Welcome to the Friday, October 30, 2009, issue of this Peace&Justice action email!  To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed. 


With the U.S. Administration having finally released its new policy for Sudan, this email is primarily focused on the most promising potential opportunity for peace in the last couple of years.  Separately, it again calls on the authorities to release the massive civilian population that was caught in the Sri Lankan offensive of May 2009.  In addition it contains an action for U.S. citizens to help tighten effective debt cancellation mechanisms by reducing “Vulture Funds.”








The U.S. Administration released its long awaited policy review on Sudan.   Normally these emails only provide a brief overview (plus fuller background link).  But because this policy has the most promising potential in years, I want to be clear how critical it is to take action to support this endeavour.


The reaction has been one of “cautious optimism.”  It is the most coherent, comprehensive and transparent policy yet on Sudan.  Its overall strategy is three-fold: (a) A definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses, and genocide in Darfur;  (b) Implementation of the North-South CPA that results in a peaceful post-2011 Sudan, or an orderly path toward two separate and viable states at peace with each other;  (c) Ensure that Sudan does not provide a safe haven for international terrorists.  Such a strategy has been able to bring all relevant sections of government onto the same page, something that previously undercut effective U.S. action.


Key within its policy is an undisclosed set of incentives and disincentives, to be applied if Khartoum either improves certain benchmarks, or regresses / remains the same, respectively.


That said, it is simply a policy on paper and its true priority remains unknown.  Thus there is the need to show the administration that it is backed by a strong constituency for a fully robust implementation that includes the direct involvement of President Obama, who, for instance will be visiting China in a month.


The most effective means is to call the White House, using the number below.  It will lead you through the steps, including some talking points.  The message could be as simple as:


 “I am encouraged by the completed policy review of Sudan.  But its value will be in the implementation.  Please provide all resources necessary to maintain maximum engagement on resolving the full spectrum of issues in Sudan.  Thank you.”


While for many it can be difficult to make such a call, I hope most will overcome such fear – stated again, this carries the most promising potential I have seen in years, but it simply needs clear, resolute support to show there is the constituency to fully engage the policy.



A. Call the White House:



If you simply can’t bring yourself to make the phone call, or if you live outside North America, you can email your government.  If you are non-U.S., then you can use the template below:



B. Email your Government:

   Email White House

   Email Canadian Government  (you can use 1-800-GENOCIDE in Canada for Cdn officials)

   Email British Government

   Email Australian Government



“Dear President / Prime Minister . . . . ;


The people of Darfur have suffered far too long, in wretched conditions, dreams crushed, future uncertain.  I ask you to provide all resources necessary to help form a sustained, multi-lateral push that complements the new US policy on Sudan.  Together we can form the basis for the most promising chance to obtain a just peace deal for Darfur and a just stability for Sudan.



{name and address}”



Background: US Releases Policy:



US Policy: Actual Content:



Criticism: Not Comprehensive Enough:










Given that the U.S. has just announced its new Sudan policy, there is a test case waiting.  There have been sanctions against any country dealing in arms with Sudan.  But it has been toothless.  Human Rights First has created an action to press the U.S. Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, to assert real pressure as part of its new Sudan policy – by ensuring discussion and action at the United Nations to enforce the embargo and stop the flow of arms fueling the crisis in Darfur.


Write U.S. Envoy Gration:

   Petition to Scott Gration









As noted in an earlier email, the end of the Sri Lankan assault on the Tamil Tigers in May resulted in up to 300,000 civilians being caught in the last offensive and placed in massive internment camps. They are being held captive by the military, against their will and in violation of national and international law. At least 50,000 of them are children.


They suffered appalling conditions, even before the heavy September rains unleashed a river of sewage through the tents. Camp residents are in dire straits. They face overcrowding, kidnappings, sexual violence, disease, and now the potential for deadly flooding.  Journalists are banned.  And now the monsoons approach.

Take Action: 

   Pressure Sri Lanka to open the camps.









While this newsletter deals primarily with web-based actions, occasionally others actions are highlighted that both raise awareness of lesser known issues, and can be acted on, in this case by U.S. citizens via a phone call.  This action comes from Africa Action and the Campaign to Cancel Africa's Debt.


Vulture Funds buy the defaulted debt of poor countries from the original lender, often for pennies on the dollar.  After buying a poor country's debt, vulture funds take their time, waiting for the right opportunity to strike.


When a country receives debt cancellation from governments or international financial institutions, vulture funds rarely participate in the deal.  Instead they take the opportunity to sue in U.S. or European courts to seize the newly available resources - usually many times what they originally paid to purchase the debt.  After Zambia received debt cancellation for example, Vulture Fund Donegal International seized $15 million that was budgeted to be used for AIDS treatment and rural healthcare.


A bill was re-introduced in the U.S. Legislature to place controls on these appalling dynamics.  U.S. citizens can call their representatives to ask them to co-sponsor the bill.


Further Information and Take Action:

   Take Action on Vulture Funds


More Info and Links:

   Info. on Vulture Funds












Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Darfur


A U.S. based (Berkeley) initiative has teamed up with a Sudan NGO and has just started producing a stove that requires three to four times less wood for cooking.  This greatly reduces the time and also risk of women who often must go outside the camp to gather firewood, risking rape.  And it reduces the stress on the environment.  For more information, see:



As an aside, one would think solar cookers would be ideal for these camps.  They are also being tried and I applaud such efforts.  But when I checked earlier this year the people found them slow, unable to use them for breakfast (sun’s not up yet) or during sandstorms (common).  Various mud-type stoves are also being used – any such reduction in wood use is helpful.




World Health Report: Millions of Premature Deaths Easily Preventable


The World Health Organization just released a report listing 24 factors that, if addressed could vastly reduce premature deaths.  These factors include a mixture of environmental, behavioural and physiological factors, such as air pollution, tobacco use and poor nutrition.  Random sampling: Zinc deficiency contributes to child deaths; 10 of the leading factors decrease life expectancy by seven years; worldwide, overweight and obesity now causes more deaths than underweight;



Side note: As the following article highlights, obesity does not mean people are getting rich; rather the trend is that people move to the cities and with that their diet changes.  It especially changes to the worse if they are poor.





Valued Raw Materials: Often A Toxic Legacy for Locals - Jharkland, India


The pattern is distressingly similar – some valuable raw material is discovered, studies are done, local people are either left completely in the dark or told it will be good for their community, business moves in and extracts the material, and leaves a toxic legacy.  In Eastern India's Jharkand State, a low grade uranium has been extracted for decades.  Local villagers have high infertility rates and deformities.  New protests are forming as the nation scrambles for “clean energy.”



To reinforce this pattern, two days ago I read a report about the devastating environmental trail left behind in Ecuador (17 million gallons of oil spilt; 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater) and the continuing legal battles with Texaco now Chevron.




Amazon Gets a Break from Cattle Industry


In early 2009 Greenpeace produced a report linking Amazon destruction with the expansion of cattle ranching.  Since then they have gotten commitments from major shoe companies such as Adidas, Nike, Timberland, Clarks, etc., not to buy leather from Amazon destruction.  Of course, similar to the linkage, over two decades ago, between U.S. beef consumption and Amazon destruction, there are many factors to be addressed before it will result in change:



To read more about the destructive cycle of burning the Amazon on both people and our climate, and see the visible results in satellite photos, see:




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Rod Downing

Surrey BC Canada
(604) 535-6550