I have been to A LOT of of STAND conferences – no surprise since I first got involved in STAND in 2006, way back when I was a junior at Northwestern University in Chicago. Back then, STAND was a start-up run by students who were on fire about ending genocide, but who often didn’t have the resources we needed to coordinate large-scale national events. Sitting here today, just three years later, it’s crazy and inspiring to think about the differences. Pledge2Protect, which is a collaborative effort between STAND, STAND’s parent organization Genocide Intervention Network, Save Darfur, Enough, US Campaign for Burma, and many more, demonstrates the strength and coordination of our movement. In just three years, we’ve grown and come together in ways I never would have thought possible when I was a student back in Chicago.
Of course, for a cause as urgent as ours, three years seems like an eternity. But let’s take a moment to think about our beginnings…
In 2005, "genocide" was not considered a contemporary issue, but one of the past – Rwanda, the Holocaust – things to be memorialized, mourned and remembered, but not actively acted upon. Samantha Power wrote a book, called "A Problem from Hell," decrying the lack of an "anti-genocide constituency." Because there was none, she argued, genocide and mass atrocities had been allowed to unfold. If one could be built, she hypothesized, genocide in the future could be stopped and even prevented. The idea that Americans would rally to a cause thousands of miles from their own doorstep seemed a bit farfetched to many readers.
It’s 2009, and 1,000 people are descending on the Capitol Hill to ensure their voices – and their commitment to ending genocide – registers in the halls of power. More than 1,000 active STAND chapters exist on high school and college campuses worldwide. Our president and Secretary of State have committed to fighting genocide with "unflinching resolve." Members of his senior team, including Samantha Power and Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration are hosting a meeting with STAND’s Student Director, Layla Amjadi later this week. In three years, have we succeeded at bringing peace to Sudan? No. But we have made unprecedented leaps and bounds towards building a permanent anti-genocide constituency – and thereby, a world without genocide. It will be a long, hard fight, and this weekend we are going to learn more about the challenges we face in Darfur, Congo, Burma and elsewhere around the globe. But we can’t forget where we came from just a few years ago, and what we have been able to build with our passion for justice, peace, and protection.
~ Janessa Goldbeck
Genocide Intervention Network