On the 23 February a delegation from the Action for CAR Campaign (www.action4car.org) visited Parliament. The campaigners met with Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose who founded and chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Freedom of Religion or Belief and Stephen Twigg MP, who chairs the APPG for the Prevention of Genocide.
Baroness Berridge opened the meeting, talking about her recent trip to the Central African Republic. She gave a brief overview of the conflict and the country, highlighting the lack of infrastructure and the limited remit of govermental power. Although the levels of violence have abated in recent months, the crisis continues and the situation remains highly volatile. She said that the drop in the fighting could be simply a result of the rainy season.
But the Baroness also emphasised that it is still possible to resolve the crisis and that the resource-rich country has great potential.
Both Baroness Berridge and Stephen Twigg felt that a youth-led movement such as Action for CAR could play an important role in raising awareness and giving the crisis a public profile. Right now, CAR is being pushed out of the news by other international crises and there is little recognition among politicians and the wider public of the urgency of the situation. This means that charities often have trouble fundraising for their projects in CAR.
The meeting also touched upon the upcoming UK election. Although the crisis in CAR probably isn’t the issue that is most concerning parliamentary candidates, incumbent politicians are currently more available and more willing to answer questions from their constituencies.
Students can play a key part in drawing attention to the forgotten crisis in CAR. Students have broad networks across which they can spread information quickly and easily. With social media, student campaigning has in recent years become an even more potent force. Stephen Twigg talked about his own experience of student campaigning and suggested strategies for success.
The campaigners left the meeting informed and motivated. “The insight and support of the parliamentarians has been invaluable to us at this stage in the campaign”, said David Pape, an Action for CAR campaigner.