EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON TRIP TO SUDAN, CHAD; SAYS BANDITRY, CRIMINALITY ‘BIGGEST SINGLE CONCERN’ FOR HUMANITARIAN WORKERS
EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON TRIP TO SUDAN, CHAD; SAYS BANDITRY, CRIMINALITY ‘BIGGEST SINGLE CONCERN’ FOR HUMANITARIAN WORKERS
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Security Council SC/9517
6029th Meeting (PM) 3 December 2009
EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON TRIP TO SUDAN, CHAD; SAYS
BANDITRY, CRIMINALITY ‘BIGGEST SINGLE CONCERN’ FOR HUMANITARIAN WORKERS
John Holmes Describes Some Recent Positive Political Steps,
But Stresses Ceasefire, Negotiated Settlement to Conflict Urgently Needed
The billion dollar humanitarian operation in Darfur, the largest in the world, would enter its sixth year, but problems of banditry and criminality remained the “biggest single concern for the humanitarian community”, the Security Council was told this afternoon.
Addressing the 15-member body on the situation in Chad and the Sudan, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who visited those countries in November, said humanitarian needs at the border of Chad and the Sudan were “being mostly met” and that the Government of the Sudan had agreed to continue limit restrictions on humanitarian access by extending the Moratorium on Restrictions to 2010.
But “at the risk of stating the obvious, the things most urgently needed are a ceasefire, declared and respected by all parties, and a negotiated settlement to the conflict”, he said.
According to Mr. Holmes, attacks on humanitarian aid workers in the Sudan reached their highest levels in 2008, with over 261 carjackings and 172 compounds broken into. In South Kordofan, where serious violence in the Abyei region in May had forced around 50,000 civilians to flee, most of the population was not likely to return due to fears of renewed violence.
He told the Council that he had conducted “frank” and “constructive” discussions with Sudanese authorities in his visits to various parts of the Sudan -- including Darfur, South Kordofan, Juba and Khartoum -- where he had also intensified contacts with rebel movements to persuade them to respect humanitarian personnel and aid efforts.
Several times, Mr. Holmes stressed the importance of having the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) continue to use its capacity to improve the physical protection of civilians, particularly in camps near main towns. Tensions among camp residents were coming to a boil in some places due to frustratingly long stays, including Hassa Hissa camp in Zalingei, where a tense standoff required UNAMID to position themselves between the camp and an armed group. Among his requests to the Sudanese Government was to allow the United Nations refugee agency to support them with camp coordination and management. He had strongly urged rebel leaders, also, to respect the civilian and humanitarian nature of the camps.
In neighbouring Chad, he said national tensions had eased since the February attack on the capital, N’djamena, but the situation remained fragile and hostile due to lingering tension and the spill-over from Darfur. Banditry had worsened in the east of the country, posing a “significant threat” to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.
In the absence of a settlement in Darfur, he said there was little immediate prospect of a return for Sudanese refugees, who have been in Chad for the last five years. Some individuals were returning to their villages of origin, although those cases were limited and in locations further away from the Darfur border. Others were moving between the camps and their previous smallholdings to restart agricultural activity. “I hope these can be replicated elsewhere, without putting undue pressure on the IDPs”, he said, noting that security was critical.
The presence of a European Union force (EUFOR) and the progressive deployment of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) had helped stabilize the situation, including to provide reassurance to refugees and to improve security for humanitarians, he said. However, EUFOR had not had the capacity to tackle the growing problems of local banditry and criminality, which was encouraged by the absence of any meaningful local judicial system. Some non-governmental organizations had withdrawn from the area.
He said the deployment of the newly-trained Chadian gendarme force, Detachement integer de securité, fully supported by MINURCAT, was vital for providing local police protection in and around the camps. But, there were key issues of equipment and operational capability to resolve. He expressed hope that donors would “look favourably” on the estimated requirements to the humanitarian consolidated appeals, overseen by the United Nations, of some $389 million, to help the Chadian Government live up to its responsibilities for ensuring security.
Aside from the provision of material assistance, he drew attention to the need to alleviate suffering and offer protection from abuse, for example, of women confronted by sexual violence. Authorities in the Sudan had recently forced the closure of two non-governmental organization mental health projects, and an air of unnecessary suspicion continued to hang over the aims of that type of project. Moreover, the situation in Darfur could not continue without causing incalculable damage to the ability of Darfur to recover its culture and way of life. Of the generation of people that had grown up in camps, “how would they respond if and when peace returned? How many will return to villages, in some cases, already occupied by others?” he asked.
