UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON HUMANITARIAN SITUATIONS IN EASTERN ETHIOPIA, DARFUR, SOMALIA

6 December 2007
SC/9189

UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON HUMANITARIAN SITUATIONS IN EASTERN ETHIOPIA, DARFUR, SOMALIA

6 December 2007
Security Council
SC/9189
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5792nd Meeting (AM)

Under-Secretary-General briefs Security Council on humanitarian situations

in eastern ethiopia, darfur, somalia

Picture Remains Grim amid Continuing Violence, Insecurity, Poor Aid Delivery

John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed the Security Council today following his recent visit to assess the humanitarian situation in eastern Ethiopia, the Darfur region of the Sudan and Somalia.

Mr. Holmes said some 13,300 relief workers were currently assisting 4.2 million people affected by the conflict in Darfur, including almost 2.4 million displaced persons.  The situation was gradually deteriorating, and humanitarian operations remained fragile.  Concerns included restrictions on access, violence affecting civilians and aid workers, and respect for humanitarian principles by all parties to the conflict.

He said clashes between signatories and non-signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement, as well as aerial bombardments, inter-tribal clashes, banditry and general lawlessness, continued to have a major impact.  Attacks on humanitarian personnel continued at unprecedented levels.  Since the start of the year, 128 humanitarian vehicles had been hijacked, 118 staff taken hostage, more than 50 humanitarian personnel physically or sexually assaulted, 74 convoys looted and 12 relief workers killed.  The return or relocation of internally displaced persons was clearly a very sensitive issue, but return or resettlement must be voluntary.  Another key concern was the presence of arms in some of the camps for internally displaced persons.

Noting that the need for humanitarian assistance in Darfur continued to grow, he said the Government of the Sudan and all the armed groups concerned had a particular responsibility to avoid any unravelling of the humanitarian operation.  The main requirement was an inclusive peace agreement, reinforced by a peacekeeping force capable of monitoring the peace and ensuring the protection of civilians.

Turning to his brief visit to Somalia, he cited United Nations estimates that said Mogadishu had been emptied of more than half of its citizens, some 600,000 people altogether.  Some 230,000 of them were now living along a 15-kilometre stretch of road between Mogadishu, the capital, and Afgooye, probably the single largest gathering of internally displaced persons in the world.  There was reason for even greater concern about those remaining in Mogadishu.

He said there were some 1.5 million people in need altogether and the donor community must increase their presence and resources.  However, a robust humanitarian response could not make up for the absence of desperately needed political and security progress.  The international community had the responsibility not to abandon the Somali people but to help all concerned to find a way out of the trap in which they found themselves.  The lack of high-level attention was not an option for Somalia.

On the situation in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia, he said the area had long been affected by the conflict between Government forces and the Ogaden National Liberation Front.  Military operations and Government concern about the smuggling of weapons from Somalia had severely limited the movement of commercial traffic across the Ethiopia-Somalia border and insecurity had a direct effect on the delivery of food aid.  Some 950,000 people currently required 53,000 tons of food for the next three months, and a poor rainy season had added to fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

He said that, although the Government viewed claims of major humanitarian problems as exaggerated, it would respond as if predictions of the worst-case scenario were justified.  There were also worrying reports about the human rights situation.  The international community and Council members should monitor the situation and encourage political progress in light of the potential implications for peace and security in an increasingly explosive region.

Following the briefing, speakers stressed that, in order to improve the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Darfur, all parties must cease hostilities and allow the delivery of aid.  Expressing concern about the increasing attacks on humanitarian workers, some speakers noted that they seemed to be carried out by rebel factions.  Other speakers welcomed the commitment by the Government of the Sudan to extend the moratorium on humanitarian restrictions and the Joint Communiqué on the Facilitation of Humanitarian Assistance, and urged the Sudanese authorities to cooperate with the United Nations in the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  They must cooperate fully with the Organization and the international community in order for progress to be made towards peace.

As for the situation in Somalia, some speakers urged the Council to revisit the request of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for an expedited assessment of the necessity for a peacekeeping operation in Somalia.  Others called for the full deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia, as well as for support for that mission.  Expressing concern at the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and violations of human rights, speakers stressed that Somalia’s Transitional Federal Institutions and all parties must allow access and transportation of assistance.  The situation on the ground endangered the possibility of reaching a solution to the crisis, and the Council must examine how to deal with it.

