Coke Has Been Far From 'Deathly Silent' on Darfur

VIEWPOINT: Exec Says Beverage Giant Has Been on the Ground Making a Real Difference

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The recent editorializing and posturing by groups calling for Olympic sponsors to pressure the Chinese government for action in Sudan has unfortunately raised rhetoric above action.
Tom Mattia

Tom Mattia is the senior VP-director of worldwide public affairs and communications, Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta.

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In the pages of Advertising Age, Jill Savitt, executive director of a group called Dream for Darfur, accused Coca-Cola and other major Olympic sponsors of being "deathly silent" on Darfur and falsely implied we have been inactive. Nothing could be further from the truth. We simply have chosen to respond in a way that is not to Dream for Darfur's liking. Dream for Darfur judges solely on the basis of its own yardstick: a company's willingness to publicly pressure a sovereign nation to intervene in the activities of another country.

It is quite disheartening that a group that, by its own admission, has not aided a single person on the ground in Darfur has made its calling card these regular attacks on Olympic sponsors to pressure the Chinese government, when several of us are actually engaged on the ground in trying to save lives there every day.

Let's be clear. We at Coca-Cola are not silent but instead are actively working with nongovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies to help address the terrible human suffering in Darfur. Nearly a year before Dream for Darfur launched its campaign, we were working with the International Committee of the Red Cross and other partners to support the delivery of relief supplies and provide primary health-care services in field hospitals and mobile clinics. Since then, our approach has expanded to include three elements: providing immediate relief to those on the ground, making at least $5 million in investments to address the conflict's water issues and supporting efforts to bring key parties together to develop long-term solutions. We view this as a more direct -- and more effective -- route than Dream for Darfur's public posturing.

We appreciate that there may be different perspectives on how best to address the complicated situation in Darfur. We have no argument with those who wish to draw international attention to Darfur. We do not understand why they would be critical of those who choose to work on the ground. There is a role for all of us -- from governments and international organizations to businesses and NGOs -- to do our part in addressing the suffering in Darfur.
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