By Shane Eric-Eugene Hensinger
Master's candidate in International Security
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
A Darfur crisis simulation hosted by the Josef Korbel School of International Studies' Center on Rights Development, also known as CORD, provided students an up-close lesson in conflict-resolution techniques they previously had studied only in textbooks. The simulation featured China, the U.S. State Department, Sudan, the African Union, the United Nations and non-governmental operations working in the Darfur region.
Participating students were randomly assigned to the teams and negotiated using positions their teams likely would espouse in a real-life situation based on historical precedent. Prior to the simulation, players were given a so-called outcome chart listing seven possible actions. Participants ranked the actions according to their team's priorities. The actions:
- Implement a cease-fire.
- Provide humanitarian aid and care for refugees.
- Bring those responsible for the genocide in Darfur to justice.
- Implement a draft peace agreement or provide for a new political process.
- Stabilize the region.
- Rebuild the Darfur economy.
- Provide opportunities for foreign investment and tourism in Sudan.
The negotiation sessions were frank and sometimes heated but cordiality prevailed. Here's a look at how the teams handled the simulation:
- The team playing the U.S. State Department said the conflict in Darfur was genocide. Therefore, the team said, the United States was obligated under international law to act -- either alone or with other states concerned with the crisis.
- The team playing China said it backed Sudan and considered the manner internal to the Sudanese government.
- The African Union players -- caught between the union's role as a regional leader and the conflicting demands of its member states -- urged all parties to put the care of refugees first.
- Players representing the United Nations demanded that attacks on U.N. agencies operating in the region cease.
- The non-governmental delegation players said caring for displaced people in Sudan, the primary mission of such groups, was difficult because many groups had been expelled by the government as retaliation for the International Criminal Court's indictment of Sudan President Al-Bashir for war crimes.
All parties agreed that caring for refugees and providing humanitarian aid to displaced persons inside and outside of Sudan was crucial. The United States team agreed to provide greater aid and training to the nascent African Union forces in Darfur, troops charged with protecting refugees and providing aid.
The team representing China was reticent on its responsibilities and the Sudan team refused to countenance any action until the issue of the International Criminal Court's indictments of its leader was repealed. (This issue was tabled because the international court was not represented in the simulation.)
Josef Korbel School's Center on Rights Development officials said they were pleased with the discussion and mentioned the possibility of continuing the simulation at a later date.
Students agreed the simulation was worthwhile despite the frustrations experienced. In the end, all agreed, those frustrations mirrored real issues in peace making and conflict resolution facing countries around the globe today -- valuable lessons indeed.