Ahmad Allam-mi, the Permanent Representative of Chad who spoke after Mr. Holmes, expressed hoped that MINURCAT, which was being expanded with a military component into MINURCAT II, would effectively meet expectations. In particular, he said he hoped the new operation would help to neutralize the activities of regarding rebel groups, who took advantage of the situation to conduct recruitment in the camps.
Echoing several other speakers, the representative of South Africa welcomed the restoration of diplomatic relations between Chad and the Sudan, with the representative of China noting that both sides planned to conduct joint patrols, which would hopefully improve the situation in border areas.
The representatives of Libya, France, United States, Belgium, Russian Federation, Panama, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Italy and Croatia also spoke.
The meeting began at 3:17 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m.
The Security Council met today to hear a briefing by John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
JOHN HOLMES, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed the Council on the situation in Chad and the Sudan. Based on his second visit to Chad following the deployment of the European Union forces (EUFOR) and the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) and the transition to MINURCAT II, he said national tensions had eased since the attack on N’djamena last February, but the situation remained fragile and hostile. Banditry had worsened in the east of the country, posing a significant threat to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, aid workers and the local population.
He said emergency needs for 263,000 refugees from Darfur, 57,000 from the Central African Republic, and 180,000 IDPs were mostly being met, but the long-term presence of such large numbers of refugees and IDPs was resulting in growing tensions with the host population.
The politicization and militarization of the refugee camps and some IDP sites were “major and increasing concerns”, and recruitment by armed groups -- including of children, notably by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) -- was threatening the civilian and humanitarian nature of the camps. “This needs to stop if the humanitarian effort is to be able to continue successfully”, he said, adding that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had been unable to deliver assistance for two months, for related reasons. He had asked the Government of Chad to do all it could to prevent that, and had also called on the JEM leadership to recognize their responsibilities.
In the absence of a settlement in Darfur, he said there was little immediate prospect of a return for Sudanese refugees, who have been in Chad for the last five years. But, recent months had shown limited voluntary returns to villages of origin, particularly in locations further away from the Darfur border. Others were moving between the camps and their previous smallholdings to restart agricultural activity. “I hope these can be replicated elsewhere, without putting undue pressure on the IDPs”, he said, noting that security was critical, as was the provision of basic social infrastructure and a stronger presence of State authorities.
The presence of EUFOR and the progressive deployment of MINURCAT had helped stabilize the situation, including to provide reassurance to refugees and to improve security for humanitarians, he said. However, EUFOR had not had the capacity to tackle the growing problems of local banditry and criminality, which remained the “biggest single concern for the humanitarian community”. Banditry, conducted largely for profit, was encouraged by the proliferation of small arms throughout the area, the presence of armed militias and the absence of any meaningful local judicial system. Some non-governmental organizations had withdrawn from the area.
He said the deployment of the newly trained Chadian gendarme force, Detachement integer de securité, fully supported by MINURCAT, was as vital as the deployment of MINURCAT II itself. They had the mandate and training to provide the kind of local police protection badly needed in and around the camps. But, there were key issues of equipment and operational capability to resolve, he said. To help the Chadian Government live up to its responsibilities for ensuring security, providing basic services and supporting development, he expressed hope that donors would “look favourably” on the 2009 consolidated appeal requirements of some $389 million.
In the meantime, the billion dollar humanitarian operation in Darfur, the largest in the world, would enter its sixth year. “At the risk of stating the obvious, the things most urgently needed are a ceasefire, declared and respected by all parties, and a negotiated settlement to the conflict.”
On the rising number of car hijackings and attacks on compounds, he said rebel movements, or groups of individuals linked to them,appeared to be primarily responsible for the majority of such acts. He called on Government security forces and rebel leaders to put a stop to the banditry once and for all, as it was seriously damaging the quality of assistance. World Food Programme (WFP) rations were still only at 70 per cent because of attacks on their convoys.
Aside from the provision of material assistance, he drew attention to the need to alleviate suffering and offer protection from abuse, for example, of women confronted by sexual violence. The authorities had recently forced the closure of two non-governmental organization mental health projects, and an air of unnecessary suspicion continued to hang over the aims of that type of project.
He noted that the Government had extended the Moratorium on Restrictions through January 2010, which he welcomed. He said parties should be able to harmonize procedures and practices between the federal and State level, and address issues together before hasty unilateral actions were taken, such as harassing or closing projects or expelling staff. He had also asked the Government to provide international non-governmental organization staff with multiple-entry visas to enable such staff to leave in urgent compassionate circumstances, for example, which would reduce bureaucracy for both sides and significantly improve the atmosphere of relations.
