Posts Tagged ‘DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO’

FEATURED ORGANIZATION: RAISE HOPE FOR CONGO

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

 

 

 

 

STANDING WITH THE WOMEN AND GIRLS OF CONGO:

EMPOWERING THE PUBLIC TO CHANGE THE CALCULUS

OF THE DEADLY CONFLICT MINERALS TRADE

 

 

"We are looking for this movement to change consumer behavior – we want to help people realize just how powerful they are"


 

BACKGROUND ON CONFLICT MINERALS

You’ve probably never thought of your laptop computer as a byproduct of war – or, your cell phone, your i-pad or your flat screen TV, or any of the digital electronics that we and multiple industries use daily.  But believe it or not, with very few exceptions, every purchase of electronics anywhere in the world is funding a deadly civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – a war in which, mafia-like rebel groups fight to the death for control over the land and mineral rights, i.e., for the right to mine “conflict minerals”.   

 


Militias at the Mine, courtesy Sasha Lezhnev

 

Conflict minerals are a multi-million dollar business that funnels revenue directly into the pockets of the rebel groups that lay claim to the land rights.  The rebels then use the funds to purchase arms and ammunition to propagate the conflict.     The key minerals mined by the rebels are those that make our electronics work:  tungsten, tantalum, tin and gold (see video clip above).  The raw minerals are sold to middlemen, who then resell them to the electronics manufacturers worldwide from which we and multiple industries purchase all the electronics we use every day.  

In the proper hands, the regulated sale of these minerals could make DRC one of the most prosperous countries in the world.  But precious littleAnchor[1] of the mineral revenues accrue back to the people or to the country.  Instead we see  thousands of people forced from their homes living in displacement camps, little infrastructure and a government failing to protect its citizens.

The statistics are gruesome: it is the deadliest conflict since World War II; over 5.4 million people have died from war related causes.  Tens of thousands of women and girls have been raped and brutalized.Anchor[2]  About 45,000 lives per month are claimed as a result of this ongoing tragedy.  

 

THE CONTEXT OF CONGO: ONE OF THE WORST PLACE ON EARTH TO BE A WOMAN OR A GIRL 

Eastern DRC has an incidence of sexual violence that is among the highest in the world and has earned a well placed reputation as one of the worst place on earth to be a woman or girl  due to the the presence of armed groups. 

The rebel militias are a constant terrifying presence in their patrol of the countryside; their modus operandi is to undermine the infrastructure of the country through the destruction of women and girls, who are the backbone of the family and of the communities.  

Survivors report ferocious assaults on undefended villages, assaults that include wholesale gang rape and sexual mutilation, the execution of family members, the kidnapping of children (for use as sex slaves and child soldiers), and the incineration of their living quarters.

The victims are left permanently ravaged with bowel fistulas (leakages) of varying severity, for which the constant odor casts them as pariahs among their families and communities.  Many find they have become impregnated by their attackers or that they have contracted HIV.   They are left alone to grapple with their grief, shame, fear, disfigurement, illness and loneliness. 

Medical facilities are few and far between; there is one Burn Center in all of eastern Congo,Anchor and the few hospitals available for the multiple surgeries required to repair the bowel fistulas have long waiting lists.  Sometimes the surgeries are successful.  But the emotional scars for these women, from the loss of their families, their livelihood , from the devastation of their bodies,  and their lives, will last a lifetime. 


RAISE HOPE FOR CONGO:  BUILDING THE POLITICAL WILL TO HELP END THE VIOLENCE IN EASTERN CONGO

Raise Hope for Congo (RHFC), a campaign of the Enough Project, is working hard to reverse the momentum of the violence and destruction in the Congo.   The campaign directive is to create a worldwide political and social environment that will change the equation of the conflict, ultimately, to protect the women and girls and to bring peace and security back to the region. 

“Women and girls are the backbone of Congolese society and are the country’s best hope for any type of recovery” says Campaign Director, Sadia Hameed.  “The goal of RHFC is to develop a broad grass roots base that will build support for permanent solutions to protect the women and girls.  

 

At Women for Women, ceramics students, courtesy Jeff Trussell for Enough


RHFC started as a campaign to raise awareness, to put Congo on the radar,” she continues.  Now we are moving to engage the public, to getting people involved around the world in a way that is simple, accessible and meaningful, so that our constituencies understand how they can really help people — not in the abstract– but on the ground.   With RHFC, we want to offer the pubic a meaningful way to engage in an action plan that will leverage the voice of the actors who can influence decision makers.” 

RHFC Campaign Manager, Sadia Hameed and Campaign Assistant, Chloe Christman, are a team to be reckoned with.  With an extensive combined background in international human rights advocacy, they work with a powerful and wide ranging group of affiliates and partners, with whom they aim to collaborate to mobilize, educate, and empower the public to take action, to build the political will that will change the calculus of the conflict minerals trade.   Their strategy is to galvanize a massive outreach effort that unites both the consumers of electronics products and the manufacturers, with the intent of crippling the supply chains now used by the rebel groups to fund their militias. 

In a most fascinating and educational discussion for this writer, Action Now+Network spoke at length with Hameed and Christman about the movement they help lead with Raise Hope for Congo, and how it can ultimately save lives and pave the way for peace and security for the Congolese people.

   

WHAT IS THE MISSION OF RAISE HOPE FOR CONGO?

We want to educate and empower consumers and the general public – we want to help them recognize the connection between the electronics products they buy and the ongoing conflict in Congo.    We want to help them understand that they can take meaningful action to shift their buying practices in a way that will help to end the violence on the ground in Congo.

 

Mine, courtesy Sasha Lezhnev

 

 

WITH EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD TODAY – THE MIDDLE EAST IS EXPLODING – THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM IS ADVANCING – DO YOU THINK IT IS POSSIBLE TO GET THE ADMINISTRATION TO VIEW CONGO AS A HIGHER PRIORITY?

We are connected to the conflict whether we want to be or not:  we want to make sure that Congo gets onto the agenda of policy makers; that they know and understand that until coordinated action is taken – until it is addressed, they will not affect the root actions and drivers of the conflict on the ground. 

 

“we are connected to the conflict whether we want to be or not…” 

 

If the political will existed, we wouldn’t need to do this type of work, we wouldn’t need to have an international campaign.  There is a sense that Congo isn’t the priority it should be right now.    But one thing is certain.  Given the history of the Congo, given what we see happening there, there are few places that close to 6 million lives wouldn’t be a strong enough reason to make an area a priority.   We want to create public accountability for what is happening there.

 

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE LAUNCHED CAMPAIGNS THAT ADDRESS THE ATROCITIES TAKING PLACE IN THE CONGO.  WHAT MAKES YOUR CONGO CAMPAIGN UNIQUE AMONG THIS CROWEDED GROUP?

The Enough Project is working  to find solutions by focusing on targeted priorities at all levels: we have dedicated researchers based in Eastern Congo that deliver real time reports, that monitors human rights groups on the ground and that can tell us about the political and humanitarian landscape.     We share field research and policy analysis – the intel chip – with other organizations as well.

 

“We are viewed as an ally, as a partner with (high level) decision makers”

 

The Enough Project also develops policy : we come up with a few targeted items we ask of the decision makers.  Then we engage with companies and governments – and ultimately come up with a process that will deliver on the recommendations. 

Part of what sets us apart from other organizations– many of which we work very closely with and partner with – is that that we, through the Enough Project, engage in advocacy that is at the insider level.  We are viewed as an ally, a partner with (high level) decision makers. 

Another thing that sets us apart is our campaign.   We have a core group of grass roots activists that support the Raise Hope for Congo campaign around the world.  They are the consumer voice that helps to galvanize the public.    Through the Campaign, we support our research and advocacy efforts by empowering the public to use their voice in a way that will create meaningful change for Congo. We are working to grow a movement that will ensure U.S. decision-makers and companies take action.

