Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stars to the Rescue

Ben Affleck has launched an emergency appeal for humanitarian relief in eastern DRC under the auspices of the UNHCR. Called Gimme Shelter, the appeal features an MTV-like video of refugees in North Kivu accompanied by Gimme Shelter, the Mick Jagger song. The campaign hopes to raise money for emergency assistance kits that contain sleeping bags, thermal blankets, mosquito nets, and so on.

It is not clear to me that UNHCR lacks the funds to pay for basic humanitarian supplies in eastern Congo. But the larger objection, as so often in these cases, is that focusing on the humanitarian side of the problem is a case of treating the symptom, rather than the disease. It's a palliative rather than a cure.

Mia Farrow also visited the Congo recently, in an effort to draw attention to the violence there, especially the raping of women. Here is an excerpt of her interview on BBC Radio.

It's a shame that neither Farrow nor Affleck are using their star power to call for an EU force to intervene in the DRC. Celebrities seem reluctant to call for political solutions as opposed to humanitarian ones. At the moment, however, an EU force seems to me to be the one possibility that could have an immediate impact on the ground. (Surely Carla Bruni would take a call from Mick Jagger . . .)

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