Speakers also urged the Government of Ethiopia to investigate human rights violations allegedly committed by its soldiers, but welcomed also its decision once again to allow humanitarian aid organizations into the country.  It was important that the Government now cooperate with the United Nations regarding humanitarian access.  The international community, including the Council, should continue to monitor the situation.

China’s representative drew attention to the complex causes of conflict and difficulties in the region, which included political crises, traditional tribal discord, long-term underdevelopment, and conflicts resulting from rivalry over resources.  Only in a peaceful environment could such crises be resolved.  The armed conflicts must be curbed and the political causes for each situation removed.  Reconciliation and cooperation among tribal groups should be fostered.  Humanitarian crises were also a question of development, and there was a need to establish a well-targeted development strategy, while avoiding the politicization of humanitarian issues.

Council President Marcello Spatafora (Italy), speaking in his national capacity, said the briefing was essential for a better understanding of the situation on the ground and underlined the need for an enhanced operational and ground-centred approach in the Council’s decisions.  What counted most at the end of the day was whether there had been success in getting relief to those who needed it, he stressed.

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

The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and ended at 12:40 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider reports of the Secretary-General on the Sudan.  It was also expected to hear a briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, on his nine-day trip to Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

JOHN HOLMES, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said he had visited Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia from 26 November to 4 December.  In Ethiopia, he had wished to assess the humanitarian situation in the country’s eastern Somali region and discuss with the Government widespread fears of a severe humanitarian crisis.  The Somali region had long been affected by the conflict between Government forces and the Ogaden National Liberation Front.  Military operations and Government concern about the smuggling of weapons from Somalia had severely limited the movement of commercial traffic across the Ethiopia-Somalia order and insecurity had a direct effect on the delivery of food aid.  Some 950,000 people currently required 53,000 tons of food for the next three months, but the process of moving the first 9,000 tons had only just been completed.  A poor rainy season had added to fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

He said the Government had agreed to implement recommendations from the United Nations, particularly on commercial trade and food aid, but it viewed claims of major humanitarian problems as much exaggerated.  Nevertheless, the Prime Minister had confirmed that the Government would respond as if predictions of the worst-case scenario were justified.  The prime Minister had been urged to allow full humanitarian access to the region, speed up relief efforts, enable more non-governmental organizations to operate in the military zone, allow World Food Programme (WFP) trucks to move into safer areas without military escorts and to allow local government officials to resume their normal work.

There were also worrying reports abut the human rights situation and the United Nations had recommended that the Government allow an independent investigation, he said.  The international community and Council members were encouraged to monitor the situation and to encourage political progress in light of the potential implications for peace and security in an increasingly explosive region.

Turning to the Sudan, he said some 13,300 relief workers were currently assisting 4.2 million people affected by the conflict in Darfur, including almost 2.4 million displaced persons.  The situation was gradually deteriorating, and humanitarian operations remained fragile.  Concerns included restrictions on access, violence affecting civilians and aid workers, and respect for humanitarian principles by all parties to the conflict.  It had been stressed in meetings with Government representatives that it was important to strengthen trust and confidence between the Government and the humanitarian community, and to ensure full implementation of the Joint Communiqué on the Facilitation of Humanitarian Assistance.

He said clashes between signatories and non-signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement, aerial bombardments, militia and inter-tribal clashes, banditry and general lawlessness continued to have a major impact.  This year, nearly 280,000 civilians had been forced to flee violence, many for the second or third time, and to seek refuge in already overflowing displaced-person camps or in the bush.  Other consequences included sexually transmitted infections.  Attacks on humanitarian personnel continued at unprecedented levels.  Since the start of the year, 128 humanitarian vehicles had been hijacked, 118 staff taken hostage, more than 50 humanitarian personnel physically or sexually assaulted, 74 convoys looted and 12 relief workers killed.  Those responsible for those attacks were often hard to identify, but they appeared to come mainly from rebel groups and elements of the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).

