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EVENT: Are Activists to Blame for Darfur?

April 18, 2009

I was shocked to find the following invitation in my email inbox on Thursday night, and even more surprised by the stunningly bizarre  title that suggests (none too subtly) “activists” are, in fact, being blamed for the Darfur tragedy. Take a look at the invite…

Please join the Enough Project and the Center for American Progress for a special presentation:

Are Activists to Blame for Darfur?

Featured Discussants:

John Norris, Executive Director, Enough Project, Center for American Progress

Rebecca Hamilton, Fellow, Open Society Institute

In the summer of 2004, the United States Congress unanimously declared the conflict in Darfur, Sudan to be genocide. Following the passage of this historic resolution, a massive grassroots movement formed in the attempt to stop the atrocities in Sudan and influence elected officials to make addressing this situation a top priority. Ever since this anti-genocide movement formed to address these complex foreign policy issues, there has been a debate about how this constituency and others like it can best use their power as citizens to influence foreign policy.

With the recent issuing of an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President, some commentators have gone so far as to suggest that U.S. activists are making it harder, not easier, to resolve the conflict in Darfur. Does foreign policy “activism” do more harm than good? How can an active and engaged citizen constituency positively influence U.S. foreign policy?

Join the Enough Project and the Center for American Progress for a lively dialogue on activism, intervention, and Sudan. John Norris, Executive Director of the Enough Project, and Rebecca Hamilton, author of an upcoming book on the Darfur activism, will share their views and engage in a town hall discussion with the audience.

Rebecca Hamilton is a fellow at the Open Society Institute. She has most recently worked at the ICC and is currently writing a book examining the impact of citizen advocacy on Darfur policy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009
Program: 6:30pm to 7:30pm
Admission is free.

Center for American Progress
1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Map & Directions

Nearest Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Red Line to Metro Center

RSVP for this Event

For more information, please call 202-682-1611.

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

This feels like the ol’  bait n’ switch. Grassroots activists that receive this email will read the title and rightfully assume that they themselves are being blamed for their well-meaning actions to end the tragedy, where the real targets of such criticism are paid, professional “activists” across the wider Save Darfur movement. I can’t help but think this “strawman” event was pulled together in order to eviscerate the memories of ENOUGH Project co-founder John Prendergast’s recent beating at the hands of Mahmood Mamdani, as well as the growing chorus of Save Darfur criticism — a sort of rally-the-troops-around-a-common-enemy ploy. We here at SDAP have seen no credible criticism aimed predominately at grassroots activists, but rather at those who few who seek to manipulate the good intentions of activists around the world.

We’re withholding ultimate judgment until we see whether or not next Thursday’s event is more heat than light, or if the only heat is that from a burning strawman. (Think: Wicker Man.) To be continued…

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