Gold, courtesy Sasha Lezhnev

 

YOUR CAMPAIGN HAS THREE ARMS WHICH ARE INTERRELATED:  CONFLICT MINERALS, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND 'MAKE YOUR CAMPUS CONFLICT FREE'.  CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOUR PROGRAM WORKS, AND SPECIFICALLY WHAT YOU ARE ADVOCATING WITHIN EACH OF THESE AREAS?

RHFC was launched through the framework of spotlighting rape as a weapon of war by the armed groups in the eastern Congo, which use this as a tactic to continue their terror campaigns (to control the land).  By educating the public about these terror campaigns we can bring the conflict to a human level for people who are far removed from it.

 

“The women, after all they have been through, still believe that peace is possible”

 

The focus on the women and rape as a weapon of war is a way to connect the suffering with the resilience and hope of the women – the women, after all they have been through,  still believe that peace is possible.

The key intersection between sexual violence and the war is the illicit trade in conflict minerals.  So RHFC tackles the economic incentives that exist in the conflict mineral trade.  These minerals are used in aerospace, medical supplies – they make computer screens light up, they make phones vibrate.  They are at the core of technology and are central to business infrastructure and social engagement.  They are a part of the world that is unlikely to disappear.

These minerals provide enormous revenue to the rebel groups controlling the mine sites.  These armed rebel groups, like the FDLR, as well as criminal networks within the  Congolese Army,  use sexual violence as weapon of war.  

 

“We must shift the incentives that exist in favor of conflict over peace…

we must shift the demand to certified conflict free minerals”

 

These armed groups use tactics that destroy the communities, and prevent them from rebuilding quickly.  They go into the communities, rape and brutalize the women, recruit the men as forced labor, take the children to train as soldiers.  The communities are devastated, destroyed.  If we are committed to protecting the women, we must be able to shift the economic incentives that exist in favor of conflict over peace.  

There is a way to shift the economic incentive.  Foreign demand for Congolese  minerals has unwittingly allowed this trade to thrive;  if we were to shift demand to certified conflict free minerals, we could pressure business practices and economic policies to help regulate the trade, to help make them a source of benefit for communities.  We want to create a system to make sure minerals are clean.

 

Tin Ore, Sasha Lezhnev

 

We need something like a Kimberley process for conflict minerals.  The Kimberley process is an international certification process for diamonds that insures that they aren’t sourced from mines controlled by networks or people responsible for violence.   

 

“There is a way to shift the economic incentive.  Foreign demand for Congolese minerals

has unwittingly allowed this trade to thrive….

 

We need a process that is in principle, similar to Kimberley, but we have to have the participation and buy in from regional governments.  Trade isn’t limited to the Congo.  The minerals are smuggled into neighboring countries.  We need the backing of the international community, we need to have industries that use these minerals commit to bringing about a process that is transparent.  We hope that the US will help back that regional certification system, as that backing will give it longevity and legitimacy in the international community.  

 

“Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act

passed last July in the U.S. is the first step toward western acceptance

of a ‘trace-audit-certify’ process”

 

Legislation on conflict minerals – Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act passed in the U.S. last July.  This was a first step toward having a western country that uses minerals from various supply chains,  state that an “I don’t know” policy (from the suppliers) is not good enough.   The legislation begins a process of “trace-audit-certify”, so that manufacturers will know categorically where their minerals come from and will need to disclose that information on their website.  It requires that if they have minerals coming from the Congo, they must ensure that they aren’t supporting the ongoing violence by purchasing from conflict mines.    

 Prior to passage of the Act, companies that used minerals only had to state that they had asked suppliers where the minerals came from, and that ended their responsibility. 

 

HOW ARE ELECTRONICS MANUFACTURERS RESPONDING TO THIS EFFORT?

There is a certain pushback coming from industry – the burden is placed on the manufacturer to certify that their minerals are conflict free.  But some industry groups are already looking into the process of setting a standard, so their consumers here don’t have to worry about their purchases coming from Congo.

 

“The U.S. must support a monitoring mechanism on the ground.”

 

The bottom line is that unless the U.S. helps to support a mechanism that monitors the extraction, transport, and sale of minerals, it is almost impossible for companies that source from Congo to say they are conflict free.    Without this process, we will continue to see armed groups earning millions of dollars on the trade. While some companies might consider an embargo of Congo’s minerals so that they can claim “conflict-free”, without a certification system in place, there is still no way to ensure minerals are not smuggled out of the region and into our supply chains.

 We do not want a boycott of Congo’s minerals, as it will neither end the illicit trade nor be a sustainable embargo, as eastern Congo has massive reserves of these minerals. 

 

WOULD THE COMMUNITIES  BE ENDANGERED IF A REGULATION EFFORT SHIFTED THE REVENUES FROM THE POCKETS OF THE REBELS?

Taking it a step further, to work out a process of certification on the ground that regulates and formalizes trade in a way that isn’t benefiting the armed groups– the response could be to retaliate on communities.  An end to the illicit trade in these minerals won’t happen quietly. 

But the bigger issue is that the violence isn’t going to stop in the absence of a certification process. 


“A coordinated response from the international community is essential”

 

We need coordinated action from the international community.  If the international community and economic policies and business practices promote sourcing minerals in a way that benefits the war criminals, then we continue to help fuel a conflict that has already claimed the lives of nearly six million people.  This is unlikely to get better without coordinated action. 

So do we do nothing and allow this to continue, or do we try to do something to stop the killing.  Hopefully, policies and mechanisms can be set in place that address the cause of conflict so region can move back to peace.

 One solution would be to have industry bodies that deal with minerals figure out how to have auditing on the ground.  For example the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) is a regional body made of representatives of the Great Lakes region – NGOs, members of foreign governments, could participate as a body to develop mechanisms and processes that harmonize across the board to monitor minerals coming from the Congo.  It would need to be legitimate and transparent. 

Stakeholders have the most to lose from an embargo, and the most to gain from a process being established.  Companies that purchase the minerals have benefited from the status quo.  There is an important role for foreign governments and industry bodies – they will need to make sure that the process is legitimate and transparent.  To do that, we will need an international effort to tackle the real problems on the ground.  An end to violence and a restoration of peace will only happen if we can create agreements that prevent loopholes which allow the violence to continue. 

 

MAKE YOUR CAMPUS CONFLICT FREE

This is one of our initiatives that has had the most tangible results.  Universities are one of the largest purchasers of electronics.  This project provides a framework that allows student activists to build consumer demand for conflict free products.  They do this by encouraging their university administration to take action to call for the conflict-free electronics.    This is an initiative that educates and empowers the consumers – to build the consumer voice, which ultimately will create an environment of political will nationwide. 

 

“So far, Stanford University, Westminster college in Missouri, and the

University of Pennsylvania have all passed resolutions or made statements

 committing to the conflict free movement"

 

We work closely with STAND  (the student led division of Genocide Intervention Network) –as our implementing partner on this project.  We have a kit on our website that describes the program in detail and how it works with larger initiative.   

Universities together have great leverage, and can create a domino effect with companies and could impact them individually. 

So far three universities – StanfordWestminster College in Missouri and the University of Pennsylvania have passed resolutions or made statements that commit to the conflict free movement.  We’ve outlined three different paths these resolutions can follow:

1)    A Procurement Policy:  when conflict free electronics are available, the university will purchase only those electronics;

2)    A Statement of Support: The University will issue a strong statement of support for conflict free materials, that they are concerned about the link between the conflict issue and the violence in the region.

3)    Shareholder Proxy Vote: whenever they as a university are faced with a vote on their shares that are related to Congo or conflict minerals, their shares will be committed to conflict free materials.

      There are about 45 universities throughout the country that are looking at this initiative.  We have seen solid efforts at Yale, Cornell, Boulder and others.

     WHAT CAN STUDENTS DO TO GET INVOLVED AT THEIR UNIVERSITIES OR COLLEGES?  WHAT IS THE PROCESS?

Students can start with raising awareness – engaging with professors who are involved in international affairs, the Law School, the Business School or student groups, to generate widespread buzz. 