He also drew attention to the situation in the camps, where tensions were coming to a boil. At Hassa Hissa camp in Zalingei, a particularly tense standoff required the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to position themselves between the camp and an armed group. To help address the issue, he had asked the Government to allow the UNHCR to support them with camp coordination and management, and had strongly urged rebel leaders to respect the civilian and humanitarian nature of the camps.
In addition, he stressed the importance of local reconciliation efforts between communities, for instance, in rural areas, to allow the recent harvest to go ahead in relative peace.
He said that discussions with Sudanese authorities had been frank and constructive, and that contacts were also being intensified with rebel movements to persuade them that they too must respect humanitarian personnel and aid efforts.
In South Kordofan, where he conducted an assessment of the humanitarian response to serious violence in Abyei in May that forced around 50,000 civilians to flee, he said most of the population was not likely to return due to fears of renewed violence. He had discussed that issue with the new Abyei Administrator and his deputy on implementation of the Abyei road map, including further support to the Joint Implementation and Police Units. He had taken up those points in his meetings in Juba and Khartoum, he said, adding “the importance of Abyei to North-South peace can hardly be overstated”.
He had visited Juba, as well, which had “boomed”, although outside the capital, the process of construction remained slow. Little of the oil revenue flowing to southern Sudan had so far been seen. Meanwhile, southern Sudan was no longer a humanitarian emergency, but still had the worst child and maternal health indicators.
Offering some good news, he said some 12,000 kilometres of roads had been demined, 3,000 water points rehabilitated, 2.4 million former internally displaced persons and refugees returned, and primary school enrolment rates had risen. But there was a long way to go. While Darfur’s problems tended to take the spotlight, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement remained of huge importance for the whole country. The United Nations, non-governmental organizations and donors must continue to help ensure effective recovery and development. But the Government of southern Sudan also needed to allocate additional resources for basic services.
He said there was plenty of room to criticize the Government of the Sudan for continuing human rights violations, for not disarming the militias, for not always facilitating humanitarian relief, or for declaring a ceasefire and then almost immediately violating it. However, the rebel movements had neither declared a ceasefire nor showed great readiness to engage in a political process, and were not helping relief efforts. “They have a lot to answer for, too”, he said.
The situation in Darfur could not continue without causing incalculable damage, he said, not only to the physical environment, the risks to which in areas like forest cover and water resources struck him “particularly forcibly”, but also in the ability of Darfur to recover its culture and way of life. A generation had grown up in camps -- how would they respond if and when peace returned? How many will return to villages, in some cases already occupied by others? Humanitarian relief could not answer those questions. Only a decisive political action could.
He ended by stressing the importance of having UNAMID continue to use its current and future capacity to improve the physical protection of civilians, in camps near main towns. On the International Criminal Court issue in the Sudan, he said he had taken every opportunity to remind the Government of the Sudan of their fundamental responsibilities in that context. “For our part, we will do everything in out power to maintain our operations to help those in need.”
AHMAD ALLAM-MI ( Chad) emphasized that, overall, there had been an improvement in the situation over the past year, owing to the mobilization of his country’s own resources and support from the international community, particularly the Security Council, which had decided to deploy MINURCAT. Surely, there had been drawbacks, which had been criticized by non-governmental organizations. He hoped that the new MINURCAT, which was being expanded with a military component, would effectively meet the expectations of those who needed its help, including refugees, IDPs and the local population, as well as humanitarian workers. He hoped the new operation would help to neutralize the camps and avoid what had been said regarding JEM and other Sudanese groups, who took advantage of the situation to conduct recruitment in the camps. His Government reiterated its readiness to cooperate fully with the United Nations mission in the eastern part of the country.
Continuing, he expressed satisfaction with positive results received as part of consultations with the Secretary-General regarding MINURCAT II. As for the efforts to neutralize the camps, the fact that Sudanese groups were recruiting there was not just the sole responsibility of Chad. Those who claimed that Chad supported Sudanese forces could not provide any tangible proof. Chad was a poor country and could not allow itself the luxury of supporting rebels from a neighbouring country. Chad could help in the dialogue between the Sudanese and would support all efforts to bring peace to Darfur. Chad welcomed the normalization of relations with the Sudan and would pursue good neighbourly relations. As long as the tragic situation in Darfur was not settled, however, he feared the relations between the two countries would be affected. Chad had no internal problems and was on the way towards free and transparent elections under the supervision of the United Nations. Those who had taken arms had to return home, in compliance with an agreement that still remained valid.
