Darfur conflict is in its sixth year. The UN and aid agencies estimate that over 2 million people are living in camps after fleeing fighting in the region. They also estimate that around 200,000 people have died in the conflict since 2003.
In July 2007, the United Nations members approved the 26,000-strong force for the Darfur peacekeeping mission.
But the Sudanese government is not the only problem. The international community is having trouble finding equipment for the mission.
For almost a year now, the UN and African Union representatives are asking the world powers to provide the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) with 6 attack helicopters and 18 transport helicopters so they can start protecting civilians in Darfur.
Helicopters are essential for any success of the mission in the region which is the size of France and twice the size of the United Kingdom.
But to this day, no country has supplied even one helicopter.
Recently, Ethiopia and Russia promised to provide some helicopters for the Darfur mission.
Western countries that like to promote “human rights” and “democracy” around the world have not promised any equipment for Darfur. The United States government recently urged the UN to “stop procrastinating on logistical issues like helicopters for troop transports.”
As one humanitarian worker in Darfur said, “Darfur is on the radar, people are talking about it, but they [Western leaders] are just not acting. This gives a message to Khartoum that Darfur still isn’t a priority to the West.”
This is not the first time that the world community simply does not care about large-scale suffering of human beings.
When in the midst of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 UN members finally agreed to send 5,500 additional troops consisting of mainly African soldiers to try and stop the killings, the UN asked the American government to supply armored personnel carriers for the mission. The Clinton administration agreed, but instead of lending military equipment to the UN (to whom the United States owed hundreds of millions of dollars in membership fees at the time), the US government decided to lease it for $15 million.
The United Nations, fully dependent on its negligent members to pay for missions, did not have the money. The 5,500 additional troops never arrived in Rwanda to intervene. The genocide was stopped by the Tutsi rebel forces a few weeks later.
Almost a million people died on everyone’s watch in only three months.
The current world order is based on realism, or Realpolitik, the oldest and most used theory of international relations. The realist approach views states as rational and unitary factors focused solely on self-interests, national security, and balance of power.
Realism influences states to pursue their national interests even if they are contrary to the interests of other states and peoples. Morals, ethics, and legality are the least important principles for realists.
One of the by-products of international relations based on the realist theory is the lack of interest in conflicts that do not come under the sphere of national interests.
Sadly for the people in Darfur, their suffering does not bother those in power who could make a difference.
The Western world does not have burning interests in the area. China’s interest in Sudan is oil and Chinese will do everything to be on good terms with the Sudanese government. Not long ago, China claimed in the UN Security Council that the human suffering in Darfur was insufficient to provoke serious reflection on whether Sudan was fulfilling its responsibilities to its citizens.
As one of the five members with veto power, China can block any UN decision concerning Darfur.
The UN cannot intervene in Darfur or in any other conflict on its own, since it is an umbrella organization dependent on its member states for decisions, funds, equipment, and troops. “We’re in the hands of member states,” said a UN spokesman for Darfur. “They need to make good their pledges of support.”
Many people, NGO’s, and human rights organizations care about the suffering in Darfur and elsewhere around the world. Many protest, write letters, and campaign. Some Hollywood stars give their own money to help the World Food Program deliver food to the refugees in Darfur.
This is not enough to influence powerful states to intervene and stop atrocities, as long as the international relations are based solely on realism, and not at all on empathy, legal principles, ethics, and morals.