March 29, 2007

Policy Advisor Calls For Student Action Darfur

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“After four years of this ever-spiraling crisis, we have no idea how many people have died. The evidence has been covered by Sudanese dust,” said John Prendergast, senior advisor of the International Crisis Group, in his lecture yesterday to Cornell students.

Prendergast addressed what we can do to stop the tragedy of genocide while he spoke to students about the measures that should be taken by American and international governments.

As a former White House and State Department advisor during the Clinton administration, Prendergast has worked extensively with transnational organizations, such as the United Nations, to devise peace-promoting policies in Sudan. Elias Saba ’07, president of Americans for Informed Democracy, a student group sponsoring Darfur Week, said “ [Prendergast’s] knowledge of different kinds of effective and plausible policies will not only allow students to envision how to solve the crisis in Darfur, but also opens a window into how policy-makers attempt to solve such crises and deal with international and domestic pressures.”

In his lecture, Prendergast advocated utilizing what he has dubbed “the 3 Ps:” peacemaking, protection and punishment. He insisted that “[these] three ingredients are essential for turning around major crimes against humanity.” While discussing the peacemaking component of his proposal, Prendergast touched upon the failure of the present peace agreement in Darfur, which was passed in May 2006.

According to Prendergast, the current agreement failed because it ignored the principle issues triggering Sudanese militant action. “Peace agreements must address the root problems,” Prendergast said, “if they are to work.”

The protection of the two and a half to three million genocide survivors was another topic Prendergast highlighted. The majority of these survivors are women and children who are easily preyed upon by Jangjaweed militants, according to Prendergast.

He said that mortality rates are expected to sky rocket in 2007 as the Sudanese government in Khartoum receives increasing pressure from the Jangjaweed to implement starvation tactics and create obstacles for humanitarian aid.

The implications of such actions would be catastrophic, according to Prendergast, and could mirror the dire state of affairs of the Ethiopian famine in the 1990s. Prendergast discussed Sudanese resistance towards United Nations peace forces and the consequential responsibility of the African Union to deal with militants alone. The A.U., however, cannot solitarily sustain its peace forces in Darfur, he said, insisting that international communities need to contribute “robust military action” to aid the union.

While discussing the last component of the “3 Ps” — punishment — Prendergast said that current policy in Sudan is “fundamentally wrong” because it pursues a constructive engagement approach. This approach provides incentives for the compliance of the Sudanese government instead of directly punishing the government for the murder of millions. “When are we going to start using the levers we have? When are we going to get tough?” Prendergast asked students.

He emphasized holding the government and militia accountable for their actions and publicly shaming countries that underwrite genocide by sharing a commercial relationship with Sudan.

Prendergast’s tone throughout the lecture was one encouraging students to make a difference by paying attention to the humanitarian crimes taking place in Darfur, Saba commented. “Learning about these different policies can help students see what the government if trying to do to stop genocide. … I think they can certainly make a difference, whether it be pressuring their universities, companies, and state government to craft more effective foreign policy,” he said.

Ray Bai ’07 president of STARS, a student organization that helped sponsor Darfur Week, said students should “just keep talking about Darfur. Keep discussing it with your friends and keep pressuring politicians and leaders to make Darfur a priority. One cannot deny that a large movement of devoted people really can effect change.”