Mark Brandon is the Managing Partner of First Sustainable (http://www.firstsustainable.com), a registered investment advisory catering to socially responsible investors. In addition to Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), he may opine on social venturing, microfinance, community investing, clean technology commercialization, sustainability public policy, green products, and, on occasion, University of Texas Longhorn sports.

Monday, March 13, 2006

U.N. Impotence in Darfur


The United Nations and the African Union are loudly trumpeting their success in hashing out a new agreement between warring factions in the Darfur region of Sudan. The so-called Enhanced Humanitarian Cease Fire Agreement calls for both sides to retreat to clearly defined borders in order to clear the way for relief supplies.

The UN might as well say, "pretty please with sugar on top". Similar agreements put in place over two years ago were ignored. What would be different this time? The U.N. has shown no propensity for backing up their resolutions with military force.

To bring you up to speed, armed groups in the mostly black Darfur region rebelled a few years ago. The government in Khartoum responded by (depending on whom you believe) either encouraging or turning a blind eye to marauding Arab militias who were after the land. The militias, called Janjawid, have been slaughtering and displacing millions.

The U.N. seems to be intent on talking this problem literally to death. It is time for the U.N. to show some leadership and rally support for armed intervention. The Janjawid are clearly utilizing the U.N.'s posturing to their advantage. They have had no compunction about flouting their end of the bargain.

The refugee problem is causing a humanitarian catastrophe for Sudan's neighbors. Chad, itself barely able to feed its people, is having a hard time coping with the refugees, not to mention the spill-over of armed conflict.

Both ends of the political spectrum, as well as the traditional media, should be ashamed of the handling of this crisis. For the right, it should not be okay to justify the Iraq war on humanitarian grounds and turn a blind eye to hundreds of thousands slaughtered. For the left, especially those opposed to the Iraq war, this is the time to assemble a coalition of the willing. Is anybody listening?

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