The next step is to go to the administration, and ask them to draw up a Resolution.  They should present to the administration that a large portion of the student body is supporting this initiative – the idea is to convince the professors and other stakeholders in the universities that this is important and will have an impact.

 

THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THE CONGO IS SO HIGHLY EMOTIONAL THAT PEOPLE CAN, AND PROBABLY DO, EASILY DISCONNECT FROM THE ENORMITY OF THE PAIN AND THE ENORMITY OF THE TASK AT HAND.

HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE TO MAINTAIN AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION TO YOUR WORK?

We are very conscious of the fact that we are not looking to make people feel paralyzed with guilt, or to make them feel depressed or hopeless.  Our focus is very much on the power of individual and collective action.

We try to educate by offering a tangible action that the public can take –they can do something as small as clicking on our website, to begin.

  

MESSAGES OF HOPE FROM THE CONGO

We’ve found that there are compelling messages of hope coming from survivors in the Congo.  On the ground, we’re hearing the following:

Relief that is coming into the country is just a band aid – it isn’t a cure Survivors need to know that people are working actively, looking for a cure to the tragedy taking place there, and not just a short term antidote.

Survivors believe that peace is possible.  Many women’s rights activists say that women have suffered horrific assaults, they have watched the killing of their families and neighbors, they have been stigmatized and ostracized from their communities.  Yet in spite of all this, they believe that the hope for peace still exists.   If they can believe this, then none of us has the right to believe otherwise.  We all have a responsibility to do our part to make sure that these survivors maintain the hope that one day, there will be peace in the region, that they will be able to make their families whole, that they will be able to live without fear again. 

People believe that the minerals can benefit the communities of Congo.  Despite the instability and devastation in the Congo, people still believe that those minerals can become a source of benefit for the people.  They are looking for leadership to make sure the benefits aren’t lining the pockets of the war criminals. 

They want to bring the country back to the people.  These are people who are saying that their lives can be different, that they shouldn’t have to live this way.  They want the movement to bring the country back to the people. 


Tin Ore from 2 Mines, courtesy Sasha Lezhnev

 

WE’VE TALKED ABOUT HOW COLLEGE STUDENTS ARE A GREAT RESOURCE FOR ACTIVISM.  WHAT OTHER SEGMENTS OF THE PUBLIC ARE YOU TRYING TO REACH?

In addition to students and youth, we’ve found that professional women have really resonated with this cause.  We’ve also started to reach out to a different demographic – people who follow tech and IT – the gamers.  Video games have an obvious connection through consumer products.  We have allies in the Facebook community.  We’ve reached out to faith communities in the U.S. and internationally.   We also want to reach decision makers, investors and business owners.  

 

WHAT CAN THE GENERAL PUBLIC DO TO GET INVOLVED WITH RAISE HOPE FOR CONGO?

There are a variety of ways the general public can take action.  They can go to our website , where there are a number of suggestions for involvement: take our featured action, get your school or campus involved, talk to others about the issue, learn more about it.  Once people realize what is happening in Congo, they want to support our efforts.    

 The important thing, is that we are not about guilt.  We want people to feel empowered by the fact that their voice can help shift the demand to conflict free products.  We are looking for this movement to change consumer behavior – we want to help people realize just how powerful they are.  There are few contexts like this in which an individual voice has the ability to help create real change.


IS THERE WORK AVAILABLE FOR VOLUNTEERS?  IF SO, WHAT TYPES OF WORK?  WHAT TYPES OF SKILLS AND WHAT KIND OF TIME AVAILABLITY ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? 

Volunteers can become a part of the network, they can participate in initiatives as they come up.  We’re looking for students who are able to become ambassadors for the campaign on their campuses, activists who can become ambassadors for the campaign in their communities. 


“We want people to feel they are part of the solution.  We welcome engagement from people with all skill levels, all backgrounds…”

 

We are interested in interns who have an interest in policy, advocacy and research – we encourage anyone to apply.   We are interested in people who have ideas – if they are inspired, and feel they can get a particular demographic involved, we are always interested in hearing. 

 We want people to feel they are a part of the solution.  We welcome engagement from people with all skill levels, from all backgrounds – photographers, journalists, for example.  We welcome help with programming and projects that we otherwise wouldn’t have time to do.

 With respect to donations: we rely on donations from individuals and foundations.  We don’t provide direct services.  So any contributions to RHFC are to grow our ability to create effective policy. 

 

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU WANT THE PUBLIC TO KNOW ABOUT RAISE HOPE FOR CONGO? 

First, that RHFC is looking to find solutions to the root causes of the conflict.  We want to shift demand to conflict free products.

Second, we believe that consumers and activists have a critical strategic role to play.   Any action that people take, no matter how small contributes to the process of change.

Last, we are calling on community segments all across the country, be they faith communities, students, city and state legislators, to join our initiative.    If we can create a demand for conflict free materials as far and wide as possible, that is the best chance we have for policy change.

  

DO YOU THINK THERE WILL EVER BE PEACE IN CONGO?

There is definitely a long road ahead that requires a comprehensive solution on the part of multiple stakeholders both in the Congo and in the International Community, to address the most pressing needs by those impacted by the conflict.  

Any solution must consider the economics of the conflict.  It needs to address not only the actions of the rebel groups, but also the criminal networks within the Congolese army that allow the instability to continue. 

 Any solution also needs to address the role of the Congolese government and the multiple actors that need to bring about policy changes that will reinstate the rule of law, with a respect for human rights. 

 It’s going to take awhile, but if we can create and build the political will, it will be possible to have peace.


CONTACT:

 


 
Sadia Hameed
Raise Hope For Congo Campaign Manager
The Enough Project
Direct line: 202-481-8188
 

Chloe Christman
Raise Hope for Congo Campaign Assistant
The Enough Project
Direct line: 202-481-8145
 


[1] There are three legal mines in the north of DRC, which operate with the blessing of the Congolese government. http://conflictminerals.org/


 

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FEATURED ORGANIZATION: JEWISH WORLD WATCH

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

 

 


 


 

JEWISH WORLD WATCH

 

LEADING THE FAITH AND SECULAR

GRASS ROOTS COMMUNITIES  IN THE FIGHT AGAINST

GENOCIDE AND MASS ATROCITIES 

 

 

 


 

Many social welfare and human rights groups begin in response to a tragedy.  Jewish World Watch (“JWW”) traces its genesis back to an international calamity – the genocide in Darfur.

 

From that beginning, JWW has grown into something extraordinary.  Other organizations – many of them partners of JWW – focus on poverty, social justice, and economic development.  JWW is the only Jewish organization to focus on genocide and mass atrocities.  It is also one of only a few that makes building a grass roots movement among interfaith groups as well as the secular world, an essential core of its work.

 

After its beginnings in Southern California, JWW has been able to form bonds and extend its influence internationally.  Its ability to reach out to and activate its members is an integral part of its persuasive power.

 

THE FOUNDING VISION:

 NEVER AGAIN MUST MEAN NEVER AGAIN

 

 

Harold M. Schulweis, Rabbi Emeritus of  Temple Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, is an icon of the  national Jewish and interfaith communities; he  is widely considered to be one of the leading Conservative Rabbis of his generation.  Newsweek Magazine  has placed him on their list of the Top 50 Rabbis in America.

Schulweis has been a passionate champion of civil rights since his early days in Oakland, where as a young Rabbi, he advocated for controversial interfaith conversion programs and for the inclusion of homosexual populations in the synagogue community. 

 In the course of his studies and his sixty-plus year career, he has spoken and taught about the history of the Holocaust.  Over time, he became concerned that people of faith had a tepid response to modern counterparts of the Holocaust.  The ethnic genocide in Rwanda, for example, resulted in 800,000 deaths in a period of 100 days, and in a chilling déjà vu that recalled World War II, the world was silent as the slaughter occurred.   Rabbi Schulweis imagined what might have been had people of faith responded strongly to the massacres in Rwanda. 

Then, Darfur erupted.

