a treaty banning the use of children under age 18 in hostilities or their forced recruitment into armed forces or groups. Today, two-thirds of the world’s countries have ratified this treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. However, 61 countries have not ratified the treaty and made clear their absolute commitment to ending the use of child soldiers.
Human Rights Watch wants to achieve universal ratification of the child soldiers treaty by writing to the ambassadors for key countries and asking that their governments help end the use of child soldiers and act quickly to ratify the treaty. They will do this ten countries at a time. When you look at the list, there are clearly some countries that will remain unmoved, but it is still worth applying pressure to the other countries.
Take action (be sure to check or uncheck the items at the bottom or you will receive extra email):
AIRLINES POOR AT RECYCLING
Green America did an investigation revealing that each passenger is producing over one pound of garbage, 75% of which could be recycled but seldom is. Given there are almost 2 million passenger flights per day in the U.S. alone, that adds up to incredible wastage. The report below evaluated ten U.S. airlines plus British Airways. Delta came out on top; American Airlines’ flight attendants voluntarily created an aluminum can recycling initiative that benefits a charity, so it can be done.
Tell Airline Industry to Clean up its Act:
Read Report (a .pdf file):
=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
Cluster Munitions Ban Starts August 1, 2010
Another global milestone has taken place. Enough countries have ratified the convention banning cluster munitions, so that it will now take effect, starting on August 1, 2010:
Haiti: Issues with Displaced Camps
Haiti’s recovery will be a long-term project. A report to the UN Security Council examines the status of an interim step – camps for the displaced – and highlights the desperate need to meet minimal standards in terms of shelter and living conditions; security (there are increasing reports of rape); and access to food.
List of Current Conflicts
What is the current global status of conflict? One photo report list contains 33 conflicts, either violently active or simmering:
Fair Trade – Positive Shifts
This newsletter has highlighted the issue of Fair Trade (FT) several times. I won’t go into details again, other than to mention the US Senate testimony years ago that compared FT and non-FT coffee farms in an area in Central America. It found when prices dropped, many non-FT trade farmers either grew drug crops, or were forced from their land, often ending in large city problems of prostitution, etc. FT farms remained stable and their children went to school, etc.
So I found it interesting this past month to run across three recent major names who have switched to Fair Trade. You can send a thank-you note to two of them.
1. BEN & JERRY’s goes Fair Trade globally for all products by 2013: Announcement;
Send thank-you: secure.benjerry.com/contact-us/comment.cfm
2. GREEN & BLACKS goes Fair Trade for all products: Info and thank-you:
3. CADBURY’S Dairy Milk Bar Goes Fair Trade by 2010: Announcement
Treatment of Animals
This topic hasn’t been directly addressed in depth in this newsletter, except for some actions regarding factory farms, largely because this is a forum for action not broad analysis, much as I would like to do it (and am hoping soon to start a Blog). However I found myself quite unsettled by a recent NYT article, examining genetic experiments to alter animals so they feel less pain. The idea is that most current large farm and slaughter facilities result in much stress and pain for animals, and this would make them less aware of such pain. Combined with all the other problems of our large-scale food production, this reinforces for me, the wrong direction of it all:
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