Today at the 8th annual Nobel Peace summit in Rome, actors George Clooney and Don Cheadle were awarded "Men of Peace" prizes for their work bringing attention to Darfur. Yet before the panel of living Nobel laureates and dignitaries including the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa, Mairead Corrigan Macguire, Rome mayor Walter Veltroni and others, Clooney humbly stated, "We are failures." As he spoke of the ongoing atrocities in Darfur, he said that the reason this story was no longer making front page news was that the mainstream media did not consider it "a priority." Father Giulio Albanese, who had himself been kidnapped in Uganda in 2002, added that the reason a white man such as himself being kidnapped made front page news but millions being slaughtered did not was obvious. This is not about civil war, but about international economic interests.
The cost for the twenty-four helicopters needed by the UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur is roughly forty seven million dollars through the end of June 2008. Clooney and Cheadle plan to try to help raise twenty million of that themselves. So savings hundreds of thousands of lives, and avoiding more human catastrophes has a price tag. The problem is no one is willing to pay it because it means stepping on some toes diplomatically.
The elephants in the room used to be Western oil companies such as Swedish Lundin and Canada's Talisman who divested their holdings in Sudan. Towns in Africa sported names such as "Chevronville." The new owners of these lucrative oil interests are Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Russian. One third of China's oil come from the region. A minister in the UK recently told me that he had been briefed about the rise in oil futures being bought, with the expectation that oil would go as high as $200 a barrel within the next year to 18 months. The reason behind this would be that both Sudan and Iran would be off the oil market. One shudders to wonder how that will come to pass.
Two actors who have the world press turned on them are using it for good, to try to get the word out. Journalists have the moral responsibility to tell this story to the world. It is this same oil that drives the economic machines of the developing world and our own. And it is difficult to talk about human rights abuses to other countries if we in the United States can no longer claim to be role models.
So as we all listened to Hollywood, the Dalai Lama, the Nobel Peace laureates, and world leaders address the most important issues related to creating a world where peace, not one country's economic interests, rules, it becomes clear that we have two choices to how to confront this dire problem. To sum up what the Dalai Lama stated today, we can either believe human nature is negative or positive. And as we human beings created these problems, we also have the ability to solve them. Repeated over again was the fact that all of these delegates and laureates had been to many of these gatherings and summits, but afterwards, everyone leaves and nothing more is done. The Dalai Lama ended with a very practical idea, that the act of compassion and taking care of others, is actually taking care of yourself. So we can be, as he stated, "wise selfish or foolish selfish." The choice is clear. It is time to act.