[Due to computer technical difficulties and logistical issues, I was unable to get the December 2007 article out on time. Thus I have combined it with January's article - the first part, below, is December's reflections on the past year, followed by updated January actions. If you are short on time, you can simply skip down to the January action section (though don't miss the "Thank You" section). My apologies - hopefully things will run smoothly from here on.]

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Welcome to the Monday December 31, 2007 issue of this Peace&Justice action email!

I want to start this year-end email, like last year, by reflecting on two of the overall issues that this e-mail tries to cover (you can review last year's reflection: Dec. 31, 2006 review, which, in broad brush strokes, did not require much foresight to hit the mark).


But first:



I wish to thank all those who have responded to the actions given over the past year. Of course there is seldom a direct linkage between web-based action and resolution of an issue, although as noted in Japan's recent announcement that it will not be hunting humpback whales this year, which follows on last month's appeal to Japan on that topic, multi-level concerted efforts can bring success. But as mentioned last year, part of the importance of these web-based actions is to break the silence; plus we are seldom so prescient as to know exactly when a tipping point may occur and a situation is moved forward - and thus the need simply to take action.





For a fuller update on the status, analysis and actions regarding Darfur, see www.UntilAll.org/Darfur.htm, which I have just revised.

It is now January 1, 2008 in Darfur and the UN-hybrid peacekeeping force for Darfur has officially commenced. In case that sounds celebratory, let me clarify that so far about the only change is that the African Union troops have removed their green berets and replaced them with the UN blue ones. Of the 26,000 troops and police mandated by UN Resolution 1769, there are currently about 9,000 in place (primarily the existing AU troops). That will not change soon, and if Sudan's President Bashir has his way, his obstructionist tactics will cause the mission to fail.

Scanning over the past year regarding the three major domains of concern - humanitarian aid, peace negotiations, and peacekeeping efforts - we find that first of all, the humanitarian situation, which had stabilized somewhat (though awful as the situation was), has greatly deteriorated with humanitarian groups becoming targeted more (several workers killed, many hijackings, etc), camps becoming more dangerous with arms flooding in, and with the government forcibly trying to relocate some people in the camps.

Peace negotiations have floundered. The only bright spot may be that talks to help unify the rebels, which failed, have informally kept going, which is more likely to produce results than the previous artificially forced deadlines.

Finally, as noted above regarding peacekeeping, while the UN force has officially commenced operations, it will be most of the year for it to have much impact, if the mission doesn't fail completely. This brings me to some reflections.



Perhaps the most astounding - or at least disheartening - dynamic for me this past year has been, on the one hand, the international community's acceptance of UN Resolution 1769, yet on the other hand, its refusal to supply it with 24 helicopters - essential given the extremely poor infrastructure in Darfur. Specifically, after a couple of months of the Secretary General pleading with every UN member, there have still been NON OFFERED. While there are issues of support and pilot nationality, etc - still - how can the entire UN community not come up with 24 helicopters (it was reported in several places that NATO had 18,000, which I believe is more like 8,200)? At one level the implication is obvious - Darfur does not sufficiently matter to the world. And while it is more complex than that, as noted in my web article - still - the optics are distressing and are exactly what President Bashir capitalizes on.

To me this glaring lack of support underlines last year's assertion that the invasion of Iraq continues to have unforeseen "collateral damage" around the world and in its undermining the potential for more solid global foundations. Some people have also observed another problem, in what has been coined "Drive-by Diplomacy" - attention is given {to Darfur} until some other event redirects the focus - be it a tsunami, a Lord Black trial or a Kenyan free fall into turmoil. These other situations may also need attention; the point is that national (& UN) foreign policy on Darfur should be given sufficient resources to maintain a permanence, something that is finally being recognized by some actors (with notable exceptions such as Canada), but which now could be too little, too late.



In previous emails I said I would place Darfur within the broader context of conflicts. Most of Sudan's nine neighbours have media-neglected but ongoing or simmering conflicts. Two examples: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has had an ongoing conflict since 1998, including a couple of peace agreements - and one in process - that nonetheless left a mind-numbing humanitarian disaster of 5,000,000 deaths (see IRC Report);  the Central African Republic, while in the midst of a peace agreement, still encounters appalling dynamics with 300,000 recently displaced (see UN Report);  both have a history of rape as a weapon.

