Friday, December 01, 2006

Accelerating "meltdown" in Darfur (Jan Egeland, via Mick Hartley)

An alarming and depressing roundup of the latest developments in Darfur, and some outside responses, from Mick Hartley.

As far back as December 2003 Jan Egeland, the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, declared the humanitarian situation in Darfur to be "one of the worst in the world." Since then, he has continued to sound the alarm as the scale of the catastrophe has gotten worse and worse. He now warns of a possible collapse of humanitarian assistance programs in Darfur and neighboring areas, due to a "meltdown in security," unless urgent action is taken.
"I was there in 2004 when there was 1 million people in need," Jan Egeland, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, told reporters. "2005, 2 million ... in the spring, 3 million. And now there are 4 million in desperate need of humanitarian assistance."
Unfortunately, prospects for urgent action are nowhere in sight. In the so-called international community, attention to this atrocity has been devastatingly uneven and inadequate (and there is an appalling amount of support for the genocidal Khartoum regime), but there has been some genuine mobilization of outrage. This is an achievement that should not be dismissed, but so far it is a feeble first step--at most. Hartley has some critical, or at least cautionary, reactions to a piece by Anne Applebaum that concludes:
The creation of an international coalition to end genocide is a stunning achievement, but its goals are still not deep or broad enough.
This is actually right, on both counts. But Hartley's response is also right.
And no matter how many campaigns are launched - and here's another one, by the way: We Blog for Darfur - nothing's getting better where it counts, in Darfur.
So it is important to keep trying.

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
Mick Hartley (Politics and Culture)
November 23, 2006

UN envoy Jan Egeland talks of a meltdown in Darfur:
Citing a "dramatic deterioration" of the situation in Darfur, the top U.N. humanitarian official said a crisis is approaching for the region in Sudan that could cost millions of lives.

"I was there in 2004 when there was 1 million people in need," Jan Egeland, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, told reporters. "2005, 2 million ... in the spring, 3 million. And now there are 4 million in desperate need of humanitarian assistance."

Egeland briefed the U.N. Security Council Wednesday on Darfur.

In a report from Reuters, Egeland also accused Sudan of deliberately hindering relief aid in Darfur, attacking villages and arming brutal militia to combat rebels and bandits.

Egeland told the Security Council that international relief operations were threatened by government obstruction and members needed to talk to Sudanese officials immediately as well as put pressure on those sending arms to rebels.

Meanwhile African leaders have had a nice meeting in Libya, but have decided, um, nothing:

Several African leaders have ended a meeting in Libya without announcing a breakthrough in efforts to halt the violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

A Libyan official said the leaders rejected pressure on Sudan to accept international peacekeepers.

Which makes Anne Applebaum's article about the success of the Darfur campaign seem premature at best:

[I]t is not simple to explain why this particular grass-roots action has been so successful. After all, Darfur is not the only place in the world where there has been mass murder, even ethnic mass murder, on a large, historically familiar scale. The North Korean regime has for years run concentration camps directly modeled on the concentration camps of Stalin's Soviet Union. But, though there is excellent documentation of Pyongyang's camps—the U.S. Committee on Human Rights in North Korea even has satellite photographs on its Web site—and though some religious and university groups have made an effort, the level of interest, and therefore perhaps of U.N. involvement, is much lower.

The same is true of arbitrary arrests in Iran...,some of which have targeted particular ethnic groups for intimidation or elimination. For that matter, Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons to murder tens of thousands of Kurds never caught the popular imagination, not before the war and not afterward.

I can offer no scientific explanation for why the tragedy of Darfur conjures up the specter of history's judgment and why other tragedies do not. But the answer must lie in the fact that this conflict has so few strategic or geopolitical implications. Because it seems to be in no one's "interest" do so so, a call for a U.N. intervention in Darfur surely feels—at least to Americans and Europeans who haven't followed China's involvement in Sudan's oil industry—like an act of real charity and not more evidence of the West pursuing its interests.

I don't see why an explanation for people's concern is needed, to be honest. Whether this ranks as genocide or not, there are still millions of lives at stake, and the continuation of what Jan Egeland has called "acts of inexplicable terror". And there clearly are strategic and geopolitical ramifications: the Arab world is silent at the actions of a Muslim regime, and is ready to start screaming about "new crusades" at any international intervention. The Africans, as we've seen, are for various reasons largely impotent.

And no matter how many campaigns are launched - and here's another one, by the way: We Blog for Darfur - nothing's getting better where it counts, in Darfur.

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