Today, September 17, has been declared a Global Day of Action for Darfur. dayfordarfur.org tells us that the day "was originally conceived by a group of NGOs working on Darfur and concerned about the slow response of the international community to the crisis".
It's also the first anniversary of the signing of the 2005 UN World Summit Outcome Document. Of particular relevance here are paragraphs 138 and 139:
Responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity
138. Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This
responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept that responsibility and will act in accordance with it. The international community should, as appropriate, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility and support the United Nations in establishing an early warning capability.
139. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We stress the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law. We also intend to commit ourselves, as necessary and appropriate, to helping States build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assisting those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out.
So what are we doing about it? Damn little. An obscenely small amount. Mary Liddell in today's Observer summarises the situation:
The African Union's 7,000 peacekeepers, feeble, underfunded and unwelcome, are leaving in a fortnight. Sudan's leader, Omar al-Bashir, refuses to accept the 20,000 replacement force mandated by the United Nations. The resulting security vacuum would force out aid workers, condemning to death many of the 2.5 million who depend on them. It would also let Bashir unleash a military solution to a three-year conflict that has killed 300,000 people and left 2 million homeless; 10,000 Sudanese troops are massing to take on the rebels.
A good centralised resource page for information and action about the situation in Darfur can be found at the excellent International Crisis Group website.
As for John Winston Howard, he still registers a nil return for mentions of "Darfur" either in Hansard or in transcripts available on the Prime Ministerial website. But then, he never was big on humanitarian issues, was he?
I'll post about the Australian political activity in relation to Darfur in a separate item. I'll finish this post with a prayer, published by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on Friday:
We pray for those whose lives are lived on the margins of nations and suffer from the wars that others fight around them. We pray for the warring factions, that they may see themselves under the gaze of God and those who suffer for their cause. We pray for the peoples of Darfur who are haunted by fear of violence, hunger and hopelessness, that they may continue to be fed, visited and defended. We pray for the work of peacekeepers, negotiators and the humanitarian organisations that security may prevail. We pray for the Government of Sudan and for her unity. We pray for peace in the name of him who is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ our Lord.