I went to a terrific talk yesterday by Ken Roth, the director of Human Rights Watch. He gave a fascinating lecture on the concrete steps his group is taking to battle human rights violations across the globe. Reading the news, I often feel completely overwhelmed and ineffective in the face of atrocities like Darfur or Rwanda. It's motivating to hear that there are real solutions to these problems.
Some things I learned:
- Omar Bashir really, really sucks. He's stalling on letting in 20,000 UN Peacekeepers. The US can pressure Bashir to make this happen by imposing a certain set of sanctions on Sudanese companies -- no longer allowing them to conduct business in dollars. This would create a huge impediment to the oil trade in Sudan, thus cutting off money to the government and hence the Janjaweed. These sanctions have stalled though, because the current SG of the UN wants to try more diplomacy first. HRW confronted him, and is working on it.
- China is starting to realize that they can't continue their noninterference policy, as it's the policy of a weak government, not a strong one. They are worried about the perception of the 2008 olympics in Beijing, especially given an article in the WSJ recently by Mia Farrow calling it the "Genocide Olympics" (China gets a lot of oil from Sudan).
- The enemy combatant stuff in the US is incredibly scary, but Ken is optimistic that this horrible loophole in habeas corpus will be closed.
- The branches of the military don't talk to each other, as evidenced by the fact that the army used cluster munitions in Iraq, even though the Air Force deemed them unnecessary and too harmful to civilians.