Top Ten Statements on Darfur in 2008

Stop Genocide – Change.org: Top Ten Statements on Darfur in 2008.

A great round-up of game-changing statement on Darfur in the past year.

My favorites from Michelle’s list:

10. Speaking on his country’s effort to suspend the ICC investigation against President al-Bashir, Sudan’s Ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, threatened that a failure to do so would “open the gates of hell in Sudan and the rest of the region.”

To openly threaten both the people of Sudan and the international community is nothing short of ballsy—and is very revealing of Khartoum’s preferred method of governance, which prompted the investigations in the first place.

2. In another sign that politicians are finally waking up to the importance of an anti-genocide policy, the Genocide Prevention Task Force released its final report in early December, which includes a detailed list of policy recommendations that would integrate genocide prevention into the American foreign policy framework.

A key premise of the report, which provides a blueprint for U.S. policymakers, is the recognition of the fundamental need for sustained, high-level leadership in pursuit of the goals of genocide and mass atrocity prevention:

“Nothing is more central to preventing genocide than leadership–from the president, Congress, and the American people. In subsequent chapters of this report we propose numerous specific ideas that we believe will enhance U.S. government capacity to prevent genocide. But none of these will be realized without the best kind fo American leadership: farsighted, energetic, and optimistic, eschewing partisanship to rally our government and people to a great calling.”

Personally (having spent most of 2008 ensuring that these kind of statements were a crucial part of the discussion) I would add that the advocacy around the Olympics – and the statement that the Olympics should actually be about the peace and unity the International Olympic Committee says they are – was one of the biggest game-changing statements on Darfur in the past year.

Sure, it didn’t immediately change China’s or the IOC’s or any of the sponsoring companies minds, but I think it did show there are PR and ethical reprocussions for supporting genocide.  But, for one of my favorite statements on Darfur in 2008:

I sincerely hope that the newest Olympic champions not only show graciousness toward their Chinese hosts, but also issue a stern call for action in Darfur. With its significant ties to Sudan, China is one of the countries in the world best positioned to do more to stop the killing in Darfur, and it is the responsibility of athletes competing there this summer to say that — respectfully yet forcefully — even as they focus on their own athletic accomplishments.

This community was the defining aspect of my Olympic experience, and it’s what led me, ultimately, to Darfur. I could sit with an athlete from another land, and even though we had very different backgrounds, we had the Olympic experience in common. Just to earn my place in that Olympic Village cafeteria, I’d spent years competing around the world. During those travels, I began to see that it wasn’t just athletes that I had this fellowship with but people in every nation. I met great friends in Europe who would invite me into their homes and where we would eventually realize that both of our grandfathers had fought in World War II — against each other. I made friends from China who had also left their homes at an early age to begin training, and even though we barely understood each other, no one in the world smiled bigger at me when we would bump into each other. My other constant companion in that world travel was the international news coverage of atrocities that I didn’t hear much about on the news at home.

It might seem funny that a speed skater from North Carolina would focus on what was then a somewhat obscure crisis in Africa, but it all came back to my Olympic views. Ultimately, I feel no different than a person born in any other area of the world, except perhaps a bit luckier. And if people were gunning down my family, I would certainly want the world to help. So that’s what I tried to do.

[F]rom the U.N. General Assembly: a resolution, passed last fall, urging its members to observe what’s known as the “Olympic truce” during the Olympics in August and the Paralympics in September. The truce is an effort to “use sport as an instrument to promote peace,” a modern version of what the Greeks called “Ekecheiria” and observed during ancient Olympiads. The goal today is to use a short window this summer as one way to temporarily halt conflicts — a step toward some more permanent kind of reconciliation.

For my fellow athletes who will gather to compete at the gleaming new venues China will unveil: Your efforts might give you the chance to improve the lives of millions. I hope that goal will resonate for everyone stepping to a microphone after a big win this summer.

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About Martha Heinemann Bixby

Advocacy. Politics. Life. Martha Heinemann Bixby.
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