having coffee with Darfur refugee camp, thanks to Google Earth

April 15, 2008 at 1:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A huge tent camp all around the city of Zalingei, (West Darfur) Sudan.

Google Earth certainly allows this blog to reach a whole new level. If I am interested in a certain spot, I can just check it out. As far as usability goes, as a person sitting in a Manhattan apartment using a one-year-old Mac, I had no problem. I felt like Superwoman as I pressed the + and – keys to zoom in and out. And even though I do know where Darfur is on the world map, it is still a big place to find a refugee camp, so the search worked well to get me there. However, one does need a bit of a virtual tour guide in order to tell what is going on. This is what google provides:

“The current open conflict in Darfur began in 2003. This conflict, with its associated destruction of villages and livelihoods, led to widespread displacement, significantly exacerbating existing problems caused by a lack of development and minimal access to basic services. It is currently estimated that more than 2 million people have been displaced, with a total over 3.6 million people in need of assistance.”

So, the release of this application was picked up in a lot of the media, the headlines read, “Google, UN put Refugees on the Map”. I hope this application will give more people means to learn about crisis; the new capabilities of the application allow for UN and NGO staff to upload images and stories about the camp. But at this point the application does not allow you to watch in real time a village being raided or a woman being raped or a child dying of starvation…. and I am thinking about the right to be on the map as a human right we take for granted…

I spoke with a chief UN human rights official yesterday and he said there is widespread awareness about genocide in Darfur in the U.S., but what is still needed is a sophisticated analysis. The solution is not to run in with guns blazing, and the conflict it is not about Arabs killing black Africans, but about water, land, tribe and incredible brutality and cunning from Khartoum government. He said that while there is a lot of diplomatic pressure going on from the UN, people to people diplomacy is still very much needed.

By people to people diplomacy, I think he means using specific connections, like the Anglican church in the US connecting with their Bishops in Sudan and then coming home to tell the US congressmen — as well as engage with their pension funds, companies listed by the Sudan Divestment Taskforce which are profiting from China oil revenues… But at this point stopping this war is really about political will of nations. Google seems to be able to do anything they put their minds to…. I hope this helps.

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