The Global Citizen: Prevent War
GlobalSolutions.org organized the first ever Indiana Genocide Prevention Summit, held on Saturday, March 31, in Indianapolis. The summit brought organizations, students, teachers, genocide survivors, activists, and concerned citizens from across the state.
Indiana is seemingly far away from the killing fields of Syria, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is even farther away in time from the mass graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, or Auschwitz. At the Indiana Genocide Prevention Summit though, it was clear that many of us from Indiana had the power and bore the responsibility for genocide prevention.
We could either build a movement to engage our communities and our politicians in genocide prevention. Or let the words "Never Again" be meaningless once again.
Kizito Kalima, a Rwandan genocide survivor, told his story to a captivated audience. He was 14 when he escaped certain death during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He eventually ended up in Indianapolis where he started the Global Genocide Prevention Alliance, an organization for survivors of genocide to have their voice heard.
The international community has failed in Syria. We have repeatedly missed opportunities to step in and stop the violence and conflict of President Bashar al-Assad's regime against peaceful protestors. As the situation deteriorates, the death toll increases and the violence rages on, the nonviolent opposition has increasingly taken up arms as their only option left to finally achieve their freedom and basic rights.
The Arab League is set to finalize a report later today on the group's month-long observer mission that is widely perceived to have done little more than literally observe violence (not surprising when the mission's leader, Sudan's General Mustafa al-Dabi, is himself accused of carrying out human rights violations). A former member of the mission told BBC news that the League's operation "worked for the Assad system and not to prevent the massacre of civilians." He added, "I witnessed crimes against humanity, and I was really shocked. I have seen houses destroyed, the bodies of murdered women and children, and families have a lack of food. I have seen bodies with marks of torture." The U.N. Security Council reported that more than 400 people were killed just during the mission's first ten days.
This year as we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s 83rd birthday, I’m struck by the vast difference between his beliefs and today’s “peace candidate”, Representative Ron Paul. In New Hampshire, Paul received 47 percent of the under 30 vote compared to 25 percent for Mitt Romney. It’s easy to understand Paul’s youth appeal. He would avoid “long and expensive land wars,” would immediately withdraw from Afghanistan, has railed against the draft and supports legalizing marijuana.
But let’s be clear: Ron Paul is no Martin Luther King. While Dr. King most likely would have supported Paul’s call for bringing troops home from Afghanistan, King’s understanding of what peace means is almost the opposite of Paul’s.
Paul’s vision of peace is based on individualism and isolationism. He believes that “the greatest chance for peace comes from a society respectful of individual liberty.” But there is a world of difference between being anti-war and pro-peace.
King believed that,
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties … must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”
Looking for your first paid step into the world of peace and security organizations? The Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship is still accepting applications for the Fall 2012 semester!
Fall fellows will begin between July 15 and October 1, 2012 and work for six to nine months. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree by the time the fellowship begins; those with graduate degrees may also apply. All U.S. citizens, as well as non-U.S. citizens living in the U.S. who have an appropriate work permit, are eligible to apply; foreign nationals living outside the U.S. are not. The deadline for receipt of all materials is January 17th, so click here to apply today!
Established in 1987, the Scoville Fellowship is a highly-competitive national program that provides college graduates with the opportunity to gain a Washington perspective on key issues of peace and security. Supported by a stipend, the fellows serve as full-time junior staff members at the participating organization of their choice. GlobalSolutions.org has had some awesome Scoville Fellows!
Many former Scoville Fellows have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in international relations and related fields. They have also taken prominent positions in the field of peace and security with public-interest organizations, the Federal Government, and in academia. To date, 135 fellowships have been awarded.
Yesterday, President Obama released a first-ever National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which instructs agencies across the government to intergrate a gender persepctive in all matters relating to peace and security.
The plan's goal is to "empower half of the world's population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity." The NAP recognizes that long-term peace and stability cannot be maintained without the particpation of women.
Some of the plan's implementation steps mirror key recommendations found in the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping's report, "U.S. Engagement in International Peacekeeping: From Aspiration to Implementation." For example, the NAP advocates for women to be considered for more senior level positions at the U.N. The peacekeeping report also identified a shortage of women in higher posts and called for this problem to be corrected.
