By Isra Shah on
George Clooney has long been a vocal advocate for the victims of genocide in Darfur.
After a recent trip to the Chad-Darfur border and meetings with both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden regarding the new administration’s policy for the region, the actor gave his insights and opinions about what has and has not changed in the region since his last visit and what he thinks of the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue a warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir last week.
In a blog the actor wrote for the The Daily Beast, Clooney remarked that the “most disturbing [thing] about the place was how little it had changed” in the three years since he had last been there. Despite the efforts of aid organizations dispatched to assist the needy, the norm that Clooney observed included “800 calories a day, sickness, threats of rebel violence, or just crime.” Where three years ago, the general atmosphere had an aura of hope that help was on its way, “there’s too little” of that now, evidenced only by a few moments, such as when village children followed Clooney around, chanting “Obama,” putting an entirely different twist on the President’s campaign themes of hope and change.
The implication of the lack of change Clooney found on his return trip to the region, he wrote, is that “the secret seems to be that the longer it goes on, the more tolerant all of us become of it.” Media, aware that “finding a new outrage is the only way to catch the world’s attention” presses on to find the most atrocious or the most touching personal story within a sea of tragic experiences that go “beyond the pale of what is acceptable…beyond our understanding of how much a person can take.”
In an interview with CNN International, Clooney elaborated on the world’s complacency in demanding more than a static status quo. He said, “I think the world has become too tolerant of all of these outrages.”
“The world is tolerant of the Congo and the world is tolerant of Zimbabwe. And the truth of the matter is, two or three times, you know – the world is tolerant of Burma – two or three times you can get that story out, and then it becomes a story we’ve seen before. It’s just as tragic, and we go away and we have a rally and everyone will feel like, well, we’ve accomplished something. And you’ll do something, you’ll put a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound, basically, and at the end of the day, these people are still there and they’re still living in this tragedy. And it’s not fixed.”
“We are too tolerant. And we are – we become more tolerant the longer it goes on.”
The recent decision by the ICC to issue an arrest warrant for President Al-Bashir last week is an opportunity to break out of our complacency and demand justice. Clooney explained that although the decision to issue the charges against Al-Bashir of crimes against humanity mark the first time a sitting head of state has been charged by the Hague, it is still unlikely that the Sudanese government will simply hand over its president to face the international community, or that the United Nations will attempt to go after him. Indeed, in the days following the warrant, Al-Bashir retaliated against the news of the charges by expelling thirteen relief organizations from the Darfur region, which has already left 200,000 people without medical assistance and will most likely leave hundreds of thousands of others without water or access to any other type of aid within days. The UN Security Council deadlocked on taking action, again reinforcing a continuation of the status quo in Darfur.
According to Clooney, this moment is crucial. It is an opportunity for action and “it tells the 300,000 brutally killed and 2.5 million displaced and raped and maimed that justice must always prevail. That the rest of the world sees their struggle and stands up and demands justice.”
“This is the moment. And if the UN can’t use it to insist on tougher sanctions, and the United States can’t use it to pressure China, and China can’t feel the eyes of the world looking to them for leadership in the country that they profit so greatly from, then the court and the rule of international law is lost.”
George Clooney was designated by the United Nations as a Messenger of Peace in 2006. He has visited the Darfur/Chad region six times in his efforts to increase humanitarian aid to the region, and is a co-founder and board member of the international advocacy group Not On Our Watch. Visit the official website and learn how to get involved here.
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