From Brighton to Darfur

Two quotations from the last two days, worth reading together.

Jack Straw’s Labour Party Conference Speech, 28 September 2005

At the Millennium Summit two weeks ago, with the UK in the vanguard, major reforms were agreed. New development aid targets; a peace-building commission; a new and more effective human rights council; and, most important of all, a new recognition that sovereign states themselves and the nations of the world as a whole, have a clear “responsibility to protect” all citizens from genocide, from ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

And if this new responsibility had been in place a decade ago, thousands in Srebrenica and Rwanda would have been saved. We would not have had to take action in Kosovo without an explicit UN mandate; and the later divisions over Iraq might (just) have been avoided.

And my pledge to you is to ensure that the fine words on responsibility to protect are translated into collective action.

Sleepless in Sudan – An aid worker diary from Darfur, 29 September 2005

The UN’s aid chief, Jan Egeland, has been making some noise this week about insecurity in Darfur and how unacceptable the situation is getting – close on the heels of similar remarks by the UN’s genocide envoy, Juan Mendez, who visited Darfur recently. …

Any man, woman or child in a typical Darfur town, be it Geneina or Kebkabaya, will tell you that the Janjaweed are still walking through the market with their guns – or jogging through the streets with the military as new recruits, as the case may be. And that the SLA are again rumoured to be on the cusp of launching an attack against one of the major towns soon. And that no, that road is NOT safe to use – you WILL be robbed, possibly beaten and maybe shot if you keep going that way.

What would really be news is if someone actually prosecuted the people behind the violence for their crimes – or, perhaps more importantly, their bosses. Unfortunately, there’s little hope that this will happen in the Sudanese tribunals that have been set up to deal with Darfur. And as the International Criminal Court, the one body who might have an impact on ending impunity in Darfur, sits around and mulls over its options I suppose the United Nations officials will be content with continuing to state the obvious.

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