UN Watch has been a leading voice at the United Nations for the victims of Darfur and an active member of the Globe for Darfur coalition. Some of our recent actions on Darfur include:
In March 2007, UN Watch spearheaded a joint statement
of more than 60 NGOs around the world urging the HRC to adopt a strong stance against the abuses of the Khartoum government.
In December 2006, during the HRC's fourth special session, UN Watch led the largest NGO coalition
to demand justice for the victims of Darfur.
see below for a list of some of our recent statements on Darfur
Darfur: The Montreal Conference
The Suburban, August 22, 2007
"Never again must have meaning every day and in every way"
For any man, woman and child in Darfur just living through another day is a victory. Nobody seems to care much about black African blood — living or dead. Apathy to heinous acts of genocide and destructive indifference to refugees seem to be the hallmark of world policy.
A glaring spotlight was turned on these conditions last Thursday at Darfur: The Montreal Conference held at the Delta Centre-Ville Hotel.
The conference was organized by Suburban editor Beryl Wajsman in his capacity as President of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal in association with The Suburban newspaper and the Dym Family Foundation.
The goal was to increase public awareness of the Darfur crisis, and to raise support — moral and material — for Save Darfur Canada, the umbrella organization for Darfur advocacy groups in this country.
SDC’s executive director Tara Tavender made an urgent plea for assistance and alliance during her speech.
Wajsman said that this crisis commanded conscience to act and demanded a consensus to arm.
The speakers at the conference, among the most compelling and courageous leaders of international civil society, reflected this sense of urgency.
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer spoke from his desk in Geneva, and took the audience through the diplomatic chaos, particularly the infuriating failures of the UN Human Rights Council which had rejected the recommendations of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams’ report that criticized that body’s inaction and hypocrisy and proposed dramatic reforms.
The Council took the position, Neuer explained, that there were no serious violations taking place in Darfur.
“Defenders of Sudan were embedded in the Council’s resolution team,” said Neuer. He closed his speech with a quote from Josef Stalin that seemed to mirror the Council’s approach. “A single murder is a tragedy, a million murders is a statistic.”
A horrifying reality that David Kilgour, former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific and Africa and the Middle East, also takes very seriously.
He delivered a poignant indictment of China’s role in Sudan/Darfur. The only lifeboat for the people of Darfur, he said, was the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
If enough people protest outside of China, with the aim of forcing a boycott of Beijing over the issues of China’s murder of Falun Gong practitioners and its support of Sudan’s genocide in Darfur, it could potentially force China to abandon the Khartoum regime.
Kilgour, together with B’nai B’rith special counsel David Matas, authored a groundbreaking report on Chinese human rights abuses especially as they relate to the Falun Gong and the harvesting and sale of human organs.
Kilgour said that, “The Falun Gong community is present in approximately seventy countries and is not calling for a boycott or shunning of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The boycott effort is coming from others of us who are deeply worried about the worsening state of human rights in China generally.” He has organized a Global Human Rights Torch Relay in an effort to cripple China’s economic bloodstream. The first flame was lit at the ceremony in Athens, Greece on August 9, 2007.
Kilgour is optimistic that “The Torch Relay will be a beacon of hope bringing improvement in human rights and an awareness that the Olympic Games and crimes against humanity cannot co-exist.”
Retired Major-General Lewis Mackenzie, who led the UN peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, was skeptical about the ability of the international community in dealing with the Darfur crisis.
“The only way to deal with warlords and militias is to let them know, in no uncertain terms, that ultimately there will come a day when they will be held accountable,” said Mackenzie.
However, that requires international force and that may not be organized as quickly as needed. America, he said, is cautious about getting involved because of capacity.
Its forces that are maintained in Korea, Germany, Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan involve some one million service men and women, he said.
The United Nations won’t deal with the Darfur crisis because even threatening force, much less applying it, would go against the self interest of some member of the Security Council’s permanent five, particularly China.
“I’m sure the majority of people here today aren’t as depressed as I am. Having gone through three or four of these types of missions and challenges, the solutions aren’t obvious. Sadly, a lot of the ideas don’t work,” said the retired and tired general.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Charles Steele, Jr. flew in from Atlanta for the conference marking the first visit to Montreal by a sitting SCLC president. In an emotional address that roused the attendees, he said that a solution will only come with the healing agent of moral foundation. Steele called the Darfur conflict a race war.
“African Americans have experienced this treatment. We did not have a Holocaust, but we had a hellocaust,” he said. Steele travels around the U.S. and the world setting up SCLC conflict resolution centers, the first of which, outside the United States, was established in Dimona, Israel. He spoke passionately of the need for people to learn an alternative to violence and said, “It’s all about education, and communication.”
“We have the answer, and it came through the modern civil rights movement under the leadership of Martin Luther King,” Steele said in conclusion.
There need to be consequences to genocide, emphasized former International criminal court advisor, Professor Payam Akhavan. He said genocide is a political choice, and a man-made disaster. ‘Crime does not pay’ is the message we have to send out.
“We’re here today because the world failed to prevent genocide. Genocide can’t be an instrument of power. States must understand it is not ‘chic’,” said Akhavan. “The question is how do we negotiate peace and justice with people who are creating havoc?” He stressed the international community must inject a culture of accountability.
Vancouver’s Nazanin Afshin-Jam, human rights activist and former Miss World Canada, spoke about hope as an important weapon for change. “There is hope, but it depends on the acts of individuals, and people knowing they have the power to enact change. If people start doing something, and demand more from their governments, an end to genocide could be in sight, she said. She movingly recounted her successful effort in rallying people around the world to free 18-year-old Nazanin Fatehi from Tehran’s infamous Evin prison. Afshin-Jam collected over 300,000 signatures, raised funds for legal defense and moved UN officials including Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour. Afshin-Jam gave a short concert at the end of the conference featuring songs from her newly-released CD Someday, in which the title track, with versions in English, French and Farsi, was dedicated to Fatehi and is a plea for the freedom of the people of Iran.
Montreal community activist Reverend Darryl Gray delivered closing remarks and underscored that Darfur was a race war. “Never again,” he asserted, “must be given meaning every day and in every way. We’ve got to lead on this issue and say Darfur is wrong. Not because it’s black, because it’s wrong. Not because it’s Africa, because it’s wrong. If it’s wrong in Croatia, it’s wrong in Darfur for the very same reason because people are dying. They’re not just dying. They’re being murdered. It’s racism. It’s economics. People are afraid of racism,” said the reverend, “and people need to know the truth.”
Darfur: The Montreal Conference, showed that there does exist an international community of conscience and it can make a difference. One came away with a feeling of individual empowerment and individual responsibility. The message was that people united can make governments take effective action. Demonstrating, petitioning, donating and talking are the antidotes to the poison of silence and indifference. For more information on how you can make a difference, visit www.savedarfurcanada.org.
Copyright 2007, The Suburban