GIADALLA A. ETALHI (Libya) commended the efforts made in the region, but shared the concerns of the Under-Secretary-General regarding the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation due to continued acts of violence, which had led to further human suffering. It was regrettable that some refugees and IDPs had suffered from recruitment, mobilization and violence in the camps. He strongly supported the call for an end to those practices and politicization of the camps. Certainly, such a situation ran counter to the betterment of the condition for the refugees. He also insisted on the importance of continuing to provide humanitarian assistance and facilitate its access to refugees and IDPs, to guarantee protection and encourage their return. There was no doubt that guaranteeing humanitarian access to all in need would require close cooperation between the national authorities of the two countries and the international community. In that connection, he expressed gratitude to all donor parties and underscored the importance of insisting on protection of civilians. Therefore, there was only one solution possible -- the political one.
Many years of military and armed confrontation had only resulted in greater suffering for civilians and more serious violations of human rights, he continued. The time had come for all the parties to work towards the ceasefire and swiftly respond to peace initiatives. It was also necessary to observe the agreements among the various parties. In that connection, the factions that were still hesitating to participate in the political process had a duty to join in.
In conclusion, he expressed satisfaction over the return of diplomatic relations between Chad and the Sudan, which, he hoped, would be an important stage towards achieving peace in the region. He was also satisfied to hear that Mr. Holmes had returned from Chad with some optimism.
JEAN-MARIE RIPERT ( France) noted that the situation faced by the civilian population in Darfur and border areas of Chad remained “dramatic”. In addition, he firmly condemned the impact of banditry and armed groups on the security of humanitarian personnel and asked that host countries hold the perpetrators accountable. It was important to respect the humanitarian and civilian nature of the camps, and it was unacceptable that fighters were being recruited from inside those camps. Nonetheless, the fact that such recruitment was taking place did not justify attacks by authorities against the camps. Rather, what was needed was to ensure the effective protection of the general population and to allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, as well as access of the population to that assistance. He noted the recruitment of child soldiers in Chad, and urged all parties involved to cooperate with the Council’s Working Group on children and armed conflict.
Turning to the Sudan, he called on all parties to respect their obligations to halt the fighting, including the Sudanese Government forces. The fighting had continued despite the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Al Bashir. Indeed, there had been reports of attacks on civilians by those armed forces, including through aerial bombardments. Further, the Council had heard a clear report from the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who had referred to grave violations of humanitarian law. He demanded that the Sudanese armed forces halt its use of white aircraft, which could be confused with United Nations humanitarian aircraft. He also urged the Government to put an end to the bureaucratic red tape facing humanitarian workers, as well as the restrictions on non-governmental organizations with programmes to victims of sexual violence, for example.
In terms of Chad, he noted that the situation had improved, despite certain difficulties. There was a need to continue allowing the voluntary return of refugees, which was taking place in eastern Chad, albeit on a limited basis. Although it was important to emphasize the “voluntariness” of such return, it could not be used as an excuse for slow action on the part of United Nations agencies.
ROSEMARY A. DICARLO ( United States) expressed gratitude to the non-governmental organizations that were extending help to vulnerable populations. She noted the grim picture being painted by the Under-Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the situation in the Sudan, where, despite the announcement of multiple ceasefires, large numbers of civilians were forced to flee due to the continued violence. At the same time, attacks on aid workers in the first eight months of 2008 had surpassed the total in 2007. The United States joined other States in urging the Government to prevent such attacks and to adhere to monitoring mechanisms, as well as to continue protecting humanitarian relief workers.
She said the United States viewed gender-based violence programmes with importance. Overall, the country had spent $3 billion on humanitarian aid in the Sudan and eastern Chad, and was disturbed by reports that aid workers were being harassed and their work impeded. Governments must support programmes designed to protect vulnerable people, and, in the context of refugees and internally displaced persons in Chad, she asked that the Government do its best to prevent the recruitment of those persons by armed groups and to expedite the deployment of gendarmes in eastern Chad. She said the United States looked forward to seeing the establishment of the follow-on mission to succeed EUFOR/MINURCAT, whose mandate was set to expire in March 2009. She noted the two Government’s efforts to normalize relations, and particularly noted the Libyan Government’s efforts in that regard. She urged all parties concerned to help halt the activities of rebel groups and called on them to respect their obligations towards civilians.
JAN GRAULS ( Belgium) said the detailed and nuanced briefing by the Under-Secretary-General had shown that, in Chad, the humanitarian situation remained very precarious, despite some recent improvements. Belgium earnestly supported the resumption of the EUFOR presence in the region. It was also in favour of a rapid and effective resumption of MINURCAT II and the normalization of relations among the countries. Regarding the Under-Secretary-General’s trip to the Sudan, he noted that the substance of the message delivered by Mr. Holmes had not really changed; violence against the civilian population continued to grow and indiscriminate attacks continued to cause the ongoing displacement of persons.
