By Tim Saunders on
UN Messenger of Peace George Clooney is putting pressure on a major Olympic sponsor to make a stand against China’s foreign policy in the Sudan. And to drive the point home, Clooney’s non-profit organization Not On Our Watch has just donated $500,000 to the World Food Program to provide aid in the war torn region of Darfur.
“World Food Program planes and helicopters deliver humanitarian workers and urgent supplies to nearly every aid organisation working in Darfur,” said Clooney, who co-founded Not On Our Watch with Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, and Jerry Weintraub. “This is a critical time for the program. Without immediate additional funding, humanitarian aid in the region will be crippled. We are proud to help ensure the survival of this lifesaving programme and strongly encourage others to do the same. Protection of these victims should not fall solely in the hands of charitable organisations. Governments have a responsibility to help those who cannot defend themselves.”
The 46-year-old actor is also calling for Omega Watches, official timekeepers of the Olympic Games since 1932, to take a hard line against China’s involvement in the Sudanese region of Darfur, where over 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million people displaced in three years of fighting between African rebels and government troops allied with Arab militia known as janjaweed.
“I have talked with Omega [about China] for over a year and will continue to talk to Omega,” Clooney told the BBC earlier this week. “I have and will go to the places I and China do business and ask for help.”
China is an important trading partner with the Sudan, and a major investor in Sudan’s oil industry. It has also been accused by lobby groups of breaching international rules and encouraging bloodshed by selling Sudan weapons that have been diverted to Darfur.
“Last year I took Olympic athletes Joey Cheek and Tegla Loroupe to Beijing to meet with the heads of the Chinese government,’’ said Clooney. “I have and will continue to ask China to use its considerable leverage with the government of Sudan.”
The news follows Steven Spielberg's decision last month to withdraw as an artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Spielberg said his conscience would not allow him to continue working, and he pledged to spend his time and energy not on Olympic ceremonies, but on trying to end the “unspeakable crimes against humanity” in Darfur.
Omega Watches confirmed that they had been in touch with Clooney, and would work towards addressing the issues he raised, although they are unwilling to take the hard initiatives he has suggested.
“We have full respect for his strong engagement in the fight for the good cause and share his opinion, especially concerning Darfur, and we are proud to work with a person who has such high ethical views,” said Omega chief executive Nick Hayek. “It is our policy not to get involved in politics because it would not serve the cause of the sport which is one most noble human endeavors for creating understanding and peace all over the world.”
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