The NAP calls for leveraging the participation of female U.S. military personnel to encourage and model gender intergration in other partner nations. The peacekeeping report takes this a step further and suggests that the U.S. engage with our own military and training institutions to increase the role of U.S. women in peacekeeping operations.
The last U.S. convoy rode out of Iraq yesterday in the early morning hours, marking the final moment of the Iraq War. The war was officially declared over last Thursday during a ceremony attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at a terminal in the Baghdad airport. The statement and withdrawal were more than two weeks ahead of the end of year deadline for ending U.S. combat in Iraq. Panetta told troops, "You will leave with great pride, lasting pride, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people begin a new chapter in history free from tyranny and full of hope for prosperity and peace."
More than 1 million U.S. troops have served in the almost 9 year war, of which 4,474 were killed and roughly 30,000 were wounded. The U.S. spent more than $800 billion on the war that cost more than 100,000 Iraqis their lives. The war does little to change day-to-day life of the Iraqis, as U.S. troops withdrew from most cities last year to focus on training Iraqi military forces.
Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court due to its crackdown on the anti-government uprising. She also estimated the death toll had reached 5,000 civilians, with tens of thousands more wounded, arrested, or forced to flee from their homes. This is an incredibly alarming increase from the U.N. estimate of 4,000 casualties just ten days ago, marking December as by far the most violent month of the uprising that began in March.
The remarks were made during a closed session of the Security Council. Pillay said, "It is based on the evidence and the widespread and systematic nature of the killings, the detentions and the acts of torture that I felt that these acts constituted crimes against humanity and I recommended that there should be a referral to the International Criminal Court."
Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian ambassador to the U.N., denounced Pillay's statement, saying she had "allowed herself to be misused in misleading the public opinion by providing information based on allegations." Russia, one of the nations blocking Security Council action on the issue, also expressed reluctance to comply with the demand of the High Commissioner. Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that they are alarmed by the pursuit of regime change in Syria by many Security Council members.
Syrian President Bashar Assad's despotic regime received major setbacks today, as the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called on Syria to better cooperate with the Arab League the same day that body approved economic sanctions against the regime. The moves further isolate the deteriorating government, cutting off almost all trade and investment between Syria and other Arab nations and demonstrating the distance Syria's traditional allies are putting between themselves and the tyrannical actions of Assad.
Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters today that "China believes that the Syrian issue should be solved within the framework of the Arab League." While the Chinese did not officially comment on the League's sanctions, this is still a bold change of tune for Chinese officials, who have until now been some of Assad's most stalwart protectors against attempts for international action to reprimand the Syrian regime.
Syria lives in a very flammable neighborhood, surrounded by Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. The neighbors are getting very worried that the escalation of violence in Syria could quickly spread to surrounding nations, and are taking steps to prevent the flames from spreading. It's time for the U.N. Security Council to support this effort and help form a neighborhood fire brigade that can prevent a civil war and protect the Syrian people.
Today, Syria announced it was "in talks" with the Arab League to send civilian and military observers into the country in the hopes of ending the violence that has wracked the country for eight months.
But if experience tells us anything, President Bashir al-Assad's talk is cheap and is just permitting him more time for tactical stalling.
There are many tools available to protect civilians from violence, including economic sanctions, establishing a no -fly zone or referring Assad to the International Criminal Court for prosecution for crimes against humanity.
But the best option available to have the greatest immediate impact for the Syrian people would be to back the Arab League's move and establish a U.N. authorized and funded observer force that is led by the Arab League and comprised of regional forces.
The situation in Syria is rapidly devolving into a civil war. Embassies are being attacked, and defectors from the military are meeting violence with violence. The international community's window of opportunity to protect Syrian civilians is closing.
While the Arab League threatened to suspend Syria's membership in the organization, it has given the Assad regime one last chance to cooperate before continuing on the path of isolating the regime. This proposal would allow civilian and military observers to enter Syria to determine if the Assad regime is complying with ending the violence against civilians.
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