Published in the Huffington Post, April 241, 2008
By MIA FARROW
Our campaign, Dream for Darfur has been in dialogue with the Olympic sponsors for nearly a year now. In February Steven Spielberg resigned from his role as artistic director of the Beijing Olympics declaring that in the face of genocide it "cannot be business as usual." Mr. Spielberg's act of conscience placed the matter squarely in the moral arena, where it belongs. We hoped that these 19 corporate sponsors would follow his cue and take action on Darfur- as a matter of conscience.
That did not happen.
In my view, this, our second report card, grades the sponsors on their humanity, on their ability to think outside their own box of profitability, to open their minds to the true meaning of social responsibility about which they talk so much. With a few exceptions -- Adidas, Kodak and McDonald’s and Johnson and Johnson who rose to the challenge of Darfur -- they failed.
Last November we made a very strong case that these companies –huge brand names, names that are known in every corner of the globe--were in a position to possibly make a difference in Darfur. Yet with three outstanding exceptions, they have made no effort whatsoever.
It is disheartening, to say the least, that most of these companies—Coke, General Electric, Panasonic, have simply remained silent. History will note that 16 Olympic sponsors are silently complicit in the Darfur genocide.
How does this happen? How can it be so in a world where 50 years ago we said “Never Again”, and we formed the United Nations, and we drafted and signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
Those merciless companions, fear and greed are at the helm in the decision making process of the companies. They are afraid of economic reprisals in China; they are fearful that their visas will be held up; that they won’t get licenses to open a plant; or that their contacts with influential Chinese businessmen and bureaucrats might wither. They fear that their business ventures will go less smoothly.
And so they appease their Olympic host, they appease China.
But I too know something about fear. In my 8 trips to the Darfur region I have seen people fleeing for their lives. I have met men, women, and children who have lived in terror for five long years. In terror they fled their burning homes, in terror they endured the rapes and unthinkable atrocities. In terror and dread they await the next attacks. In terror they wait for protection that has not come.
The sponsors have said that this is terrible. Smoothly they say that Darfur's genocide and its solutions are beyond the boundaries of their business. I contest that statement. Each of us has a fundamental responsibility to protect the helpless in whatever ways available to us. . Of course it is not the Olympic sponsors who are pulling the triggers, dropping the bombs and raping in Darfur. But their host is underwriting these atrocities. The people of Darfur may be powerless but the sponsors are not. They could make their voices heard at the United Nations. They could demand that the IOC, whose bills they help pay, take a stand. They could speak out in public, in editorials, instead of, as Coke has done, wasting time and paper in editorials to attack our campaign.
What sort of place is this? We live in a world where the strong— such as these immense corporations— can sell out the weak, turn away from the suffering even as they are feting, celebrating and profiting from the one country in the world that has the power to actually bring about relief for Darfur's people — China.
Our campaign does not call for a boycott of the Games. We are calling for a boycott of the opening ceremonies of the games. I will be broadcasting live from the refugee camps during the games. During the opening propaganda and the commercial breaks, I am inviting you to switch over - its time to hear from the people who cannot attend, participate in or view the games. And each of us has consumer choices. If you want a soft drink, I urge you to consider Pepsi. If you have credit cards, try to favor MasterCard. And I truly hope that people of conscience who are feeling outraged will join us in our protests at these companies ’headquarters and certain retail locations.
Loud and clear, I say thank you Adidas, thank you Kodak, thank you McDonalds and Johnson and Johnson. As for the others, shame, shame on them.