 

SILENCE IS COMPLICITY

Schulweis became aware of the genocide in Darfur and was outraged that the atrocities received so little press.  He realized that he and his faith community had an opportunity to show that they believed in, and would act to live up to, the promise of “never again” made after the Holocaust.  He implored his congregation to join with him in speaking out against the atrocities in Darfur  — not only because of their own powerful connection to the Holocaust, but because they must speak out — it was their duty to speak out.   Silence is tantamount to complicity.   "At stake is humanity.  At stake is the universe.  At stake is the nature of God".

 

Rabbi Schulweis at Darfur Observance Day

 

Rabbi Schulweis called to his congregation to join him in creating a Jewish World Watch, an opportunity to monitor and speak out against the mass atrocities that take place in our lifetime.   “Do not stand idly by the blood of your brother” would become the central tenant that would drive the mission, a mission , formally stated, “to become a hands-on leader in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities, in an organization that would engage individuals and communities to take local actions that produce powerful global results.”

 

PROMINENT ATTORNEY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST

 JANICE KAMENIR-REZNIK

WAS SELECTED TO CO-FOUND JWW 

Janice Kamenir-Reznik was Schulweis’s choice to be his co-founding partner and leader for Jewish World Watch.  Indeed, his confidence was well placed.   For more than thirty years, Kamenir-Reznik has been a powerhouse in the Los Angeles Jewish and legal communities  and was a well known leader in city government, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, as a successful attorney in the firm of Reznik and Reznik which she built with her husband, Ben,[1]  as a founder and President of the California Women’s Law Center, and more.

 

President Janice Kamenir-Reznik kicks off the Olympic Torch Relay

 

But for Kamenir-Reznik, Jewish World Watch was a different sort of challenge.  She took Schulweis's vision and began to implement it by engaging first, the Southern California Jewish community through their synagogues.  Ultimately, from this foundation, JWW expanded it’s reach to hundreds of faith, and secular organizations which included Jewish, interfaith, universities and religious schools.

 

TZIVIA SCHWARTZ GETZUG JOINED THE TEAM

AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, joined the JWW leadership team as Executive Director in 2005.   Schwartz Getzug is uniquely suited to this job.  Trained as a lawyer, she spent the early part of her career as a civil rights counsel for the Anti-Defamation League.  She then took a less traditional path: she worked with Dreamworks as an expert consultant with faith communities during the making of the animated film, "The Prince of Egypt."  With her later five year service as Senior Vice-President for Public Affairs at the Jewish Federation, Schwartz Getzug was a natural fit for the job as first JWW Executive Director.

In her five year tenure as JWW Executive Director, Schwartz Getzug has brought together a brilliant staff, and with Kamenir-Reznik, has assembled a dedicated Board of Directors which guides decisions on budget, organization policy,  campaign target areas and relief projects. 

Schwartz Getzug’s philosophy and approach are closely aligned with that of Kamenir-Reznik, and the alliance of these two leaders as colleagues and friends, underscore a working relationship that presents a dynamic and creative face of JWW to their constituencies and to the world.

 In fostering relationships with faith organizations, individuals, partner organizations and government entities, the Kamenir-Reznik -Schwartz Getzug team together with staff and core volunteers, have built a fiercely dedicated community of advocates throughout southern and central California and beyond. 

 

A THREE PRONGED STRATEGY TARGETS

TWO GEOGRAPHIC AREAS 

From the beginning, the JWW strategy has been to engage the grass roots, which formed, and remains today, a central, massive core of support.  The three pronged approach is dynamic and comprehensive and has been highly successful at rallying the base:

·      education of the public  on the issues and geography through the schools and speaking engagements,

·      advocacy for relevant policy and legislation at high levels of government, and

·      provision of relief and development efforts to survivors of genocide and mass atrocities.

The primary campaigns have targeted two geographic areas.  The first five JWW years were concentrated on the survivors of the Darfuri genocide, now based in refugee camps in Chad.   

The second campaign, begun in he last year, has been focused on the mass atrocities taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

SUDAN AND DARFUR

 

Young Darfuri woman living in a Chadian Refugee Camp

 

Sudan has been embroiled in bloody ethnic and religious conflicts for all of its post-colonial existence (since 1956), but the most prominently known ethnic cleansing occurred in the last decade, as the Darfuri genocide.  Millions of people died horrific deaths at the hands of Dictator and convicted war criminal, Omar al-Bashir and his proxy Janjaweed militias, whose airstrikes and Cossack-like raids on undefended villages are now legendary.

 

The reasons for the murderous rampage are complex and are reported to be connected to ethnic and land conflicts between the northern Darfur Arab nomad communities and the southern Darfur Black African farmers, as well as to an oil concession that is routed under the area.

 

Survivors of the genocide fled on foot to the twelve refugee camps in Chad where they have lived for the last eight years.  Life in the camps is not conflict free – and dangers abound, particularly for women and girls, as you will read below.  Whether the refugees will ever be able to return home, is anyone’s guess. 

 

Children greeting arrival of toys

 

These camps are a principal location of a major JWW relief effort, the award winning Solar Cooker Project.

 

Another conflict in Sudan brews as I write.  Sudan’s 20 year civil war ended in 2005 with a Peace Agreement that allowed Southern Sudan to vote no later than January, 2011, on whether they remain a part of unified Sudan or secede from the north to establish their own country.

 

The referendum took place on January 9, 2011, and when results were tallied, it was no surprise that 90% of the people voted to secede.  The world now anxiously watches to see whether the north will nominally accept the secession, or attempt to prevent it with a bloody coup. 

 

JWW is at the forefront of this watch, with a priority to ensure that the U.S. and other international leaders facilitate a peaceful transition.  Violence could easily erupt as al-Bashir evaluates his strategy to maintain control over his “kingdom”.

 

THE SOLAR COOKER PROJECT 

 

Solar Cooker (Cook Kit) with cooking pot enclosed in plastic. These cookers cost $30 for a pair and

and will serve one family in the Refugee camps.

 

The Solar Cooker Project  may be JWW’s best-known relief project: it is the largest solar cooking endeavor in the world.  Currently in three refugee camps in Chad – likely to become four or more over the next year – JWW provides solar cooking and economic development opportunities women and girls who are genocide survivors – women and girls who have fled with their families from villages destroyed by the janjaweed during the Darfur genocide.   The survivors have lived in the camps now, for seven or eight years.

 

The project has been directed from its inception by Rachel Andres, who has guided it’s growth and navigated “on the ground” implementation in the camps.  In 2008, Andres received the coveted Charles Bronfman Prize for her groundbreaking humanitarian work in implementing the JWW solar cooker program in Chad.

 

Solar Cooker Project Director, Rachel Andres accepts the Charles Bronfman Prize for Humanitarian service

 

The Solar Cooker Project is an ingenious concept that provides a win-win for the refugees.  The cookers, called Cook Kits, are light, aluminum based units that are easy to assemble, provide clean, smoke free method for making use of the 300 plus days of 100 degree heat in the sub-Saharan camps.  They also provide a livelihood for the group of women leaders in the camps who are taught to manufacture them and then teach the thousands of other women to use them. 

 

A young woman carries firewood back to the camp

 

 

Women using solar cookers in the mid day sun of a Chadian Refugee Camp

 

But the most compelling reason of all for the use of these Cook Kits is that they are lifesaving: they prevent sexual violence and often death at the hands of the Janjaweed militia armies that patrol the areas and that will brutally gang rape or take as “wives”, the women and girls, who are unlucky enough to be out searching for firewood within their eyeshot.  Because the cookers don’t require firewood, the women and girls make far fewer trips out of the camps.  A 2007 UNHCR evaluation of the pilot project found that use of the cookers was associated with 83% fewer trips out of the camps in search of firewood.

 

A key element of this stunning success was the empowerment of the women in the camps.  They were able to claim ownership as they “manufactured” the Cook Kits, taught others to use them, and elicited the participation and support of the women of the camp.

 

Eventually, JWW hopes to provide this lifesaving program to all twelve refugee camps In Chad.

