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Posted on on January 31st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Thank you, I’ll try to be brief. As you probably know by now, I was invited to be a Messenger of Peace with a special focus on peacekeeping for the United Nations. I’ve very proud to accept that role.

My first piece of business was to get acquainted with peacekeepers in action. Which meant front lines of conflict zones. I was invited to travel with assistant secretary general, loot and her staff to Darfur, Chad, and eastern Congo. It was planned in secret for obvious security reasons and worse yet they might have seen some of my films.

As you probably now know, I was supposed to come back and report what I saw to the members of the troop contributing countries. However, in a new development, that wont’ be happening, which in effect means that a few minutes ago I was officially awarded the messenger of peace and then immediately directed not to give the message. So instead I’ll give it to you… and you can give it to the members.

I’m the son of a newsman, so the job of Messenger comes with the responsibility to deal with facts. Not to tell people what they want to hear… but to tell them the truth… unfiltered.

Each conflict zone has difficulties that are unique… but there is always one unifying thread… the worst atrocities are saved for its poorest and most vulnerable.

In the Congo, we were there the day the peace agreement was signed in Goma. We were in out-posts that were shelled days before… and for now, that fighting has stopped. It’s a very tenuous agreement… It’s flawed and messy but it is also… hope. Real tangible progress and change for peace.

It’s only because of the determination of the UN peacekeepers that this hope is possible.

In Chad, the peacekeeping role is in its infancy. The fighting is spilling back and forth from Darfur. The situation has deteriorated since I was there nearly two years ago.

The border of Chad and Darfur is the front line of the conflict. It’s a dangerous place to be, and the refugee and IDP camps are right there… at most risk.

We met with President Deby who assured us that the UN and humanitarians are not only welcome but needed in this country… That doesn’t mean it will be easy to succeed there.
It means that the host country recognizes that the UN peacekeepers are coming there with no agenda, no intent on occupying or overtaking their country… simply to provide enough space for talks to begin safely… even with the support of the government this is a nearly impossible task. But it’s the belief of everyone concerned that it is also the only chance for peace.

… And then there’s Darfur. Our party was eventually allowed to come in. The Sudanese government hoped to show that they’ve been unfairly treated by the international community. That the calls of atrocities by the government are exaggerated… that it’s simply a civil war.

Let us be clear. As we traveled to north, south and west Darfur, el fashir, nyala, zalengi… there is not one man, woman or child in any camp… at any locations that doesn’t hold the government of Sudan or it’s Janjaweed supported militia, responsible for them being displaced. Not one. Millions are homeless, not from famine or disease or acts of God. But from a well armed militia intent on ridding the land of its people. That’s fact not speculation. You can have an opinion on why… you can have an opinion on what it should be called, but you can’t debate fact.

There is however another fact. The attacks have increasingly grown more complicated. A vacuum was created. A vacuum of justice, civility, local government, land rights… humanity… as in any apocalypse the ones left standing begin to fight for survival.

The rebel groups can, and have engaged in horrific acts of violence. Rebel leaders like Minnie Minawi and Abdul Wahid have followers capable of unspeakable cruelty.

There can be NO peace until all the parties sit down at a table and begin the long process of talks. Some two and a half million people want to go back to their homes, and NOT live their lives in misery.

… In order to deploy peacekeepers you need three things. Support by the host nation, support by the member states and resources.

To the host nation… specifically President Bashir… these peacekeepers are not an occupying force, there’re not there to spread democracy or infringe on religious beliefs… the Congo is proof of that. The government has accepted Resolution 1769, that means that you can’t obstruct the peacekeepers. You’ve asked for more humanitarian aid… humanitarians cannot work if they’re not protected from rebel attacks. If they’re not your rebels then you should welcome the peacekeepers efforts to suppress the violence.

The resource issue is far less complicated… most members aren’t fulfilling their duty. The United States to take an example is a billion short of its peacekeeping funding resources means helicopters, trucks, radios any number of elements to support these forces.

To the member states… all your participation and skill is needed. China was eventually instrumental in pushing 1769 through the Security Council… so it’s China that can hold the Sudanese government to the commitments it made to the UN and to China specifically. The international community looks more and more to China for leadership and with that comes great responsibility. You can be the difference to millions of people’s lives.

This body has a habit of referring to itself as a collective of individual states. But you’re much more than that. You’re the United Nations. An entity all to yourselves. When I stood in a hospital next to women who’d been raped and set on fire two days earlier, they look up to me and said “Please send the UN” not the US or China or Russia… just the UN. You’re their only hope.

It’s important to note that you have a peacekeeping force already there. Most of them were formerly the African Union troops. Some nine thousand. Most haven’t been paid since September. They’re waiting for their pay, waiting for their 17-thousand extra troops, they’re waiting for equipment.

There are some groups protecting 250-square kilometers of desert with no helicopters and no radios that work… there are your troops now… the men and women risking their lives for peace… your responsibility. So either give them the basic tools for protecting the population (and themselves) or have the decency to just bring them all home. You can’t do it half way… bring them home… and then shut off your TV… and your radio… your phones… and the internet. And go back into your offices and wait until it’s all over… It shouldn’t take too long before they’ll stop hoping for the UN to come.

But right now they’re hoping. They see these bright blue hats and they feel a new energy in the air… they feel for the first time that this is the moment that the rest of the world… all the nations… united… are stepping in to help them.

There’s only one change to get this right. They believe you when you tell them that hope is coming… they know that only the United Nations can help on this scale. They know it… and you know it.

I’m proud to be here as a messenger of peace… and the message is… the world is watching and you can’t afford to fail.

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