Beyond Good Intentions: The Promise and Peril of Citizen Engagement with Foreign Policy

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Rally sign on Darfur
An April 2006 "Never Again" NYC rally sign in protests against genocide in Darfur. Image: Kate Mereand / Flickr

What were the accomplishments and failures of the U.S. grassroots movements that responded to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and how do these lessons apply to grassroots movements in general?

Rachel Davis from the Carnegie New Leaders Program interviews award-winning Washington Post journalist for Sudan and fellow of the New America Foundation, Rebecca Hamilton, author of a new 2011 book release which explores citizen engagement in global advocacy.

Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide follows six grass-roots campaigns galvanized by celebrities such as Mia Farrow and Stephen Speilberg. Hamilton shows the extent citizen campaigns are limited and how they can and do affect change in war torn regions.

In over 150 in-person interviews, which includes on-the-ground interviews in the war torn region of Darfur, Hamilton brings her findings to the public. The result of many years of investigation, Hamilton’s book has established her as one of today’s “most influential Darfur activists.”

This conversation between Davis and Hamilton is fascinating as Davis begins: “Can you tell us a little bit about how you actually came to write this book in the first place?”

Carnegie Council Podcasts

Producer: Carnegie Council Public Affairs Program

Host: Rachel Davis

Guest: Rebecca Hamilton

Date: Release date 05 May, 2011

Length: 71:02 min


Darfur, western Sudan, has been described by the then United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, as the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis”. Women have been especially vulnerable to the escalating violence during the 6 year conflict with harrowing accounts of rape being reported in very high numbers.

The United Nations and many international organisations have reported high levels of rape of women in Darfur. Rape has been described as “party of every day life” for girls and women in Darfur. A 2004 Amnesty International report found that

“rape and other forms of sexual violence in Darfur are being used as a weapon of war in order to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear and displace women and their communities. These rapes and other sexual violence constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.”[1]

The Amnesty International report found that women and girls as young as 8 were being raped and used as sex slaves in the conflict area. In some cases the Janjawid have raped women in public, in front of their husbands, relatives or the wider community. Rape is used to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear upon, displace and persecute the community to which they belong.

Pamela Shifman, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) adviser on violence and sexual exploitation who visited Darfur in 2004 found that:

“Rape is used as a weapon to terrorize individual women and girls, and also to terrorize their families and to terrorize entire communities. No woman or girl is safe.” [2]

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