While officials had repeatedly suggested that some humanitarian staff in Darfur were engaged in inappropriate activities, he said, he had emphasized that monitoring and speaking up for the rights of civilians and respect for humanitarian law and principles was fundamental to humanitarian action and reflected the concerns of the Council.  The Government had been urged to use the High Level Committee as a forum for discussion to address any concerns, rather than taking unilateral actions such as the recent expulsion of the head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) office in South Darfur.  Humanitarian workers were in the Sudan to assist its people and help the Government of the Sudan fulfil its responsibility to protect its own citizens, not for any other reason.

The return or relocation of internally displaced persons was clearly a very sensitive issue, he said, emphasizing that return or resettlement must be voluntary.  It must place after consultations with the displaced persons themselves and with the humanitarian community.  The necessary conditions for large-scale returns across Darfur did not yet exist.  Another key issue was the presence of arms in some of the camps for internally displaced persons, such as the one at Kalma.

Noting that the need for humanitarian assistance in Darfur continued to grow, he said the 2008 work plan for the Sudan would appeal for $825 million in humanitarian needs and some early recovery activities.  The Government of the Sudan and all the armed groups had a particular responsibility to avoid any unravelling of the humanitarian operation.  The main requirement was an inclusive peace agreement, reinforced by a peacekeeping force capable of monitoring the peace and ensuring the protection of civilians.

Turning to his brief visit to Somalia, he said he had seen an area where a large proportion of those fleeing the capital had sought shelter.  According to United Nations estimates, the city had been emptied of more than half of its citizens, some 600,000 people altogether.  Some 230,000 of them were now living along a 15 kilometre stretch of road between Mogadishu and Afgooye, probably the single largest gathering of internally displaced persons in the world.  The shelters were rudimentary, but an active relief response was visible.  Clean water was being trucked in and there was progress in building sanitation facilities.  WFP had recently distributed food to 180,000 people, but huge challenges remained.

He said he was even more concerned about those remaining in Mogadishu.  A WFP programme to serve up to 50,000 prepared meals a day had just started, but that effort was far from sufficient to cover the needs, especially if violence and displacement continued.  There were some 1.5 million people in need altogether and the donor community must increase their presence and resources.  In 2008, the request for the Somalia Consolidated Appeal would rise to at least $400 million.  However, a robust humanitarian response could not make up for the absence of desperately needed political and security progress.  The international community had the responsibility not to abandon the Somali people but to help all concerned to find a way out of the traps they found themselves in.  The lack of high-level attention was not an option for Somalia.

DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) expressed the hope that the Council could revisit the request of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for an expedited assessment of the necessity for a peacekeeping operation in Somalia.  The Under-Secretary-General’s briefing proved beyond doubt that the situation there was not improving at all and that the Somali people could not be left to fend for themselves.  It was proving even more difficult to get aid to people in the affected areas.  Hopefully, the Council would work with the Secretary-General to seek a better way out of the Somalia situation.

He stressed the need to work with the Government of the Sudan, the African Union and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) as soon as possible.  Without UNAMID, the lives of people in internally displaced persons camps were becoming more precarious by the day.  South Africa also stressed the need to deal effectively with the safety of humanitarian personnel, and hoped that UNAMID would have the strength to protect people in the camps, as well as humanitarian personnel.

VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV ( Russian Federation) said his delegation shared the Secretariat’s concern over the complex humanitarian situation in Somalia, which had led to an increase in the number of internally displaced persons.  Military clashes and tensions had also escalated and continued to have a negative impact on the humanitarian situation.  There were still serious security and other obstacles to addressing the humanitarian situation of the civilian population.  The Russian Federation called for the full deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia.  The Security Council must continue to follow events in Somalia very carefully.  At a certain stage, it would do a more effective job of improving the situation by developing peacekeeping capabilities.

Reports indicated some positive movement forward in the Sudan, but the overall situation remained alarming, he said.  It was to be hoped that the deployment of UNAMID would alleviate the situation and that all remaining obstacles to deployment would be lifted.  Normalization was not possible in any of the three conflicts discussed today without substantial progress in a political settlement.  There was a need for work in the political, peacekeeping and humanitarian areas in order to resolve all three situations.  It would also be useful for the Under-Secretary-General to brief the Council regularly on the humanitarian situation in all three situations.

JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said he was concerned at deterioration of the humanitarian situation and violations of human rights in Somalia.  It was alarming that humanitarian access was at it lowest level and that humanitarian workers were being harassed.  The Transitional Federal Institutions and all parties must allow access and transportation of humanitarian assistance.  The situation on the ground endangered the possibility of reaching a solution to the crisis, and the Council must examine how to deal with it.

Noting the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Darfur, he said all parties must cease hostilities and allow aid delivery.  In addressing the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, a gradual approach could not be followed and political considerations should not be allowed to stop the mobilization of necessary humanitarian assistance.  The authorities in the Sudan must cooperate fully with the United Nations system and the international community in order for progress to be made towards peace.  The situation in the Somali region of Ethiopia was also alarming.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said the causes of difficulties in Darfur included the political crisis, traditional tribal discord, long-term underdevelopment, and conflicts resulting from rivalry over local resources.  In Somalia, the main causes of the crisis emanated from the armed conflict which had resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties and internally displaced persons.  Only in a peaceful environment could such crises be resolved.  The armed conflicts must be curbed and the political causes for each situation removed.

He said it was also necessary to promote harmony and unity, and to foster reconciliation and cooperation among tribal groups.  Humanitarian crises were also a question of development.  A well-targeted development strategy should be established, while easing and resolving humanitarian crises required attacking the symptoms and causes at the same time, as well as avoiding the politicization of humanitarian issues.  Donors should fulfil their pledges of assistance and the international community should ensure stronger coordination and cooperation with the countries concerned.  Compared to Darfur, Somalia had received less attention.

PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) said more must be done to ease the suffering of civilians in Darfur, Ethiopia and Somalia, and the protection of vulnerable groups, such as women and children, must be a priority for the Council.  The overall situation continued to deteriorate and have an enormous negative impact on civilians, an estimated 4.2 of whom had been affected in Darfur.  It was essential to provide them with humanitarian aid.  Humanitarian workers lacked access to large areas of Darfur, while violence and insecurity in the camps for internally displaced persons was on the rise.  People faced difficult choices, while more and more civilians faced bureaucratic obstacles, hijackings and attacks.  They also lacked access to assistance while aid workers continued to be expelled from the Sudan.

He emphasized the need for full respect for humanitarian principles in order to more effectively respond to the crisis.  Much more needed to be done to address the remaining problems there.  The Government of the Sudan must redouble efforts to allow humanitarian aid to reach people in need.  He called on the Sudan to facilitate that process.  He expressed great concern over the growing humanitarian crisis in Somalia and the ongoing violation of human rights there.  He called on the Somali Government to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and lift obstacles to do so.  He noted the increased number of piracy incidents on the coast and thanked the French navy for delivering World Food Programme shipments.  There should be more monitoring and more close attention paid to human rights violations and there was a need for independent investigations into those issues.

ALFREDO SUESCUM ( Panama) urged the Government of Ethiopia to investigate in accordance with all applicable human rights instruments the human rights violations allegedly committed by Ethiopian soldiers.  The Ethiopian Government’s decision to once again allow humanitarian aid organizations into the country was hopeful.  That decision, coupled with the establishment of operations to distribute medicine, water and sanitation would alleviate the population’s needs.  He also noted the progress in regional and national talks to find alternative solutions to the humanitarian crisis affecting the region.  Turning to Darfur, he said humanitarian aid organizations could not effectively respond to the humanitarian needs due to bureaucratic and security obstacles -- a situation that made the deployment of a Hybrid Operation all the more urgent.  The Sirte process was also very important and required the participation of all parties to the conflict.

Turning to the serious humanitarian situation in Somalia, he noted that more than 1 million people remained displaced.  While reports indicated that the international community and aid organizations had made significant progress in the humanitarian arena, much more remained to be done.  The Somali Government must address the critical security situation as a major priority.  The complexity and magnitude of the situation appeared at times to exceed the United Nations’ capacity to address it effectively.  The international community must not end efforts to find a solution to that difficult situation and must work to strengthen the African Union Mission in Somalia.  The Organization’s failure to address the Ethiopian, Sudanese and Somali conflicts could threaten the credibility of the Organization, particularly the Security Council.  The Organization must work energetically to address those challenges.

KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said her country had a long-standing commitment to help the Sudanese people and was the world’s second largest bilateral donor to the country.  Particular matters of concern were the increased insecurity in camps and the unprecedented level of violence against humanitarian workers.  Most of those attacks seemed to be carried out by rebel groups, and the situation in the Kalma camp was unacceptable.  The United Kingdom shared other speakers’ concerns regarding the expulsion of the head of OCHA in South Darfur.  While the Government’s commitment to extending the moratorium on humanitarian restrictions was welcome, it was disappointing that the High Level Committee had not met since October.  The United Kingdom called on the Government to implement it.  The prompt deployment of an effective force would play a critical part in ensuring safe returns of displaced persons.

Turning to Somalia, she said that country’s Transitional Federal Government was primarily responsible for getting relief to its people.  Obstacles to humanitarian access, such as checkpoints and heavy taxes, should be removed and the Council should monitor the situation carefully.  The international community should give what assistance it could.  The United Kingdom was the third largest bilateral donor to Somalia.  Progress on the humanitarian front depended on political reconciliation and progress on security.

Describing the Under-Secretary-General’s visit to Ethiopia as timely, she said it was important that the Government now cooperate with the United Nations regarding humanitarian access.  The international community, including the Council, should continue to monitor the situation.  The United Kingdom supported the idea of holding a high-level meeting on the region.

MARTY NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said the people of Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia and refugees in the three countries were forced to cope with difficult conditions in an inhospitable environment.  The situation in Ethiopia, particularly in the Ogaden region, was a concern, and the civilian casualties of the counter-insurgency were deeply regrettable.  Indonesia welcomed the continued talks between the Secretariat and the Government on how to support relief efforts.

On Darfur, he said it was unacceptable that vehicles belonging to the humanitarian community continued to be carjacked.  Indonesia supported the Under-Secretary-General’s call for a safer environment and urged all sides to cooperate with the United Nations.  The Joint Communiqué was a good mechanism to address humanitarian concerns, notably those relating to bureaucratic issues.  There was a need for continued dialogue with the Sudanese Government in order to ensure that the people of Darfur received assistance.  In addition, internally displaced persons in Darfur should only return voluntarily and under safe conditions.

Turning to Somalia, he said the humanitarian situation there was, in many ways, worse than that in Darfur.  Those with guns should refrain from indiscriminate attacks affecting civilians.  Indonesia underlined the importance of observing the international principles of humanitarian assistance -- humanity, neutrality and impartiality, alongside full respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States.

JEFF DE LAURENTIS ( United States) said his country was deeply committed to ending the violence in Darfur through a political settlement, providing humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations and supporting the rapid deployment of UNAMID.  The United States supported a peaceful, unified and democratic Sudan and called for the full implementation of all aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had travelled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week to lead a Sudan ministerial meeting with representatives of the Sudan, neighbouring African countries, the African Union and the United Nations Special Representatives on the Sudan.  A viable political process and the deployment of a robust hybrid force were critical to improving the humanitarian situation in Darfur.  All groups must support an accelerated political process led by the United Nations and the African Union, as well as a lasting ceasefire on the ground.  The United States encouraged all rebel movements to set aside their differences and move forward with the peace agreement.

Urging the inclusion of traditional leaders, women’s groups, non-governmental organizations and leaders of the displaced-person camps in the peace talks, he noted that civil society participation was vital to the success of the talks.  The Government of the Sudan was urged to approve without delay the full list of troop-contributing countries chosen by the United Nations and the African Union, accept peacekeepers into Darfur, and provide them with the necessary visas and flight clearances, as well as access to land and water, to carry our their mission.  The United States was extremely disappointed at the Government’s expulsion of the head of the OCHA office at Nyala, and called on the authorities to renew the moratorium on humanitarian restrictions, as it was critical to reducing the obstacles faced by non-governmental organizations in Darfur.  The United States supported the immediate deployment of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) and encouraged all troop- and police-contributing countries to deploy as soon as possible to alleviate the situation in Chad.

He said his country was concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Somalia, including the condition of the 230,000 internally displaced persons in a 15-kilometre stretch of road outside Mogadishu.  The United States was also concerned that humanitarian efforts remained hampered by insecurity, roadblocks and inter-clan conflict.  All parties must facilitate access for life-saving humanitarian assistance to those in need.  A comprehensive political solution based on the Transitional Federal Charter was needed to resolve the situation in Somalia.  The United States reiterated the need for robust contingency planning by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to prepare for a possible United Nations peacekeeping mission in Somalia.  The Ethiopian Government should open commercial trade routes to the Ogaden region to prevent the humanitarian crisis there from deepening and continue to work with the international community to ensure access to those in need of assistance.

LUC JOSEPH OKIO ( Congo) said many situations were evolving in the region and successes achieved in one country could be ruined by neglect of situations in other countries.  Lack of access for humanitarian assistance and attacks on humanitarian workers were matters of concern, as the presence of humanitarian workers in the region was the only “lifeboat” that many people had.  With respect to the situations in Somalia, it was important that African Union efforts there be supported before it was too late.  The international community and the Council must act.  There was no military solution to the conflict and the parties must be encouraged to find a political solution, the cessation of hostilities being a first step.

Turning to the Sudan, he said the full cooperation of the Government of the Sudan was needed in the deployment of UNAMID.  Humanitarian progress could only be made in the wake of political progress.  As for Ethiopia, Congo shared the concerns of others regarding the danger of a famine in that country’s Ogaden region.  The situation in the east of Chad was also a matter of concern and the Congo called on the international community to support the Under-Secretary-General’s efforts, as well as the 2008 work plan, to meet the needs of the Sudan and those of the people of Darfur in particular.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE ( France) said he was extremely concerned at the ongoing deterioration of the situation in Somalia.  As there were indiscriminate attacks on civilians, all parties should be reminded that they must respect international humanitarian law.  Because the protection of civilians was primarily the responsibility of the Government, the authorities should facilitate access for humanitarian assistance.  On the request of WFP, France had started to escort ships to Somalia after having received permission from the Somali authorities.  France called on others to join it in its efforts.

As for Ethiopia, he expressed concern about reports of attacks on civilians and the risk of a widespread famine in the Ogaden region and called on the Government to facilitate access to the region for aid convoys.  Regarding the troubling situation in Darfur, to claim that it was stabilizing was misrepresenting the facts.  WFP must now provide assistance to more than 3 million people.  The deliberate attacks against humanitarian staff continued, as did bureaucratic obstacles to delivery erected by local authorities.  France condemned the expulsion of the head of OCHA for South Darfur.  The Sudanese authorities had given a positive signal by reinstituting the moratorium on humanitarian restrictions, but information regarding forced relocation in southern Darfur was troubling.  The principle of voluntary return must be implemented.

TARIQ ALI FARAJ AL-ANSARI ( Qatar) said the Under-Secretary-General’s earlier prediction was certainly true:  it has indeed been a very bad year in terms of the humanitarian situation in the areas he had visited and the United Nations must become more capable of confronting deteriorating humanitarian situations.  The suffering of Somali civilians, in particular, seemed to have been neglected by the international community.  The causes of that suffering must be described accurately.  The main factors included illegal occupation and war crimes, including rape, torture and flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war.  The international community should support the African Union Mission in Somalia and foreign forces should withdraw.

With regard to Darfur, he said his country attached great importance to the implementation of the Joint Communiqué on the Facilitation of Humanitarian Assistance.  It was important to continue to overcome obstacles to aid, prominent among which were attacks by rebel groups against humanitarian workers, which Qatar condemned along with attacks on African Union peacekeeping troops.  It was important to impose greater pressures on the rebel groups and to deploy UNAMID to help provide security for humanitarian operations.  Resources must be provided for the continued provision of emergency relief activities.  Qatar had been providing quick funding in response to humanitarian emergencies and other countries should follow suit.

JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) said recent reports on the security situation in Mogadishu remained troubling, with more than 200,000 people having fled the Somali capital since the end of October and about 1.7 million people needing international assistance.  The gravity of the crisis had prompted dozens of non-governmental organizations to launch an appeal to the international community.  Yesterday, the Somali Government had announced its decision to close land and sea access points in the Lower Shabelle region, a decision that demonstrated the need for better coordination and close contacts with the Government of Somalia and the United Nations.  There was still a need for a prompt solution from the Somali authorities concerning the right of passage through checkpoints.  Belgium welcomed efforts to effectively combat impunity.

He said the humanitarian situation in the Sudan was fragile while conditions in displaced-person camps were explosive.  Belgium was concerned about the surge in violence along the border with Chad at the end of November.  Operations by Chadian rebel movements on the way out of Darfur had resumed with intensity, another factor contributing to insecurity in a region where a European force would be deployed alongside MINURCAT.  Such hostilities would complicate the return of refugees and Belgium earnestly requested that the Government of the Sudan renew in good faith the moratorium on humanitarian restrictions, without which, starting in January, hundreds of humanitarian agents would not be able to do their jobs.

LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN (Ghana) cited the Joint Communiqué on the Facilitation of Humanitarian Assistance, signed earlier this year to ensure that the humanitarian response was effective in reaching all those in need.  Some internally displaced persons had been able to return home to Darfur, but the key concern of the Sudanese authorities must be for all Sudanese to return home.  The early deployment of UNAMID would enhance humanitarian objectives and save lives.

He said the briefing on the humanitarian situation in Somalia clearly illustrated that it had not improved and that displacements had increased following bloody clashes.  The situation was characterized by full insecurity and endemic disease.  In some cases, seriously malnourished children were at risk of death.  Ghana encouraged donors to give more as civilians were bearing the brunt of ongoing conflicts.  To overcome material challenges, commitments must be translated into action.  That could not come from a military solution, but rather from a political dialogue and the resolution of the humanitarian situation.

Council President MARCELLO SPATAFORA (Italy), speaking in his national capacity, said the briefing was essential for a better understanding of the situation on the ground, and stressed the need for an enhanced operational and ground-centred approach in the Council’s decisions.  What counted most at the end of the day was whether there had been success in getting relief to those needing it.

On the situation in Darfur, he called for the full implementation of the moratorium on humanitarian restrictions and the Joint Communiqué on the Facilitation of Humanitarian Assistance.  Despite all efforts in the political and peacekeeping tracks, the humanitarian situation had shown no signs of improvement.  As for the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, Italy appreciated the efforts of that country’s Government and called on the United Nations to respond to the crisis.

Somalia was a test case for the credibility of the United Nations and the Council should draw more focused conclusions from the situation there, he continued.  It was doubtful that any recommendation mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report on protection of civilians in armed conflict had been met.  Lack of progress in the political and security areas should not be an alibi for failure to step up relief efforts.  Outside the United Nations, there was a perception that more attention was paid to one crisis than to another.  In order to counter that perception, robust contingency planning was needed.  The lack of high-level operational attention was not an option for Somalia.

Response by Under-Secretary-General

Mr. HOLMES, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted in his closing remarks, the high level of agreement around the Council regarding the seriousness and need to monitor carefully all three situations while trying to remove the causes of conflict.  There was also agreement about the importance and need for peacekeeping operations and the earliest possible deployment of United Nations missions in Darfur and Somalia in order to protect civilians and enable humanitarian workers to operate effectively.

In some camps for internally displaced persons in the Sudan, there were unrealistic expectations concerning the transition to UNAMID, which must be kept in check, he said.  The Council President had made some powerful points about the need to avoid double standards in Somalia and Darfur.  When talking about the need to keep the peace, the point was that some kind of political framework was necessary to support a political process.  It was possible for peace contingents to become part of the problem rather than the solution, a situation that must be avoided.  A successor force to the African Union Mission in Somalia was needed, and a humanitarian ceasefire in Darfur would be extremely useful in helping to avert some problems just discussed by Council members.

He said that, because the Sudan had no Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, due to difficulties between the North and the South, no meeting on the humanitarian situation had been possible.  A meeting of the High Level Committee would be desirable very soon.  Regarding the impact of weather on some humanitarian situations, this year’s harvest in Darfur would probably be poor, placing extra strain on humanitarian operations.  As a result, there were plans to step up food efforts in the displace-person camps.

Concerning Somalia, he pointed to steps to eliminate piracy there and commended the French Navy for arriving a few days ago to protect and monitor WFP shipments.  The ban on humanitarian access had been happily resolved and it was to be hoped that the country’s new Prime Minister would take a different attitude and allow much better facilitation of humanitarian assistance.  However, there were disproportionate attacks in Mogadishu and those operating in the capital must be held accountable for their actions.

He said the situation in eastern Chad was worrisome and movement there was heavily restricted.  Assistance must be provided to the 230,000 refugees and 180,000 internally displaced persons in that country.  There was a need for a final end to mutual support for rebels and other armed groups across the Sudan-Chad border.  Regarding the protection of civilians in Somalia, the situation was a clear illustration of how far there was to go in some areas.  The Council’s support was vital for what had to be achieved.

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