So why the focus on Darfur, when all around it, let alone in other places in the world, human misery and cruelty abound?  The answer has two parts.  First, whenever there is a web action for such a situation, it will be given, as was the case with Burma, and is the case this time, below in the action section, for Kenya and its recent convulsion.  But secondly, Darfur, while being highlighted for its own sake, is also being highlighted because it is currently the only crisis that has behind it the "conceptual leap" of hope of the "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) doctrine.  If Darfur can be successfully resolved, then it sets the first precedent for R2P.  As mentioned previously, it may take a century or so for R2P to become a doctrine of substance; but if and as it does, it increases our international structures and dynamics to deal with brutal national thugs (in the past, think Idi Amin or Pol Pot) who thus would be increasingly unable to hide behind national sovereignty.  It is complex and thorny . . . and Darfur partly reflects that, and definitely will judge the world on its collective will to envision into being more decent international dynamics. (Jan23: The LA Times suggests that the UN's Ban Ki-moon take more radical action rather than his tepid diplomatic stance: Impunity in Sudan).




Continuing with last year's selective analysis, I will end with the environment. As predicted, this was a year that significantly brought the issue of climate change into regular conversation and deliberation. And while there were and have always been people motivated by their principles, my sense was that the Developed World fear was the chief dynamo fuelling the impetus - there seemed to be more dramatic variations in weather ( as predicted) we saw images of polar and glacial ice melting at accelerated rates (as predicted) and so on.

Almost twenty years ago I wrote an article that talked about a newly coined term - eco-phobia - and suggested that while environmental patterns are not yet likely direct indications of dire situations, that they may resemble them (that is, more dramatic weather patterns, etc), and that rather than develop an aversion to them, that especially for the sake of the most vulnerable who will be the first to be affected, we should follow the Precautionary Principle and take action. Well twenty years later it still holds true, though now, at least as far as climate change goes, and as mentioned in a previous email, quoting others, we should be weaning ourselves off oil not simply for the above principle, but simply for one's own post 9/11 national security interest - what could be a more counterproductive policy than to continue feeding billions of dollars to the Middle East? Thus while Bali was a good step, it remains extremely far from a true Precautionary Principle; and if one is entrepreneurially inclined, the countries to embrace clean technology will likely be the front runners of this century. It will be another interesting year - full of potential and pitfalls.






As mentioned previously China has had the only significant influence on Sudan. You can send a message to China telling them to follow-up with their original action.

ACTION: Urge China to demand full deployment of UN peacekeepers:
    Send email to China's UN Ambassador



This is available in the US and Canada (sorry, but I don't know if a similar setup is available in other countries). It is simple and effective. When you call you are led through a couple of steps - it can give you some basic talking points - and then puts you through to one of a variety of your representatives (President / Prime Minister, your Foreign Affairs office, etc). You could simply state your name and place and email or phone contact for a reply, and then state that you want your government to do all in its power to resolve the Darfur crisis (if you want more specific points, they will give you some or you could refer to the end of www.UntilAll.org/darfur.htm). It's as simple as that . . . and yet because it is a new way of doing things, even I had to tell myself "Don't put it off, just do it!"



If we learn anything about Darfur, it is to address an issue as early as possible. Thus the recent convulsion in Kenya, which had been a relative bastion of stability, needs all the support it can get. You voice can add to the thousands around the world calling for fair, sensible dynamics via this editable web email to your own country's Foreign Minister (again, it works for US and Canada, and I think for Britain, Australia and many other countries as well):

Take Action:
    Email your Foreign Minister



As noted, above, November's email campaign succeeded - Japan agreed not to hunt humpback whales. Greenpeace now has a bigger action - one of Japan's whaling factory ships needs to be replaced. They want to pressure Japan to shelve the idea entirely. You can send an email to several officials in Japan - though note, after you take the web-based action, you MUST wait for an email and use it to confirm your action (this helps ensure integrity of the action):

Tell Japan to Stop Building New Whaling Factory Ship:
    Send Email to Japan



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Rod Downing

Surrey BC Canada
(604) 535-6550