ME and Ophelia

Thursday, June 10, 2004

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UK gives extra £15m to help humanitarian emergency in Sudan

News statement from 10 Downing Street today at 15.20: UK calls for action in Sudan - extract:

"The government has announced an extra £15m to help address the humanitarian emergency in Sudan.

The United Nations estimates that 2m people have been affected by the ongoing conflict in Darfur in western Sudan. Around 130,000 refugees have fled into neighbouring Chad.

The crisis results from fighting between Darfur-based opposition groups and the government of Sudan and its supported militia groups - known more widely as the Janjaweed. Following negotiations brokered by Chad, the two main opposition groups and Sudan's government signed a 45-day ceasefire agreement on 8 April but attacks by the Janjaweed have continued.

Announcing the extra funding, International Development Secretary Hilary Benn said that the situation in Sudan was the most serious humanitarian emergency in the world today.

"We need urgent and decisive action to stop the situation deteriorating," he said.

The Sudanese government has given a firm commitment to fast-track the delivery of assistance, to allow international agencies to set up and bring in food, medicine and vital equipments immediately.

"We will be following up on their effective implementation. Action must also now be taken to bring irregular forces and militias under control."

Hilary Benn has visited three camps for displaced people in Sudan this week and seen some of the humanitarian projects. He has also met UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to hear about the work they are doing."
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On the Sudan crisis

Yesterday, in response to Clive's suggestion at The UK Today, I faxed a letter to my Member of Parliament, Oliver Letwin, asking him to sign EDM1051 and EDM293.

I gave details about our blogging on the Sudan and where to find my blog, Jim Moore's and that of Passion of the Present (co-authored by three volunteers: Dr James Moore of Berkman at Harvard, Joanne Moore, and Dan O´Huiginn who is studying Indian languages at Cambridge University); and explained how, through an initiative by Joanne, Bishop Tutu sent a message for the Internet and rally to be held, the day before Kofi Annan's speech at Harvard.

Currently, Dr Letwin is Shadow Secretary of State for Economic Affairs & Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. I closed my letter by saying I would like the UK to take a high profile leading role in helping to resolve the Sudan crisis. And I asked him to please do everything that he can to help the people of Darfur and treat it as a matter of urgency.
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On the Sudan Crisis

Also, yesterday taking a leaf out of Clive's book (he spoke with his vicar and got Darfur prayed for by their bishop during a sermon - and he's been trying to get the message across to the diocese that awareness needs raising), I emailed Web Pastor Alyson at the Church of England's newly launched virtual church, i-church that I've joined and sent her a copy of my letter to Oliver Letwin MP (see post above) requesting help for the people of Darfur as a matter of urgency.

Note: BBC News 24 wish to do a feature on i-church. They would like to interview two-three people who have signed up to find out what they hope to get from i-church.  The will conduct interviews in person or by webcam.  Can you help? Offers to
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Blogging pictures that speak louder than words

If bloggers are lost for words on what to say about the Sudan - and can post pictures - please see this photo half way down the page of the BBC news report.

Look at the face and eyes of the mother of nine-month-old Adam who says that she walked without food for 10 days to reach a camp...

And you will see why one feels compelled to raise awareness about the people in Sudan who are suffering so badly.
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How to find and contact your MP online, by phone or letter

Here is how you can contact your MP:

Go to fax or email your mp. Type in your name, address and postcode. It then brings up the name of you MP and produces a ready made letterhead with the current date. Type in the body of your letter.

It's as easy as typing a comment. You can preview and edit, just like in a comments box. Then press "submit" - they send you an email right away - click into their email to verify your email address - and your letter zooms off, just like any email. Seems they follow up with an email in two weeks to check if your MP has replied.

Dan O'Huiginn at Passion of the Present writes: "In the UK, the best route is to aim for some kind of personal contact with your MP. If you write directly to Tony Blair or Jack Straw, you'll get a form letter in reply and basically be ignored. A large part of an MPs job is to pass your concerns up the chain of power, and bug ministers until they do something about it.

You can write to your MP via the excellent faxyourmp, which converts entries in a web form into free lobbying faxes. Or you can call the parliamentary switchboard on 020 7219 3000 and ask to talk to your MP. Since MPs have far less constituents and work than US senators or congress(wo)men, you stand a decent chance of being able to talk to your MP in person. Finally, you can try good old-fashioned post to: [your MP´s name], House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

Then you need to decide what they can do about Sudan. The UK Today suggests asking them to sign Early Day Motions 1051 and 293. These are basically parliamentary petitions, calling for the British government to step up its action on Darfur. Or you could send them a list of government action points (like those from the International Crisis Group - see Passion's May 30 post*), and request that they forward them to Jack Straw with a covering letter of their own. Ministers often give personal attention to letters from MPs, so this is a good way of getting high-level attention." [*sorry direct linking to their May 30 post is not working right now]

Note: Passion of the Present are asking if you have ideas for lobbying in other countries outside the UK and US, please do share them in the comments at their blog. In the meantime, I am still trying to find their archives for the post that gives instructions to bloggers in the USA on what to do, i.e., how to find and contact their congressional leader online, by phone or letter.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 6/10/2004
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