Wednesday, February 28, 2007

get pAID

3:27 PM Posted by: M., 3 comments

Since issues of social justice, global suffering, war and such have come up in the comments here recently, I thought I would share an op-ed I saw today in the Washington Post. I had the odd pleasure of meeting Angelina Jolie and attending two UN functions with her a couple years ago. They weren't like big forums or anything, just some simple events in Washington, DC. From the way she talked to me and acted, I think she is legit in that her work and concern does come purely from her heart and not from publicity or anything. that's all I feel like saying--anyway, it is an interesting read if you want to get an update from darfur. I think this writing starts to show how complicated these issues are--at least how complicated politics makes them. That is kind of one of the reasons I chose to leave Washington, DC for a while. There is so much bureacracy and selfishness in a lot of the aid world. At least to get a job at an NGO, it is so competitive and you spend most of your time trying to make yourself look good, rather than trying to make other peoples' lives better. That is a gross generalization--but what I mean is that it is frustrating that it can be so difficult to help the world in a large way. I guess the best option for us helping is probably just to move to an area of the world in which we want to work and try to get a job with an aid organization as a local or something. I had an internship at an NGO and it was really disheartening in a lot of ways how far the mission can be from the organization's everyday activities. But nonetheless, these mere frustrations are no excuse for passively reacting to the suffering and deaths of innocent people.

Justice for Darfur
By Angelina JolieWednesday, February 28, 2007; A19

BAHAI, Chad -- Here, at this refugee camp on the border of Sudan, nothing separates us from Darfur but a small stretch of desert and a line on a map. All the same, it's a line I can't cross. As a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I have traveled into Darfur before, and I had hoped to return. But the UNHCR has told me that this camp, Oure Cassoni, is as close as I can get.

Sticking to this side of the Sudanese border is supposed to keep me safe. By every measure -- killings, rapes, the burning and looting of villages -- the violence in Darfur has increased since my last visit, in 2004. The death toll has passed 200,000; in four years of fighting, Janjaweed militia members have driven 2.5 million people from their homes, including the 26,000 refugees crowded into Oure Cassoni.

Attacks on aid workers are rising, another reason I was told to stay out of Darfur. By drawing attention to their heroic work -- their efforts to keep refugees alive, to keep camps like this one from being consumed by chaos and fear -- I would put them at greater risk.
I've seen how aid workers and nongovernmental organizations make a difference to people struggling for survival. I can see on workers' faces the toll their efforts have taken. Sitting among them, I'm amazed by their bravery and resilience. But humanitarian relief alone will never be enough.

Until the killers and their sponsors are prosecuted and punished, violence will continue on a massive scale. Ending it may well require military action. But accountability can also come from international tribunals, measuring the perpetrators against international standards of justice.
Accountability is a powerful force. It has the potential to change behavior -- to check aggression by those who are used to acting with impunity. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has said that genocide is not a crime of passion; it is a calculated offense. He's right. When crimes against humanity are punished consistently and severely, the killers' calculus will change.

On Monday I asked a group of refugees about their needs. Better tents, said one; better access to medical facilities, said another. Then a teenage boy raised his hand and said, with powerful simplicity, "Nous voulons une épreuve." We want a trial. He is why I am encouraged by the ICC's announcement yesterday that it will prosecute a former Sudanese minister of state and a Janjaweed leader on charges of crimes against humanity.

Some critics of the ICC have said indictments could make the situation worse. The threat of prosecution gives the accused a reason to keep fighting, they argue. Sudanese officials have echoed this argument, saying that the ICC's involvement, and the implication of their own eventual prosecution, is why they have refused to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.
It is not clear, though, why we should take Khartoum at its word. And the notion that the threat of ICC indictments has somehow exacerbated the problem doesn't make sense, given the history of the conflict. Khartoum's claims aside, would we in America ever accept the logic that we shouldn't prosecute murderers because the threat of prosecution might provoke them to continue killing?

When I was in Chad in June 2004, refugees told me about systematic attacks on their villages. It was estimated then that more than 1,000 people were dying each week.
In October 2004 I visited West Darfur, where I heard horrific stories, including accounts of gang-rapes of mothers and their children. By that time, the UNHCR estimated, 1.6 million people had been displaced in the three provinces of Darfur and 200,000 others had fled to Chad.

It wasn't until June 2005 that the ICC began to investigate. By then the campaign of violence was well underway.

As the prosecutions unfold, I hope the international community will intervene, right away, to protect the people of Darfur and prevent further violence. The refugees don't need more resolutions or statements of concern. They need follow-through on past promises of action.
There has been a groundswell of public support for action. People may disagree on how to intervene -- airstrikes, sending troops, sanctions, divestment -- but we all should agree that the slaughter must be stopped and the perpetrators brought to justice.

In my five years with UNHCR, I have visited more than 20 refugee camps in Sierra Leone, Congo, Kosovo and elsewhere. I have met families uprooted by conflict and lobbied governments to help them. Years later, I have found myself at the same camps, hearing the same stories and seeing the same lack of clean water, medicine, security and hope.
It has become clear to me that there will be no enduring peace without justice. History shows that there will be another Darfur, another exodus, in a vicious cycle of bloodshed and retribution. But an international court finally exists. It will be as strong as the support we give it. This might be the moment we stop the cycle of violence and end our tolerance for crimes against humanity.

What the worst people in the world fear most is justice. That's what we should deliver.
The writer is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.


agnosis said...

Thank you for posting this piece. We as humanity need to awaken on a more global level to what is happening and what can be done apart from governmental agencies. Not enough people are aware or know what to do if they are aware. What do you recommend someone do with this knowledge?

marie said...

Hey Agnosis,

It is hard to figure out what is the best way to help. It all depends on how your life is structured I guess. I try to not spend much money at all and give a lot to a number of organizations I trust, and who maintain low overhead costs themselves. I plan at some point to move somewhere I feel I could be of help and try to get an aid job as a "local." It is hard when you live in America and try to get a job overseas because the organization could hire a dozen locals for the cost of one maybe move somewhere, become familiar with the area and be able to work at a much lower pay rate and try to get hired--or create your own organization. I was reading about this couple who toured part of Africa and they saw so many broken down motorcycles everywhere--they were doctors in America who loved to ride motorcycles--so they came up with the idea to train people in Africa to fix motorbikes, and they created an aid organization that delivers medical care to hard to reach places--the doctors travel on motorbike and can deliver care, as well as bring sick people from far villages to larger clinics towards the cities. So I guess, we just can be creative too.
Personally, I see helping these problems as a life change rather than just a charity--live simpler and give out more money, or commit your life to it--but that is easy for me to say because i am young and single and it is easier for me to make sacrifices. I am sure you will find your balance in helping--it is honorable in itself that you are willing to learn about these problems--we could pretty easily tune them out if we wanted

Agnosis said...

Thank you for the input and ideas. This is something that has bothered me for some time now. Mass media makes us aware of such dilemmas as Darfur, Rwanda, etc. but it's just as easy to watch a sitcom or turn off the tv. I have a family, and I've been trying to figure out what can be done. I get extremely fustrated by the burocracy involved in some aid agencies, and we won't even bring up the UN. There must be something more that can be done besides giving 30% of my dollar to a relief agancy and 70% to its overhead costs. Which organizations do you trust with low overhead costs?

You're very right about help being a life change. Even something as simple as U2's Red campaign is a conscious decision in the marketplace. Whatever actions are taken, awareness and education are the first steps, so thanks for posting the article.