 

OTHER RELIEF FOR GENOCIDE SURVIVORS 

In addition to the Solar Cooker Project, generous donors have funded a relief effort that has allowed JWW to provide numerous essential services for the refugees that include medical clinics, water wells,  and crisis counseling for traumatized refugees as well as Youth Centers that provide teens with a safe place to study and to engage in extracurricular activities.

 

 

Children receive first shipment of backpacks filled with hygiene items and school supplies

 

The JWW “Backpack Project”– provided children with 15,000 backpacks filled with hygiene and school supplies.    In partnership with Enough Project and Stop Genocide Now,  JWW has  partially funded theDarfur Dream Team Sister Schools Project  which has built two schools for refugee children and hopes to fund additional schools at a later time.

 

 

 

THE CONGO NOW! CAMPAIGN

THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)

 

 

The  second area of focus for JWW is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  A gorgeous, mineral rich country that has been described as “Hawaii on steroids”, the DRC has tragically,  been the location of a bloody civil war for more than 20 years, in which rebel groups have destroyed one another as well as surrounding villages in their fight for control over land and mineral rights.   The minerals, mined illegally, from the rebel owned terroritories,  are sold to middlemen, who then resell them to electronics companies worldwide,  which we all know and love – and from which we purchase all the electronics items we use every day – cell phones, computers, ipods, flat screen TVs and more.  

 

Conflict minerals are a multi-bilion dollar business, bringing revenue back into the hands of the rebels, who use it for arms and ammunition with which they propagate the conflict.

 

To say the DRC is a dangerous and hostile place,  is an understatement of exponential proportions. The warring rebel groups are a constant terrifying presence in their fight for control of the countryside; their method for control of territory is to terrorize and intimidate undefended villagers.  They routinely ride into town waving machetes, proceed to murder the men and oftentimes crying children, then gang rape and mutilate the women and girls, take able bodied children as sex slaves and child soldiers, then burn the entire village and everyone in it who is left alive. 

 

It is no wonder that the DRC is considered to be the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman or a girl.  To that, this writer would add, it is mortally dangerous place to be a living being of any kind.  To date, the war over conflict minerals has wrought more death and destruction than World War II.

 

 PURCHASE ELECTRONICS ONLY FROM COMPANIES

THAT BUY SUPPLIES FROM CONFLICT FREE MINES 

JWW joins Enough Project in efforts to minimize violence against civilians by asking industries around the world to purchase minerals only from legal mines.  It asks electronics manufacturers to audit their supply chains and eliminate any dealings with illegal mines. If militias are deprived of their earnings from the illegal sale of minerals, their arms and other supplies used to suppress civilians may be reduced.

 

Last year, joint advocacy efforts resulted in the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (H.R. 4126),  passed by Congress in July.  This act gives authority to the U.S. Commerce Department to audit mineral mines and declare them to be conflict free (or not).  It also calls upon importers to certify whether they are importing from conflict mines.

 

The Congo Now! campaign includes a massive outreach effort to consumers of eletronics  products (i.e., everyone in the developed world) advocate that  purchases are made from manufacturers who buy supplies only from legal mines.

 

LIFESAVING RELIEF

THE FIRST AND ONLY BURN CENTER IN THE DRC

After the rebel groups burn the villages, survivors are left scarred for life both emotionally and physically, as there are no burn facilities which provide treatment in the highly skilled medical specialty required by burn victims. 

 

 

JWW funded (the only) Burn Center in Kivu

 

JWW’s first project in the DRC was to fund the very first burn center In Eastern Congo.   Now, for the first time, burn survivors can receive specialized medical treatment they need.  

 

JWW formed a partnership with Congolese and Israeli hospitals and with American and Israeli NGOs, in which Congolese surgeons are flown to Israel for training in plastic surgery and skin grafting techniques.  As a part of this project, Israeli doctors returned to Congo to help train more Congolese surgeons and to install Congo’s first skin-grafting equipment at the Bukavu Provincial General Reference Hospital.

 

THE WORST PLACE ON EARTH TO BE A WOMAN 

Sexual violence is rampant in Congo where gang rape and mutilation with machetes, glass, rifles and other objects are routinely used as a weapon of war.   Women who have been raped are typically shunned by their families and villages, and as community pariahs, have little recourse for economic sustenance.  JWW programs reach out for these women.


 

 In innovative partnerships with the highly respected NGO, Heal Africa in Goma, JWW has been seeking projects to relieve this suffering and help women rebuild lives.  One project trains women who have been victims of sexual violence to become seamstresses and tailors.  They produce clothing and purses that they can sell to support themselves.  At the end of their training period, they are provided with a sewing machine, so they can become productive members of their own community, with a means of independent support.

 

OTHER PROJECTS IN THE DRC

Other projects funded include an agricultural collective that supports a cooperative insurance fund used by expectant and new mothers, to insure they have the medical care they need for safe deliveries and for their new infants. 

 

Still another project supports a journalist training program in which women report incidents of sexual violence, which are then broadcast by radio throughout the region.

 

This program was founded on the tenet that the more awareness there is, the stronger the movement to stop it will become.  Such publicity directly attacks the culture of impunity that dominates Congo.  The hope is that if cases of rapes are documented, it leads to cultural backlash, cultural shame, and ultimately to change.

 

THE COST OF SAVING LIVES

In the seven years since its founding, JWW has raised more than $5 million dollars for these relief and development projects, which impact tens of thousands of people in Sudan and Congo.

 

Clearly, raising funds is a priority for JWW.  The world of social justice groups is a crowded one.  So many people have so many problems in their own communities that it is sometimes difficult to get them to engage in the bigger picture – even for such critical issues.  JWW supports a “both/and” approach – to focus one’s efforts both at home and in the broader world.

 

JWW raises just under $2 million per year.  They keep their overhead costs remarkably low, and the small staff runs a tight, efficient office.

 

Schwartz Getzug hopes to raise another $500,000 to $1 million per year, which would allow JWW to strengthen its base in Southern California and bring many more programs to survivors of genocide and mass atrocities in Sudan and Congo.

 

PASSIONATE STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS

The specter of genocide is so powerful, and the international will to oppose it is often so frail, that one of the primary resources of JWW staff and volunteers is their own passion.  In a world where countries are impelled to “look the other way” when foreign atrocities occur, Kaminer-Reznik and Schwartz Getzug know that they must depend on the creativity and passionate engagement of its supporters.  It would be easy to fail; it is less easy to know when one is has succeeded in making genocide unthinkable. 

 

Schwartz Getzug prides herself on the dedication of her  superlative staff and volunteers, on the strength of their convictions, and on the hard work they undertake to bring the issues to the forefront of the public view.  Those associated with JWW talk about their work with great passion and conviction.  The issues speak for themselves, once known – the task is to empower volunteers.

 

JWW’s does not seek age-specific volunteers; it values cross-generational collaborations throughout southern California and within the U.S., largely building on opportunities within communities of faith – including interfaith communities. 

 

High schools students are regularly engaged through the Activist Certification Training (ACT ) program, an ingenious service learning experience created by Assistant Director,  and resident genocide scholar, Naama Haviv, who designed it to educate and build committed activists for the JWW campaigns.

 

 

ACT Student Activists

 

UCLA Students join Jewish World Watch to speak out against genocide

In addition, JWW also welcomes volunteers with basic skills to help with office work and at events – as well as well as those with specific skills such as editing, photography, and public speaking. 

 

 

JWW SIGNATURE FUNDRAISING CALL TO ACTION EVENTS:

THE ANNUAL WALK TO END GENOCIDE

Finally, volunteer recruitment shifts into high gear in preparation for JWW signature events: the now massive Annual Walk To End Genocide, which brings more than 3000 participants for a 1 ½  mile walk through the San Fernando Valley, is scheduled  this year for April 10 , and for the Global Soul event on February 1, 2011, this year, honoring President Janice Kaminer-Reznik.

 

BI-ANNUAL GLOBAL SOUL FUNDRAISER

HONORING JWW CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT JANICE KAMENIR-REZNIK

 The Global Soul event, which will raise funds to support core programs, is scheduled for February 1, and will honor JWW’s co-founder, Janice Kamenir Reznik for her leadership and her compassion in building Jewish World Watch into a leading force in the fight against genocide. 

