The Australian Department of Immigration (currently the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) has rightfully been condemned for some dreadful actions over the years - turning away boatloads of refugees, passing the buck (in more ways than one) to cash-strapped Pacific islands, redrawing Australia's boundaries for migration purposes... even deporting Australian citizens who just happened to have non-Anglo names. And in the past week they've made us a global laughingstock yet again with the ludicrous Citizenship Test.
It may be a tad simplistic to describe the conflict in Darfur as "the world's first climate-change war", but the following press release from Boston University on July 11 gives hope of a science-driven resolution to probably the world's worst humanitarian crisis of the present day:
'1,000 Wells for Darfur' initiative launched
This took place during my downtime last month, and I had trouble tracing it back to its source, but John Howard used the D word for the third time on June 15. That's three times in the past six months, but none of them in a constructive light.
It was in an interview with journalists from the Sydney Morning Herald, and it was in response to a query about the foot-in-mouth Defence Minister Brendon Nelson's announcement that Australia would not be joining the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur.
As the coconut dessicates, possibly terminally, John Winston Howard has uttered the D-word for, as far as I can tell, only the second time. (Here's my report of the first.)
It came in his virulent response to criticism of Australia's human rights record contained in the latest Amnesty International Annual Report (as I noted last week), where his use of fear for political purposes was compared to, among others, that of Omar al-Bashir.
Hot on the heels of the Madcap Redhead's proclamation that South African immigrants have AIDS and are of no use in Australia, the Tamworth City Council voted on Tuesday night to reject the establishment of a refugee resettlement centre for five Sudanese families.
The reason? The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Tamworth mayor James Treloar as saying they didn't want a "Cronulla riots type situation" in Tamworth.
CHAD: Communities turn on one another - Chadian human rights groups say what began as cattle raiding has become a veritable armed conflict in southeastern Chad as inter-communal clashes escalate, imperiling efforts by aid agencies to help the wounded and displaced. [OCHA-IRIN]
The disturbing news from Chad should be the lead story everywhere today. See also this report from today's New York Times,
On September 17, as part of the Global Day of Action for Darfur (sadly ignored by most of Australia), many clerics around the world offered prayers for the people of the Sudanese province. On Desmond Tutu's 75th birthday, I reproduce his prayer for Darfur:
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: