UN EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR STRESSES REGIONAL ASPECT OF HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS AFFECTING SUDAN, CHAD, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL

4 April 2007
SC/8993

UN EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR STRESSES REGIONAL ASPECT OF HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS AFFECTING SUDAN, CHAD, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL

4 April 2007
Security Council
SC/8993
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5655th Meeting* (AM)

UN EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR STRESSES REGIONAL ASPECT OF HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS

AFFECTING SUDAN, CHAD, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL

Also Calls for National Political Solutions through Mediation, Dialogue

There was a clear regional aspect to the conflicts driving the deep humanitarian problems afflicting the Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council this morning.

In a detailed briefing to the Council on his recent visit to those three countries, he noted, however, that the spillover effect from Darfur was clear, not least in eastern Chad, and emphasized that, if the conflicts in each individual country were to be solved in a lasting way, a regional approach would be needed to tackle the issues in parallel, as far as was possible.

He stressed, however, that there was clearly also an internal aspect to each conflict, tempting though it was for the Governments concerned to heap the blame on to Darfur.  National solutions were needed in addition to the regional approach.  In each country, the fundamental and crying need was, above all, for political solutions brought about through dialogue and mediation, aided from outside where necessary, but relying on the national actors themselves.  That meant that politicians and leaders must end the protracted games they played with each other with little or no thought to the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens kept alive by the international community.

Turning to the humanitarian situation, he noted that, on 6 April 2004, the Council had heard its first briefing on Darfur.  Three years ago, 230 relief workers there had been struggling to assist 350,000 people.  Today, more than 13,000 relief workers aimed to help almost 4 million people affected by the conflict.  While there was currently relatively little actual fighting between Government forces and rebel groups, violent incidents occurred almost daily, from bloody tribal clashes in South Darfur, through continued attacks on villages by Janjaweed and other militias, to the present state of generalized insecurity and lawlessness where unpredictable violence and impunity were the rule.  Civilians remained the principal victims, and the need for humanitarian assistance continued to grow.

Over the past six months, nearly a quarter of a million more innocent civilians had been forced to abandon their homes, seeking refuge mainly from Government-supported militia attacks, he said.  They had fled to camps in all three Darfur states, in many cases to camps already filled beyond capacity.  Well over 2.2 million people, a third of Darfur’s population, were now displaced.  At the current rate, the same could be true for more than half the population in another 18 months or so.  Meanwhile, the politicization and militarization of camps had become a fact of life, creating a future time bomb just waiting to go off, and violations of humanitarian law and human rights abuses continued unchecked, not least those based on gender.

Stressing that no party to the conflict in Darfur could claim the moral high ground, he said they all appeared to be responsible for the continuing and widespread violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses.  Nevertheless, the Government of the Sudan had the primary responsibility to protect its population, and it was accountable for the proper investigation and prosecution of those accused of committing crimes.   There were also a number of threats to the humanitarian effort itself, which could easily lead to its unravelling.  The first was the sheer scale, the second was shrinking access and the third was significant bureaucratic obstacles.

However, he said, some recent potential progress included the 28 March signing, by the Government of the Sudan and the United Nations, of a further joint communiqué designed to alleviate the administrative burdens that had so severely hampered relief operations in recent months.  It committed the Government to speedy delivery of visas, permits and customs clearance, and the establishment of a joint follow-up committee, which would meet monthly, co-chaired by the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator.

Despite its scale and success in sustaining millions of lives, the Darfur humanitarian operation was increasingly fragile, he said.  The agencies and the people keeping it going were under growing pressure and morale was low.  If things did not get better, or if there were more serious incidents involving humanitarian workers, some organizations could start to withdraw and the operation could start to unravel.  Then, the international community would be faced with a humanitarian catastrophe, which nobody wanted.  Everything possible must be done to avoid that.

He said he had visited Juba in Southern Sudan to review humanitarian efforts there in the context of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  While there had been significant progress, such as the beginning of the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, other issues remained, including the realignment of forces and demobilization.  However, while the immediate humanitarian needs were diminishing, there was an urgent need to increase recovery and development assistance to help maintain peace.  In particular, Darfur must not distract the international community from the fundamental importance of the North-South agreement.

Similarly, he pointed out, the success of the peace talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda, set to restart later this month, was vital.  A solution to that 20-year-old conflict would help not only to stabilize the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but also to relieve one of Africa’s longest-standing humanitarian crises that had left 1.4 million people still displaced in northern Uganda.  The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would continue to support the Juba Initiative Project, together with the Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations.

During the meeting, several speakers underscored the importance of finding a political solution to the conflict in Darfur, without which the other problems afflicting the region could not be resolved.

Most speakers also joined the Under-Secretary-General in expressing condolences to the families of five Senegalese members of the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) Protection Force killed in Darfur on Sunday.

Also speaking during the meeting were the representatives of Ghana, South Africa, China, United States, Belgium, Slovakia, Congo, Russian Federation, France, Peru, Panama, Indonesia, Italy, Qatar and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 12:15 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing by John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the situation in Africa.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

JOHN HOLMES, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefing on his first mission to the Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic, said he had chosen that region because Darfur was the world’s largest humanitarian operation and because particularly difficult challenges to civilian protection were being faced throughout the region.  Even though he would address the countries in alphabetical order, he wanted to ensure that the points to be made about the Central African Republic were not overshadowed by Darfur.

He said that he had first visited Paoua in the north-west of the Central African Republic.  Following the fighting of 28 January between the insurgents of the Armée pour la Restauration de la République et de la Démocratie (APRD) and the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA), part of the population of Paoua and villages around it had fled into the wilderness, where they still lived.  He had visited some villages that had been completely or partly burned and plundered, and that were void of any population.  There were no camps for displaced persons, making the displaced hard to locate.  They usually lived in family groups some kilometres from their home, where they had nothing; no drinking water, no shelter and no health or educational services.

He said that some of them had told him that they had fled not only the insurgents, but also the revenge of FACA and the Presidential Guard.  It was clear that the State had abandoned the population completely.  Other areas were affected by similar situations, which were exacerbated by the presence of bandits.  Humanitarian organizations had estimated that 1 million Central Africans, one fourth of the total population, needed humanitarian assistance.  The number of internally displaced persons had risen from 50,000 to 212,000, to which some 70,000 refugees from Chad and Cameroon should be added.  The situation was going to deteriorate during the rainy season that would start in the coming months.  The humanitarian response was insufficient and more resources, partners and advocacy were needed.  Only 18 per cent of the United Nations humanitarian appeal for the Central African Republic, calling for $54 million, had been financed.

A lasting solution would require the authorities to assume responsibility to protect the population and to combat impunity.  However, he said, he did not think that the Central African Republic authorities were in a position to take up that challenge, and the international community should find solutions to the crisis.  Parties to the conflict must also agree on a ceasefire and begin negotiations.  A dramatic acceleration of security sector reform was required.  Better protection of the borders was also needed, particularly concerning the Darfur border.  A multidimensional force was therefore needed.  Another possibility would be to ask the African Union to strengthen the mandate of the Multinational Force of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (FOMUC), including monitoring of military activities along the borders.

He said the Central African Republic was one of the poorest countries in the world.  However, the country had made significant progress and had returned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.  The international community must accompany in the efforts to development and respond to the humanitarian needs.  There should be a response to the security challenges that were threatening to wipe out progress made.

As for Chad, he quoted the report of the Council mission to Goz Beida in June 2006, which stated that humanitarian organizations had expressed concern with the humanitarian situation and the recruitment carried out there.  There had also been continuing concern about the impact of refugees on the environment.  Since the Council mission, the situation in eastern Chad had deteriorated, and Chad’s army had left large parts of the country, giving rise to much ethnic and political violence, in which hundreds of people had been killed.  The number of displaced persons had risen from 50,000 to 140,000.  Militarization of camps had accelerated, and forced recruitment, including recruitment of children, had become a problem.  The pressure on the environment, including water, had become unbearable.  “The humanitarian response must be stronger, swifter and more strategic” before the rainy season, he stated.  As the refugees and internally displaced persons could not return home over the next months, a longer-term strategy must be developed.  The relocation of the most exposed refugee camps must be made a priority.

He said it was important that donors respond to the humanitarian appeal for Chad for $174 million, of which only 23 per cent had been financed.  If nothing was done to improve security in eastern Chad, the humanitarian situation would continue to deteriorate.  It was necessary that the Government begin to combat impunity and offer protection to the population.  Also, a multidimensional international force was essential to ensure the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons in eastern Chad.

Turning to the Sudan, he noted that, three years ago, on 6 April 2004, the Council had heard its first briefing on Darfur.  Three years ago, 230 relief workers had been struggling to assist 350,000 people.  Today, more than 13,000 relief workers aimed to help almost 4 million people affected by the conflict, more than 2 million of whom were displaced.  While there was currently relatively little actual fighting between Government forces and rebel groups, violent incidents occurred almost daily, from bloody tribal clashes in South Darfur, through continued attacks on villages by Janjaweed and other militias, to the present state of generalized insecurity and lawlessness where unpredictable violence and impunity were the rule.  If military casualties were relatively few, civilians remained the principal victims, and the need for humanitarian assistance continued to grow, with the international community providing 95 per cent of the $800 million or so now needed every year, because the problem continued to grow.

Over the past six months, nearly a quarter of a million more innocent civilians had been forced to abandon their homes, seeking refuge mainly from Government-supported militia attacks, he said.  They had fled to camps in all three Darfur states, in many cases to camps already beyond capacity.  Well over a third of Darfur’s population -- 2.2 million people -- was now displaced.  At the current rate, the same could be true for more than half the population in another 18 months or so.  Meanwhile, the politicization and militarization of camps had become a fact of life, creating a future time bomb just waiting to go off.  One of the saddest facts about the past three years was that the people in the camps then still remained there, no doubt beginning to lose hope of ever being able to return to their homes and former lives.

Violations of humanitarian law and human rights abuses continued unchecked, not least gender-based violence, he said.  On 16 March, two girls, aged 10 and 12 respectively, had been raped, apparently by police officers, in the Tawilla camp for internally displaced persons in North Darfur.  While the humanitarian operation in Darfur had been a success in many respects, there had been a failure to protect people effectively from violence and abuses, even if the humanitarian presence itself represented a significant deterrent, as did the successive reports about events in Darfur, for example the recent damning report of the Human Rights Council.

Stressing that no party to the conflict could claim the moral high ground, he said they all appeared to be responsible for the continuing and widespread violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses.  Nevertheless, the Government of the Sudan had the primary responsibility to protect its population, and it was accountable for the proper investigation and prosecution of those accused of committing crimes.   There were also a number of threats to the humanitarian effort itself, which could easily lead to its unravelling.  The first was the sheer scale.  How long could the international community sustain such a costly and difficult operation?  How long could the people of Darfur bear the human cost?  The second threat was access, which had been shrinking steadily, with up to a million people at any one time that could not be reached.

There were also significant bureaucratic obstacles, he said, describing his experience of having been stopped and turned around at a military checkpoint just outside Kutum in North Darfur, while trying to visit Kassab camp.  The Government had later apologized, but, if such an incident could happen on such a visit -– with journalists documenting every step -– one could easily imagine the daily struggle faced by aid workers on the ground, a point made forcefully both to the local authorities and the central Government.  However, some recent potential progress included the 28 March signing, by the Government and the United Nations, of a further joint communiqué designed to alleviate the administrative burdens that had so severely hampered relief operations in recent months.  The communiqué committed the Government to speedy delivery of visas, permits and customs clearance, with specific deadlines and the establishment of a joint follow-up committee, co-chaired by the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, which would meet monthly.

Another threat was the continuing consequence of violence against the aid workers themselves, he said.  Staff had been physically and verbally abused, routinely hijacked at gunpoint, often in broad daylight, even on occasion in state capitals.  In such cases as well, none of the parties could claim innocence.  Those who had come to help the population were now targets themselves, not helped by a media campaign about the supposed crimes of relief workers, including suggestions of espionage and hidden political agendas.  In a January raid conducted by Government officials in Nyala, 20 United Nations, non-governmental and AMIS staff had been arrested, abused verbally and physically, and charged with criminal offences.  Those concerned had not only been assaulted, but had then been charged with a crime, literally adding insult to injury.

He recalled that, during his trip, Government officials had repeatedly suggested that some non-governmental organizations engaged in inappropriate “political” activities in Darfur, an allegation that usually appeared to refer to advocacy activities on the protection of civilians from abuse of their rights.  In other words, giving food and shelter was acceptable, but speaking about violations of humanitarian law was not.  However, speaking out to protect civilians was part of the core of humanitarian action, reflecting the international community’s overwhelming concern with the safety and protection of civilians in Darfur.  That kind of insidious pressure on agencies, and discrimination between “good” and “bad” ones should cease.

Expressing his deepest condolences to the families of the five Senegalese AMIS Protection Force soldiers killed in Darfur on Sunday, he said it was a grievous loss, following so closely after the murder of two AMIS peacekeepers in Gereida exactly a month ago.  That was yet another example of those who had come to assist the population of Darfur themselves being targeted.  Despite its scale and success in sustaining millions and saving literally hundreds of thousands of lives, the Darfur humanitarian operation was increasingly fragile.  The agencies and the people keeping it going were under growing pressure and morale was low.  If things did not get better, or if there were more serious incidents involving humanitarian workers, some organizations could start to withdraw and the operation could start to unravel.  Then, the international community would be faced with a humanitarian catastrophe, which nobody wanted.  Everything possible must be done to avoid it.

He then turned to his visit to Juba, Southern Sudan, to review humanitarian efforts there in the context of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  While there had been significant progress, such as the beginning of the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, other issues remained, including the Abyei boundary, the realignment of forces and demobilization.  However, while the immediate humanitarian needs were diminishing, there was an urgent need to increase recovery and development assistance to help maintain peace.  In particular, Darfur must not distract the international community from the fundamental importance of the North-South agreement.  On the other side, the Government of Southern Sudan recognized its huge stake in a peaceful and rapid resolution of the conflict in Darfur.

Similarly, the success of the peace talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda, set to restart later this month, was vital, he said, adding that a solution to that 20-year-old conflict would help not only to stabilize the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but also to relieve one of the longest-standing humanitarian crises in Africa, with 1.4 million people still displaced in northern Uganda.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would continue to support the Juba Initiative Project, together with the Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations.

He said he had been struck by the complexity of the conflicts in each of the three countries he had visited, involving as they did, in addition to deep political problems, multilayered and ancient rivalries and tensions between different ethnic and tribal groups, pastoralists and farmers, exacerbated by the encroachment of the desert and the breakdown of traditional structures; and between leaders of complex past and present relationships.  Second, there was a clear regional aspect to the conflicts that drove the deep humanitarian problems.  The spillover effect from Darfur was clear, not least in eastern Chad.  If the individual conflicts were to be solved in a lasting way, a regional approach would be needed, whereby the issues would be tackled, as far as possible, in parallel.

However, there was clearly also an internal aspect to each conflict, tempting though it was for the Governments concerned to shift all the blame on to Darfur, he said.  There had to be national solutions in addition to the regional approach.  Finally, in each country, the fundamental and crying need was, above all, for political solutions brought about through dialogue and mediation, aided from outside where necessary, but relying on the national actors themselves.  That meant politicians and leaders ceasing to play protracted games with each other, with little or no thought to the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens, whom the international community, meanwhile, kept alive.  For the international community, that meant investing more intensely in conflict prevention, resolution and mediation.  No actor was more important in that regard than the Security Council.

Statements

LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said that Southern Sudan continued to face humanitarian challenges two years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  He was extremely concerned about the worsening situation in Darfur.  Without improving the security situation, humanitarian operations would be facing more difficulties in getting access.  He appealed once again to the Sudanese Government to grant access to humanitarian workers.  There was an urgent need for the international community to tackle the challenges in Chad, as it was obvious that the number of refugees would increase.  The international community must not drag its feet in funding humanitarian operations, and should contribute towards the humanitarian appeal for $174 million.  The amount of $40 million received so far would not meet the challenges faced.

He said the lack of development and security in the Central African Republic had put the population in a terrible situation.  There were reports of targeting of particular groups and extrajudicial executions.  According to international law, civilians had the right to protection in conflict, and he appealed to all parties for their protection.  Full funding of the 2007 humanitarian appeal for $49 million was crucial for starting a programme to reach those in need on time.  The Relief Coordinator had drawn attention to the humanitarian situation and stated that, without security, all the help in the world could not change the situation.

DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa) said it had been depressing to hear about the continued suffering of the people in Chad, the Central African Republic and the Sudan.  However, one of the bright spots had come at the end of the briefing, when the Under-Secretary-General had shared his thoughts about the regional nature of the situation.  South Africa had always argued that, until the international community resolved the situation in Darfur, which was the key, the suffering would continue in the camps in Chad and the Central African Republic.  South Africa also agreed that the situation in Darfur threatened to affect the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese Government and Southern Sudan.  If that accord unravelled, the situation would be even more tragic than it was.

The situation in Darfur required a very intense effort to achieve a solution embracing the Government and all rebel groups, he said.  It was a terrifying thought that the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) would not be in Darfur forever and was, in fact, threatening to leave by June or July.  When that happened, the people of Darfur would be left to the mercy of the Janjaweed and the various other armed groups that the Under-Secretary-General had described.  Until there was success in Darfur, there would always be people fleeing into Chad and the Central African Republic, where they would face even more serious difficulties.  South Africa was happy with the Under-Secretary-General’s long-awaited report, which was a reminder that the situation in Darfur was really about the people suffering on the ground.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) expressed deep concern about the humanitarian crises in African countries.  The root causes of those crises included armed conflicts, such as that in Somalia, as well as traditional tribal and religious tensions and violence that led to the worsening of humanitarian situations, such as those in northern Uganda and Darfur.  Long-term underdevelopment had led to poverty, and efforts should, therefore, be made to stop regional conflicts and prevent humanitarian disasters from happening and spreading.

He said efforts should be made to promote political solutions, in which it was imperative to take a targeted approach to address both the root causes and the symptoms, to take action instead of talking about humanitarian crises and to avoid politicizing humanitarian issues.  He appealed to international partners to pool their collective wisdom and efforts.  Also, donors should honour their pledges and increase funding for relief actions in Africa.  The Chinese Government had always tried to help African countries in humanitarian crises and would continue to join international relief efforts.

JACKIE SANDERS ( United States) said her delegation shared the Under-Secretary-General’s feeling that the humanitarian effort in Darfur had been largely successful in stabilizing the situation.  However, in the past year, key indicators had taken a turn for the worse, threatening all the collective gains made.  The United States was also concerned that the Sudanese Government’s continuing stranglehold on humanitarian operations kept Darfur on the brink of catastrophe.  Despite the recent agreements it had signed, it had made similar commitments in the past but failed to honour them.  The United States called on the Government of the Sudan to lift its obstruction of humanitarian assistance.

She also called on the Sudanese Government to put an end to the environment of intimidation and harassment in Darfur, which negatively impacted the ability to recruit more humanitarian staff.  Those actions had a broader impact on the neighbouring countries, and the United States supported the Under-Secretary-General’s call for the mobilization of a civilian protection force in the areas bordering Chad and the Central African Republic.  The United States also recognized that assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as the communities that hosted them, was central to the Sudan’s recovery.  Ending the violence and suffering in Darfur remained the highest priority for the United States, which welcomed the recent conversations between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President Omer Hassan al-Bashir.  It called on the Government to honour its commitments, including its agreement to the deployment of a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force.

OLIVIER BELLE ( Belgium) said he was extremely concerned at the increasing violence and tension in Darfur.  The attacks against civilians, both by Government and rebel forces, were continuing, and serious violations of humanitarian law were increasing.  Although the chief responsibility for the situation rested with the Government of the Sudan, he called on all parties to protect civilians.  The Government must end impunity and arrest those responsible immediately.  He welcomed the consensus last week in the Human Rights Council, but he was concerned that the level of risk for humanitarian organizations had become so high that the largest humanitarian operation in the world was now threatened.

He said that, to ensure peace in Darfur, the international community must increase efforts to start political dialogue, rapidly deploy a robust peacekeeping force and exert pressure on the parties for cooperation.  It was also important that the heavy support package be implemented.  The implementation of the Peace Agreement in Southern Sudan must be accelerated with the assistance of the international community.

Regarding the regional crisis in Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic, he stressed that protection of civilians, internally displaced persons and refugees must be a priority of the international community.  The transborder conflicts in Chad had led to a sharp increase in the numbers of internally displaced persons that had worsened the security situation.  He also expressed concern at the disturbing security situation in the north of the Central African Republic, and said that combating impunity was essential to establishing peace.  He supported sending a peacekeeping force to the Central African Republic and Chad.  Deployment should be based on agreement with the Governments and should have the robust mandate that could ensure the safety of the troops, as well as that of the civilian population.  The humanitarian situation in other African countries also required the attention of the international community.

PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) said he shared the Under-Secretary-General’s concern over the further deterioration of the situation on the ground, including violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.  Slovakia called on the Government of the Sudan to live up to its primary responsibility to protect its own citizens.  The Government must extend its full cooperation to, and remain engaged in, the humanitarian operation.

He expressed his continuing concern about the Sudanese Government’s bureaucratic obstructions, including delays in issuing visas and permits for humanitarian workers.  Slovakia reiterated that the deployment of an international force was the only way to protect civilians in the areas of the Sudan bordering Chad and the Central African Republic.  In addition, impunity was unacceptable, and Slovakia fully supported the actions of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  The Council should consider more effective use of targeted sanctions in the future.  Concerned about the human rights situations in a number of other African countries, Slovakia called for the strengthening of mechanisms for the protection of children.  Did the Under-Secretary-General plans to visit Zimbabwe?

JUSTIN BIABOROH-IBORO ( Congo) said the Under-Secretary-General had painted a dark picture of the challenges faced.  The international community, and the Council in particular, must share its part of the responsibility.  It was a tragic situation, affecting the lives of civilians, and the idea of assigning responsibility for the complex situation to the Governments of the countries alone was insufficient.  A solution must be found at the national level by exerting pressure on all parties.  Constraints placed on humanitarian workers were not to be tolerated.

KONSTANTIN DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) expressed particular concern about the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons owing to militia attacks on civilians.  There was a need to ensure a political solution to the conflict in Darfur by involving all parties that had not signed the Peace Agreement.  The Russian Federation supported the efforts by Special Envoys Jan Eliasson of the United Nations and Salim Ahmed Salim of the African Union in working for a comprehensive agreement.  Equally important was the 28 March joint communiqué agreed by the Government of the Sudan and the United Nations, which the Government was expected to honour fully.

While the Sudan bore primary responsibility for the protection of its own population, it required the support of the United Nations, he said.  It was also important to find a way out of the humanitarian situation in Chad and the Central African Republic, and the Under-Secretary-General’s recommendations could be helpful in relation to the deployment of a civilian protection force, which should be agreed between the United Nations and all three countries concerned.  The Russian Federation found it quite justifiable to use the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help underfinanced humanitarian activities for Chad and the Central African Republic.  Hopefully the allocation of such funds would be decided on a non-political basis.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) said the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic raised numerous questions and underlined the importance of continued concern by the Council.  In Darfur, the deterioration of the humanitarian indicators had taken place despite the remarkable efforts of the courageous humanitarian workers there, who, despite harassment and constraints in access, tried to help some 4 million people.  The efforts of those workers should be acknowledged and welcomed by the Council, as the conflict had forced tens of thousands to flee since January, while the capacities of the camps had reached their limits.  In light of reports of acts of barbarity and sexual violence, the Council should steel its resolve to act and bring the perpetrators to justice.

He said everything must be done to bring about improvement in the security situation, both in protection of civilians and of humanitarian workers.  The fact that President al-Bashir had claimed that protection of civilians came under the responsibility of the Sudanese police force was unacceptable.  As Sudanese authorities were not taking responsibility for protecting civilians, the Council must be prepared to draw conclusions.  However, humanitarian efforts alone would not solve the problems -- they required political solutions.  He supported the deployment of a peacekeeping force that could protect the civilian population.  The Council could no longer wait, as the fate of the people in Darfur and the stability of the region were at stake.

Addressing the repercussions on neighbouring countries, he said there was an urgent need for providing humanitarian aid to the tens of thousands who had been displaced in Chad and the Central African Republic, two countries that needed the support of the international community.  In the Central African Republic, insecurity in the north-east was linked to the instability of the border region.  Deployment of a United Nations force to the border area, which had been welcomed by the country’s President, was crucial.  The international community had underestimated the seriousness of the crisis in Chad for too long.  Despite the number of refugees and internally displaced persons and a lack of resources, Chad had received additional refugees, rendering the security situation fragile.  As it was clear that the Chadian army was unable to guarantee security for the area, it was important to ensure that the mission of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to assess the situation would be sent as soon as possible. 

ROMY TINCOPA ( Peru) said the Under-Secretary-General had provided highly useful information to the Security Council about developments in the three countries he had visited.  Regrettably, despite the good intentions of the Council and the international community, the civilian populations of those countries continued to lack protection and live in conditions of impunity.  Women and girls were raped and subjected to abuse, and children were recruited as fighters, while the Council remained mired in technical discussions.  The consequences of delays bore a human price, and Peru, like other members, believed that the resolution of the conflict in Darfur was the key to resolving the situations in Chad and the Central African Republic.

Expressing her delegation’s satisfaction with the progress made in the context of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Southern Sudan, she stressed, however, the importance of actions by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to implement a social development programme in that region.  Peru wished to know the Under-Secretary-General’s opinion about what the Council might do in order to monitor the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was very important in terms of civilian protection and the provision of humanitarian aid.  Had the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs taken measures with regard to the upcoming rainy season, so as to ensure that access was not impeded further?

RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said that, when human suffering crossed borders, it turned into an issue that should be addressed by the Security Council.  Although borders were important to diplomats, armies and cartographers, they did not mean anything to people living in the areas concerned.  Mechanisms must be found, by which the different organs of the United Nations could act in a coordinated fashion.  In particular the Security Council and the Human Rights Council must act.  Recently, the Human Rights Council had sent a mission to the Sudan, which had not been allowed to enter.  That situation had not been addressed by the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council had adopted a resolution on the Sudan, of which the Security Council had not taken note.

He said the sorry situation affecting the overall human rights situation in the region was clearly linked to the political situation.  The trend in the United Nations was for political problems to be addressed in a bureaucratic manner.  It might, therefore, be timely for the political leaders in the regions to become more directly involved.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) supported the observation by the Under-Secretary-General and other speakers that, without a durable solution to the conflict in Darfur, the situation in the region could not be resolved.  Indonesia welcomed the signing of the joint communiqué between the United Nations and the Government of the Sudan on 28 March, and encouraged both, as well as humanitarian organizations, to do everything possible to alleviate human suffering.  A political solution was of the utmost importance, and Indonesia wished to know how the United Nations could improve the humanitarian situation in eastern Chad pending the deployment of a monitoring and protection force.

ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) joined other delegations in expressing the deepest concern at the humanitarian situation the region, saying the protection of civilians was the guiding principle of the Organization’s work.  He underlined the need for full cooperation by the Government of the Sudan with the United Nations, as security and access were of crucial importance.  He welcomed the attention to the unsolved problems of Southern Sudan, as well as that by the consensual position on Darfur expressed by the Human Rights Council.

As documents similar to the joint communiqué had been signed but not implemented, he asked whether the Under-Secretary-General had received any guarantees on implementation.  He also asked whether the expression of goodwill by the Government of the Sudan regarding the humanitarian track also implied a sign of goodwill regarding the political track.  He also asked for elaboration on the situation in Chad.

MUTLAQ MAJED AL-QAHTANI ( Qatar) said the briefing had led to some concern about the humanitarian difficulties in some African States.  There was no doubt that the humanitarian situation in Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic required efforts to continue providing the necessary protection for relief workers.  Qatar welcomed the positive meetings that the Under-Secretary-General had held with the Government of the Sudan.  On the political level, Qatar welcomed the constructive meeting between the Government and Special Envoys Eliasson and Salim, which could result in a solution to the differences dividing the parties.

He said no opportunity to bring peace should be wasted, whether in Darfur or any other conflict area.  It was also important to understand the root causes of the conflicts.  There could be no purely military solution.  The three States bore the main responsibility to protect their respective civilian populations and their territorial integrity.  Qatar called upon those States to end impunity on the part of those responsible for perpetrating crimes in the conflict areas.  What was the Under-Secretary-General’s opinion of efforts undertaken by Special Envoys Eliasson and Salim; and, since the Sudan had not rejected the three-phase deal, had he dealt with that aspect?

Speaking in his national capacity, Council President EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) said it was striking that, three years after the first debate on the issue, the situation in Darfur still remained desperate and had affected neighbouring countries.  The humanitarian workers, who, in the face of great obstacles, continued their work in the Sudan, deserved the recognition of the Council.  The joint communiqué would only be useful if implemented.  The Government of the Sudan and the rebels needed to take concrete steps to make a real difference in the humanitarian situation.  The arms embargo must be enforced, a ceasefire must be reached and attacks on the African Union Mission in the Sudan and on humanitarian workers must stop.  The Government of the Sudan must maintain its block on aerial attacks.  The heavy support package and the hybrid force should be deployed as soon as possible.

He said that, in Chad and the Central African Republic, there was a need for adequate protection of civilians, above all of people in United Nations camps.  The Central African Republic’s willingness to accept a United Nations presence was welcome, but it was, at the same time, an indication of how dire the situation was.  Also, continuing support for the peace process in Southern Sudan was necessary to address the humanitarian situation in northern Uganda and stop the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Response by Under-Secretary-General

Mr. HOLMES, responding to questions and comments by delegations, said it gave him no pleasure to note that there was a large measure of agreement with his analysis of the situation in all three countries, and the seriousness of the need for action.  There was an absolutely vital need to search for a lasting political solution that all parties could sign up to and uphold.

He said there was a need to continue efforts for a strengthened peacekeeping force in Darfur.  It was clearly important to give continued assistance to the African Union Mission in the Sudan, which was facing a number of difficulties in carrying out its mandate.  It needed financial and other support, while awaiting the heavy support package and the deployment of a strengthened hybrid peacekeeping force.

Many delegations had welcomed the signing of the joint communiqué and asked how support for it could be reinforced.  The key lay not in its words, but in its actual implementation, as similar agreements had sometimes been respected for a time, followed by a decline in that respect.  The international community wished to see the communiqué respected in a continuing manner.  An important part of the agreement was the establishment of a follow-up committee to resolve bureaucratic problems and, if the Security Council wished to call for regular reports, that would be a helpful step, as well.

Regarding the regional nature of the conflict, he pointed out that each of the countries concerned had its own national political issues that must be resolved independently of the situation in Darfur.  It was also absolutely vital that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was beginning to centralize its offices in Juba, rather than having them scattered around Southern Sudan.  The rest of the United Nations recovery, development and reconstruction machinery should also take action to ensure there were no gaps in implementation.

Referring to questions by the delegation of Slovakia, he said he would like to visit Somalia, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the West African and Sahel regions.  That combination of visits would enable the evaluation of situations and problems arising from natural hazards.  However, there were no plans to visit Zimbabwe at the moment.

Responding to the Russian Federation’s question about financing underfunded humanitarian activities from the CERF, he said $10 million had been provided to Chad last year and $7.5 million this year.  The CERF had been used extensively in Darfur itself, with $34 million having been allocated last year and up to $39 million this year, including a loan from the Fund.

On prospects for the proposed hybrid force and the three-phase approach, he said there was hope for a meeting with representatives of the Sudanese Government and the African Union in Addis Ababa next week, which would clarify what was to be done with the heavy support package.

Regarding the proposed civilian protection force for Chad and the Central African Republic, he stressed the importance of putting it in place soon.  It was quite clear that President François Bozizé was very anxious to see it deployed, because he was concerned about the situation in north-eastern Central African Republic.  Indeed, the United Nations was proposing to open offices in that area to deal with the humanitarian situation there.

In response to the delegation of Peru about preparations for the forthcoming rainy season, he said it represented a huge challenge that differed from place to place.  In Chad, the rains made virtually all movement impossible, a situation that could also apply to parts of the Central African Republic and Darfur.  That was a familiar problem, and it was important to have plans in place before the rains began.

Responding to the delegation of Panama, he agreed that political leaders visiting the three affected countries should press for common solutions, rather than confining themselves to bilateral issues.  They should become advocates for humanitarian solutions and the establishment of fundamental protections for civilian populations.

He told the representative of Indonesia that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was looking at the possibility of setting up in eastern Chad a comprehensive strategy for the next three years to deal with the situation of refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities, who were now beginning to suffer from the loss of resources they were giving up in a particularly fragile area.

Responding to the representative of Italy, he expressed the hope that attention would continue to be paid to implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was vital for the continuation of the humanitarian effort.  However, there was no cause for optimism in Chad, as the problems there were getting worse rather than better.  There was a need to move forward with the humanitarian situation, as well as with the deployment of a protection force, without which it would be very difficult to see a way forward.

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*     The 5654th Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.