 

 

Says Rabbi Schulweis in his now famous sermon in which he introduced the concept of Jewish World Watch:

 “I recalled the confession of Pastor Martin Miemoeller who, during the Nazi years, was silent and indifferent to the lot of Jews and socialists and workers. When, in 1937 the Nazis came for Miemoeller, he wrote these celebrated lines: 

 First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me. 

 DO NOT STAND IDLY BY

 

 

Co-Founders Janice Kamenir-Reznik and Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis

and Executive Director, Tzivia Schwartz Getzug

 

 

Interview with Janice Kamenir-Reznik at the Los Angeles City Hall Declaration of February 1 as Janice Kamenir-Reznik Day 

 


CONTACT:

Jan Snyder, Office Manager

818-501-1836

Email:  jan@jewishworldwatch.org

 

 JWW Facebook

 www.jewishworldwatch.org


Michele Westmiller

Student Activist Organizer

Email: michelle@jewishworldwatch.org

 

Rachel Andres

Director, Solar Cooker Project

Email:  rachel@jewishworldwatch.org

Facebook


[1] Reznik and Reznik is now merged with the national law firm of Jeffers, Mangle,  Butler and Marmaro.



 
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Featured Organization: Jewish World Watch

Friday, January 21st, 2011




 

JEWISH WORLD WATCH

 

LEADING THE FAITH AND SECULAR

GRASS ROOTS COMMUNITIES  IN THE FIGHT AGAINST

GENOCIDE AND MASS ATROCITIES 

 

 


 

Many social welfare and human rights groups begin in response to a tragedy.  Jewish World Watch (“JWW”) traces its genesis back to an international calamity – the genocide in Darfur.

 

From that beginning, JWW has grown into something extraordinary.  Other organizations – many of them partners of JWW – focus on poverty, social justice, and economic development.  JWW is the only Jewish organization to focus on genocide and mass atrocities.  It is also one of only a few that makes building a grass roots movement among interfaith groups as well as the secular world, an essential core of its work.

 

After its beginnings in Southern California, JWW has been able to form bonds and extend its influence internationally.  Its ability to reach out to and activate its members is an integral part of its persuasive power.

 

THE FOUNDING VISION:

 NEVER AGAIN MUST MEAN NEVER AGAIN

 

 

Harold M. Schulweis, Rabbi Emeritus of  Temple Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, is an icon of the  national Jewish and interfaith communities; he  is widely considered to be one of the leading Conservative Rabbis of his generation.  Newsweek Magazine  has placed him on their list of the Top 50 Rabbis in America.

Schulweis has been a passionate champion of civil rights since his early days in Oakland, where as a young Rabbi, he advocated for controversial interfaith conversion programs and for the inclusion of homosexual populations in the synagogue community. 

 In the course of his studies and his sixty-plus year career, he has spoken and taught about the history of the Holocaust.  Over time, he became concerned that people of faith had a tepid response to modern counterparts of the Holocaust.  The ethnic genocide in Rwanda, for example, resulted in 800,000 deaths in a period of 100 days, and in a chilling déjà vu that recalled World War II, the world was silent as the slaughter occurred.   Rabbi Schulweis imagined what might have been had people of faith responded strongly to the massacres in Rwanda. 

Then, Darfur erupted.

 

SILENCE IS COMPLICITY

Schulweis became aware of the genocide in Darfur and was outraged that the atrocities received so little press.  He realized that he and his faith community had an opportunity to show that they believed in, and would act to live up to, the promise of “never again” made after the Holocaust.  He implored his congregation to join with him in speaking out against the atrocities in Darfur  — not only because of their own powerful connection to the Holocaust, but because they must speak out — it was their duty to speak out.   Silence is tantamount to complicity.   "At stake is humanity.  At stake is the universe.  At stake is the nature of God".

 

Rabbi Schulweis at Darfur Observance Day

 

Rabbi Schulweis called to his congregation to join him in creating a Jewish World Watch, an opportunity to monitor and speak out against the mass atrocities that take place in our lifetime.   “Do not stand idly by the blood of your brother” would become the central tenant that would drive the mission, a mission , formally stated, “to become a hands-on leader in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities, in an organization that would engage individuals and communities to take local actions that produce powerful global results.”

 

PROMINENT ATTORNEY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST

 JANICE KAMENIR-REZNIK

WAS SELECTED TO CO-FOUND JWW 

Janice Kamenir-Reznik was Schulweis’s choice to be his co-founding partner and leader for Jewish World Watch.  Indeed, his confidence was well placed.   For more than thirty years, Kamenir-Reznik has been a powerhouse in the Los Angeles Jewish and legal communities  and was a well known leader in city government, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, as a successful attorney in the firm of Reznik and Reznik which she built with her husband, Ben,[1]  as a founder and President of the California Women’s Law Center, and more.

 

President Janice Kamenir-Reznik kicks off the Olympic Torch Relay

 

But for Kamenir-Reznik, Jewish World Watch was a different sort of challenge.  She took Schulweis's vision and began to implement it by engaging first, the Southern California Jewish community through their synagogues.  Ultimately, from this foundation, JWW expanded it’s reach to hundreds of faith, and secular organizations which included Jewish, interfaith, universities and religious schools.

 

TZIVIA SCHWARTZ GETZUG JOINED THE TEAM

AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, joined the JWW leadership team as Executive Director in 2005.   Schwartz Getzug is uniquely suited to this job.  Trained as a lawyer, she spent the early part of her career as a civil rights counsel for the Anti-Defamation League.  She then took a less traditional path: she worked with Dreamworks as an expert consultant with faith communities during the making of the animated film, "The Prince of Egypt."  With her later five year service as Senior Vice-President for Public Affairs at the Jewish Federation, Schwartz Getzug was a natural fit for the job as first JWW Executive Director.

In her five year tenure as JWW Executive Director, Schwartz Getzug has brought together a brilliant staff, and with Kamenir-Reznik, has assembled a dedicated Board of Directors which guides decisions on budget, organization policy,  campaign target areas and relief projects. 

Schwartz Getzug’s philosophy and approach are closely aligned with that of Kamenir-Reznik, and the alliance of these two leaders as colleagues and friends, underscore a working relationship that presents a dynamic and creative face of JWW to their constituencies and to the world.

 In fostering relationships with faith organizations, individuals, partner organizations and government entities, the Kamenir-Reznik -Schwartz Getzug team together with staff and core volunteers, have built a fiercely dedicated community of advocates throughout southern and central California and beyond. 

 

A THREE PRONGED STRATEGY TARGETS

TWO GEOGRAPHIC AREAS 

From the beginning, the JWW strategy has been to engage the grass roots, which formed, and remains today, a central, massive core of support.  The three pronged approach is dynamic and comprehensive and has been highly successful at rallying the base:

·      education of the public  on the issues and geography through the schools and speaking engagements,

·      advocacy for relevant policy and legislation at high levels of government, and

·      provision of relief and development efforts to survivors of genocide and mass atrocities.

The primary campaigns have targeted two geographic areas.  The first five JWW years were concentrated on the survivors of the Darfuri genocide, now based in refugee camps in Chad.   

The second campaign, begun in he last year, has been focused on the mass atrocities taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

SUDAN AND DARFUR

 

Young Darfuri woman living in a Chadian Refugee Camp

 

Sudan has been embroiled in bloody ethnic and religious conflicts for all of its post-colonial existence (since 1956), but the most prominently known ethnic cleansing occurred in the last decade, as the Darfuri genocide.  Millions of people died horrific deaths at the hands of Dictator and convicted war criminal, Omar al-Bashir and his proxy Janjaweed militias, whose airstrikes and Cossack-like raids on undefended villages are now legendary.

 

The reasons for the murderous rampage are complex and are reported to be connected to ethnic and land conflicts between the northern Darfur Arab nomad communities and the southern Darfur Black African farmers, as well as to an oil concession that is routed under the area.

 

Survivors of the genocide fled on foot to the twelve refugee camps in Chad where they have lived for the last eight years.  Life in the camps is not conflict free – and dangers abound, particularly for women and girls, as you will read below.  Whether the refugees will ever be able to return home, is anyone’s guess. 

 

Children greeting arrival of toys

 

These camps are a principal location of a major JWW relief effort, the award winning Solar Cooker Project.

 

Another conflict in Sudan brews as I write.  Sudan’s 20 year civil war ended in 2005 with a Peace Agreement that allowed Southern Sudan to vote no later than January, 2011, on whether they remain a part of unified Sudan or secede from the north to establish their own country.

 

The referendum took place on January 9, 2011, and when results were tallied, it was no surprise that 90% of the people voted to secede.  The world now anxiously watches to see whether the north will nominally accept the secession, or attempt to prevent it with a bloody coup. 

 

JWW is at the forefront of this watch, with a priority to ensure that the U.S. and other international leaders facilitate a peaceful transition.  Violence could easily erupt as al-Bashir evaluates his strategy to maintain control over his “kingdom”.

 

THE SOLAR COOKER PROJECT 

 

Solar Cooker (Cook Kit) with cooking pot enclosed in plastic. These cookers cost $30 for a pair and

and will serve one family in the Refugee camps.

 

The Solar Cooker Project  may be JWW’s best-known relief project: it is the largest solar cooking endeavor in the world.  Currently in three refugee camps in Chad – likely to become four or more over the next year – JWW provides solar cooking and economic development opportunities women and girls who are genocide survivors – women and girls who have fled with their families from villages destroyed by the janjaweed during the Darfur genocide.   The survivors have lived in the camps now, for seven or eight years.

 

The project has been directed from its inception by Rachel Andres, who has guided it’s growth and navigated “on the ground” implementation in the camps.  In 2008, Andres received the coveted Charles Bronfman Prize for her groundbreaking humanitarian work in implementing the JWW solar cooker program in Chad.

 

Solar Cooker Project Director, Rachel Andres accepts the Charles Bronfman Prize for Humanitarian service

 

The Solar Cooker Project is an ingenious concept that provides a win-win for the refugees.  The cookers, called Cook Kits, are light, aluminum based units that are easy to assemble, provide clean, smoke free method for making use of the 300 plus days of 100 degree heat in the sub-Saharan camps.  They also provide a livelihood for the group of women leaders in the camps who are taught to manufacture them and then teach the thousands of other women to use them. 

 

A young woman carries firewood back to the camp

 

 

Women using solar cookers in the mid day sun of a Chadian Refugee Camp

 

But the most compelling reason of all for the use of these Cook Kits is that they are lifesaving: they prevent sexual violence and often death at the hands of the Janjaweed militia armies that patrol the areas and that will brutally gang rape or take as “wives”, the women and girls, who are unlucky enough to be out searching for firewood within their eyeshot.  Because the cookers don’t require firewood, the women and girls make far fewer trips out of the camps.  A 2007 UNHCR evaluation of the pilot project found that use of the cookers was associated with 83% fewer trips out of the camps in search of firewood.

 

A key element of this stunning success was the empowerment of the women in the camps.  They were able to claim ownership as they “manufactured” the Cook Kits, taught others to use them, and elicited the participation and support of the women of the camp.

 

Eventually, JWW hopes to provide this lifesaving program to all twelve refugee camps In Chad.

 

OTHER RELIEF FOR GENOCIDE SURVIVORS 

In addition to the Solar Cooker Project, generous donors have funded a relief effort that has allowed JWW to provide numerous essential services for the refugees that include medical clinics, water wells,  and crisis counseling for traumatized refugees as well as Youth Centers that provide teens with a safe place to study and to engage in extracurricular activities.

 

 

Children receive first shipment of backpacks filled with hygiene items and school supplies

 

The JWW “Backpack Project”– provided children with 15,000 backpacks filled with hygiene and school supplies.    In partnership with Enough Project and Stop Genocide Now,  JWW has  partially funded the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Project  which has built two schools for refugee children and hopes to fund additional schools at a later time.

 

 

 

THE CONGO NOW! CAMPAIGN

THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)

 

 

The  second area of focus for JWW is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  A gorgeous, mineral rich country that has been described as “Hawaii on steroids”, the DRC has tragically,  been the location of a bloody civil war for more than 20 years, in which rebel groups have destroyed one another as well as surrounding villages in their fight for control over land and mineral rights.   The minerals, mined illegally, from the rebel owned terroritories,  are sold to middlemen, who then resell them to electronics companies worldwide,  which we all know and love – and from which we purchase all the electronics items we use every day – cell phones, computers, ipods, flat screen TVs and more.  

 

Conflict minerals are a multi-bilion dollar business, bringing revenue back into the hands of the rebels, who use it for arms and ammunition with which they propagate the conflict.

 

To say the DRC is a dangerous and hostile place,  is an understatement of exponential proportions. The warring rebel groups are a constant terrifying presence in their fight for control of the countryside; their method for control of territory is to terrorize and intimidate undefended villagers.  They routinely ride into town waving machetes, proceed to murder the men and oftentimes crying children, then gang rape and mutilate the women and girls, take able bodied children as sex slaves and child soldiers, then burn the entire village and everyone in it who is left alive. 

 

It is no wonder that the DRC is considered to be the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman or a girl.  To that, this writer would add, it is mortally dangerous place to be a living being of any kind.  To date, the war over conflict minerals has wrought more death and destruction than World War II.

 

 PURCHASE ELECTRONICS ONLY FROM COMPANIES

THAT BUY SUPPLIES FROM CONFLICT FREE MINES 

JWW joins Enough Project in efforts to minimize violence against civilians by asking industries around the world to purchase minerals only from legal mines.  It asks electronics manufacturers to audit their supply chains and eliminate any dealings with illegal mines. If militias are deprived of their earnings from the illegal sale of minerals, their arms and other supplies used to suppress civilians may be reduced.

 

Last year, joint advocacy efforts resulted in the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (H.R. 4126),  passed by Congress in July.  This act gives authority to the U.S. Commerce Department to audit mineral mines and declare them to be conflict free (or not).  It also calls upon importers to certify whether they are importing from conflict mines.

 

The Congo Now! campaign includes a massive outreach effort to consumers of eletronics  products (i.e., everyone in the developed world) advocate that  purchases are made from manufacturers who buy supplies only from legal mines.

 

LIFESAVING RELIEF

THE FIRST AND ONLY BURN CENTER IN THE DRC

After the rebel groups burn the villages, survivors are left scarred for life both emotionally and physically, as there are no burn facilities which provide treatment in the highly skilled medical specialty required by burn victims. 

 

 

JWW funded (the only) Burn Center in Kivu

 

JWW’s first project in the DRC was to fund the very first burn center In Eastern Congo.   Now, for the first time, burn survivors can receive specialized medical treatment they need.  

 

JWW formed a partnership with Congolese and Israeli hospitals and with American and Israeli NGOs, in which Congolese surgeons are flown to Israel for training in plastic surgery and skin grafting techniques.  As a part of this project, Israeli doctors returned to Congo to help train more Congolese surgeons and to install Congo’s first skin-grafting equipment at the Bukavu Provincial General Reference Hospital.

 

THE WORST PLACE ON EARTH TO BE A WOMAN 

Sexual violence is rampant in Congo where gang rape and mutilation with machetes, glass, rifles and other objects are routinely used as a weapon of war.   Women who have been raped are typically shunned by their families and villages, and as community pariahs, have little recourse for economic sustenance.  JWW programs reach out for these women.


 

 In innovative partnerships with the highly respected NGO, Heal Africa in Goma, JWW has been seeking projects to relieve this suffering and help women rebuild lives.  One project trains women who have been victims of sexual violence to become seamstresses and tailors.  They produce clothing and purses that they can sell to support themselves.  At the end of their training period, they are provided with a sewing machine, so they can become productive members of their own community, with a means of independent support.

