Published in The Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2008
By MIA FARROW and NANCY SODERBERG
Next month the United States will assume the presidency of the U.N. Security Council, and not a moment too soon. The Bush administration will have perhaps its final opportunity to address the Darfur genocide, preserving its legacy as an architect of the imperiled U.N. peace agreement for Sudan.
In the past few weeks, the carnage in Darfur has escalated. Government bombing campaigns continue apace, with tens of thousands of terrified survivors joining the more than 2.5 million people already displaced.
Aid workers are being targeted – the director of Save the Children in Chad was shot and killed at the Chad-Darfur border. A primary school in north Darfur was bombed, killing and wounding many children. Countless people in the camps are slowly dying of hunger and disease, yet the World Food Program has been forced to halve food rations due to insecurity. Just this week, the violence spread beyond Darfur to the outskirts of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan itself.
Never has the need for a protection force been greater or more urgent.
Last July, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the deployment of 26,000 peacekeepers under the U.N. Mission in Darfur (Unamid). But the Sudanese regime is blocking the deployment of the full protection force, as it has for five years mocked the international community's pleas for security.
The U.N.-mandated force was to have been "predominantly African in character." But Sudan has twisted the clear intention of the resolution, and "predominantly" has become "exclusively." Khartoum has rejected offers of troop contributions from several non-African countries, knowing full well that most African battalions are undertrained and underequipped for the complex and difficult protection mission in Darfur.
Just 9,000 troops are currently on the ground in various locations in Darfur. U.N. officials have expressed the fear that as things stand, peacekeepers in Darfur will be unable to protect themselves, let alone Darfur's tormented civilians and the humanitarians struggling to sustain them.
Sudan is playing a deadly game. But there is a way to save the people of Darfur even under the regime's crooked rules. African nations willing to contribute peacekeepers need partners, nations with capable armies to provide training and essential logistical support. The U.S., the U.K., Canada, France and others have already initiated such partnerships. More nations need to step forward, with a commitment to sustain the battalions for several years.
The U.S. should expand the effort to assemble a group of volunteer nations. Then, once it assumes leadership of the Security Council, it could host a "Unamid pledging conference" – a meeting of troop contributing countries – to announce partnerships and logistical support for struggling African battalions. The bare-bones contributions necessary to stop the slaughter would be minimal: Currently, U.N. peacekeeping is calling for 24 helicopters, two transport units and one logistical unit.
All 15 member states of the Security Council will visit Khartoum in early June. This is an auspicious opportunity for the U.N. to unify in its commitment to the deployment of the protection force.
China has a significant role to play here. Given its vast oil investments and brisk arms trade, Beijing has unparalleled influence with Sudan. The entry of a full protection force into Darfur would likely give China the international ovation it craves in the lead-up to the Olympic Games.
Rations of hope are meager in Darfur. But this is an opportunity for the international community, for the Security Council, and especially for the U.S. and China, to step up and protect a defenseless population. Will they do it?
Ms. Farrow, an actor and advocate, is the chair of Dream for Darfur. Ms. Soderberg is a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and co-author of the forthcoming book, "The Prosperity Agenda: What the World Wants from America -- and What We Need in Return" (Wiley).