 

OTHER PROJECTS IN THE DRC

Other projects funded include an agricultural collective that supports a cooperative insurance fund used by expectant and new mothers, to insure they have the medical care they need for safe deliveries and for their new infants. 

 

Still another project supports a journalist training program in which women report incidents of sexual violence, which are then broadcast by radio throughout the region.

 

This program was founded on the tenet that the more awareness there is, the stronger the movement to stop it will become.  Such publicity directly attacks the culture of impunity that dominates Congo.  The hope is that if cases of rapes are documented, it leads to cultural backlash, cultural shame, and ultimately to change.

 

THE COST OF SAVING LIVES

In the seven years since its founding, JWW has raised more than $5 million dollars for these relief and development projects, which impact tens of thousands of people in Sudan and Congo.

 

Clearly, raising funds is a priority for JWW.  The world of social justice groups is a crowded one.  So many people have so many problems in their own communities that it is sometimes difficult to get them to engage in the bigger picture – even for such critical issues.  JWW supports a “both/and” approach – to focus one’s efforts both at home and in the broader world.

 

JWW raises just under $2 million per year.  They keep their overhead costs remarkably low, and the small staff runs a tight, efficient office.

 

Schwartz Getzug hopes to raise another $500,000 to $1 million per year, which would allow JWW to strengthen its base in Southern California and bring many more programs to survivors of genocide and mass atrocities in Sudan and Congo.

 

PASSIONATE STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS

The specter of genocide is so powerful, and the international will to oppose it is often so frail, that one of the primary resources of JWW staff and volunteers is their own passion.  In a world where countries are impelled to “look the other way” when foreign atrocities occur, Kaminer-Reznik and Schwartz Getzug know that they must depend on the creativity and passionate engagement of its supporters.  It would be easy to fail; it is less easy to know when one is has succeeded in making genocide unthinkable. 

 

Schwartz Getzug prides herself on the dedication of her  superlative staff and volunteers, on the strength of their convictions, and on the hard work they undertake to bring the issues to the forefront of the public view.  Those associated with JWW talk about their work with great passion and conviction.  The issues speak for themselves, once known – the task is to empower volunteers.

 

JWW’s does not seek age-specific volunteers; it values cross-generational collaborations throughout southern California and within the U.S., largely building on opportunities within communities of faith – including interfaith communities. 

 

High schools students are regularly engaged through the Activist Certification Training (ACT ) program, an ingenious service learning experience created by Assistant Director,  and resident genocide scholar, Naama Haviv, who designed it to educate and build committed activists for the JWW campaigns.

 

 

ACT Student Activists

 

UCLA Students join Jewish World Watch to speak out against genocide

In addition, JWW also welcomes volunteers with basic skills to help with office work and at events – as well as well as those with specific skills such as editing, photography, and public speaking. 

 

 

JWW SIGNATURE FUNDRAISING CALL TO ACTION EVENTS:

THE ANNUAL WALK TO END GENOCIDE

Finally, volunteer recruitment shifts into high gear in preparation for JWW signature events: the now massive Annual Walk To End Genocide, which brings more than 3000 participants for a 1 ½  mile walk through the San Fernando Valley, is scheduled  this year for April 10 , and for the Global Soul event on February 1, 2011, this year, honoring President Janice Kaminer-Reznik.

 

BI-ANNUAL GLOBAL SOUL FUNDRAISER

HONORING JWW CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT JANICE KAMENIR-REZNIK

 The Global Soul event, which will raise funds to support core programs, is scheduled for February 1, and will honor JWW’s co-founder, Janice Kamenir Reznik for her leadership and her compassion in building Jewish World Watch into a leading force in the fight against genocide. 

 

Says Rabbi Schulweis in his now famous sermon in which he introduced the concept of Jewish World Watch:

 “I recalled the confession of Pastor Martin Miemoeller who, during the Nazi years, was silent and indifferent to the lot of Jews and socialists and workers. When, in 1937 the Nazis came for Miemoeller, he wrote these celebrated lines:

 First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

 DO NOT STAND IDLY BY

 

 

Co-Founders Janice Kamenir-Reznik and Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis

and Executive Director, Tzivia Schwartz Getzug

 

 

Interview with Janice Kamenir-Reznik at the Los Angeles City Hall Declaration of February 1 as Janice Kamenir-Reznik Day 

 


CONTACT:

Jan Snyder, Office Manager

818-501-1836

Email:  jan@jewishworldwatch.org

 

 JWW Facebook

 www.jewishworldwatch.org


Michele Westmiller

Student Activist Organizer

Email: michelle@jewishworldwatch.org

 

Rachel Andres

Director, Solar Cooker Project

Email:  rachel@jewishworldwatch.org

Facebook


[1] Reznik and Reznik is now merged with the national law firm of Jeffers, Mangle,  Butler and Marmaro.



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The War Over Conflict Minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo: What College Students Can Do To Take Action

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

 

 

 

 

THE WAR OVER CONFLICT MINERALS IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO:

WHAT COLLEGE STUDENTS CAN DO TO TAKE ACTION

 

BY Anjana Puri


For more than a century, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been plagued by civil unrest and violent regional conflict. Warring rebel groups relentlessly terrorize and exploit innocent Congolese civilians in an effort to gain control of the eastern region’s vast mineral resources. The revenue generated from the trade of these minerals is used to finance armed groups in eastern Congo, many of which engage in systematic campaigns of sexual violence in order to intimidate local populations and maintain control over mines.  Since 1998, the conflict has claimed over 5.4 million lives and has displaced over 2 million people. With an estimated 45,000 people dying every month, the United Nations has described the brutal conflict in eastern DRC as one of the “worst humanitarian crises in the world.” 1

 

The region’s mineral trade is one of the underlying forces perpetuating the conflict. Armed rebel groups earn hundreds of millions of dollars each year by trading four minerals: the ores that make tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold. Armed groups sell these minerals to American companies at competitive prices. The minerals are eventually used to make common electronic devices including: cellular phones, laptops, cameras, portable music players, and televisions. The revenue generated from these sales enables armed groups in DRC to buy more weapons and further exploit Congolese civilians. Lack of transparency in the “conflict mineral” supply chain prevents American consumers from knowing whether or not their purchases are indirectly funding mass atrocities in DRC.

 

While the situation in the eastern region of DRC seems bleak, it is not hopeless. In 2009, the Conflict Minerals Trade Act was introduced into the US House of Representatives. If adopted into law, the bill will demand greater transparency from electronic companies that purchase conflict minerals in order to ensure that the revenue generated from these sales is not being used to support Congolese rebel groups. As conscious consumers, we have an obligation to demand greater social responsibility from electronics companies to ensure that the objects we purchase are conflict mineral-free. By encouraging our political representatives to endorse this bill, we can ensure that our purchases are not indirectly perpetuating mass atrocities in the DRC. 

 

College students, in particular, can play a special role in the movement to bring peace to Congo. Universities are among the biggest clients of electronic companies. By altering their institutions’ procurement policies to express favor towards doing business with vendors of “conflict mineral-free” products, colleges around the country can ensure that their purchases do not indirectly contribute to the exploitation of Congolese civilians. 


Last June, students at Stanford University encouraged their school’s administration to adopt proxy-voting guidelines that encourage Stanford’s investment partners to further investigate their conflict-mineral supply chains. In doing so, Stanford University became the first “conflict mineral-free campus” in America. The students who championed the issue are hopeful that other universities will follow suit.  In fact, students at the UCLA Law School have recently started a campaign to make their campus conflict-mineral free.  

 

Organizations such as Enough Project and Jewish World Watch have started programs designed to help students start similar campaigns at their respective schools. To get more information about how to make your campus conflict mineral-free, please visit: www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/initiatives/make-your-campus-conflict-free

 

See also: Raise Hope for Congo: Standing with the Women of Congo to Change the Calculus of the Deadly Conflict Minerals Trade



1. http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-06-11-un-drc-one-of-worlds-worst-humanitarian-crises


Anjana Puri is a recent UCLA graduate, and is currently applying to law schools.


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