Belgium deplored the fact that the unilateral ceasefire had not had any effect in the field, either on the side of the Government or in terms of rebel movements. He called, once again, on all parties to work towards a rapid ceasefire, giving absolute priority to the protection of the civilian population. While welcoming the extension of the Moratorium on Restrictions through January 2010, he called on the Government to implement that document to ensure that humanitarian activities could take place with the utmost effectiveness. To that end, he reiterated requests made to the Sudanese Government to cooperate with United Nations authorities. Touching briefly on the situation in southern Sudan, he said that the population in that area still awaited their “peace dividends”, and he underlined the need to ensure security in the town of Abyei as a matter of the utmost importance.
KONSTANTIN DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) shared the concerns of other delegations regarding the worsening humanitarian situation, specifically the recent events that had resulted in a sharp rise in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons. The effective, coordinated participation of the United Nations and other agencies –- such as the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) -- could help to alleviate the suffering of civilians. It was, therefore, essential to ensure the safe delivery of and access to humanitarian supplies and aid. Eliminating unjustified administrative barriers was essential, and he noted the efforts undertaken by the Governments of the Sudan and Chad in that area, which should be further encouraged.
He called for an immediate end to all attacks on humanitarian workers, while stressing that the safe access of foreign humanitarian staff was only one of the aspects of effective assistance, and not necessarily a goal in itself. It was the prerogative of host countries to determine the rules and regulation regarding the overall coordination of humanitarian aid. All parties should respect host country sovereignty, along with respect for the basic principles of humanitarian assistance, such as neutrality, objectivity and independence.
A comprehensive approach to the situation must address a number of issues including, among others, the security issue in the eastern part of Chad, the transportation and movement of armed groups, and security in the subregion as a whole, he said. Such an approach would continue the momentum already generated and would help towards the normalization of relations between Chad and the Sudan. In addition, he said the implementation of the Dakar agreement, along with previous agreements, should continue. Armed groups in Darfur must join the peace agreement immediately and should constructively join the political process. Political progress in Chad and the Sudan would help stabilize the security situation and would, at the same time, help improve the humanitarian situation.
ALFREDO SUESCUM ( Panama) said the situation in the Sudan was at a crossroads with the deployment of the hybrid operation having taken place. In the pursuit of a permanent ceasefire and settlement to the Darfur conflict, providing protection to the population was of immediate importance. He welcomed the cooperation shown by the Sudanese Government to speed up bureaucratic procedures faced by humanitarian workers, and expressed confidence that agreements in that regard would be duly implemented. Despite efforts to improve the humanitarian situation, he said crimes against aid workers in Darfur and eastern Chad still presented reasons for concern, which he condemned. Those responsible must be brought to justice. He reiterated the point that the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers was the responsibility of the Governments of the Sudan and Chad, and all armed groups were urged to grant humanitarian actors unrestricted access to communities in need.
But the Darfur conflict must not divert attention from the needs of the civilian population in southern Sudan, he continued. He applauded Mr. Holmes for his visit to Abyei and Juba, and commended his effort to shore up international support for the region’s pressing needs. He encouraged Mr. Holmes and the larger United Nations system to speed up the return of displaced persons, as well as to further the region’s development. On insecurity and the humanitarian situation in eastern Chad, he observed the need for closer cooperation between the Chadian Government and the international community. He spotlighted the efforts of EUFOR and the Governments of Chad and the Central African Republicfor their efforts, and those of the “integrated security deployment already deployed”. Because a “security vacuum” could place civilians at risk, it was essential for a robust United Nations force to replace the EUFOR in March 2009.
MARTY NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said he shared the view of others that the humanitarian situation in regions visited by Mr. Holmes remained difficult. He said he valued the work being done by the humanitarian community in Chad, Darfur and south Sudan, which needed to take place uninterrupted while parties continued to search for a political settlement. Protection of civilians was a priority and, towards that end, the rapid deployment of peacekeeping missions to Chad and Darfur was of the utmost urgency. In Chad, he urged the accelerated deployment of the police component and looked forward to discussing the deployment of MINURCAT’s military component, scheduled to take place in the first half of next year.
He said he looked forward to the resumption of the political process under the leadership of Joint Chief Mediator Dijbril Bassole, and welcomed Sudan’s declaration of a ceasefire. Pending a more structured ceasefire, all parties in Darfur should unilaterally cease hostilities, which the international community should continue to encourage. He also expressed hope that improvements in Chad-Sudan relations would contribute to peace.
He deplored the attacks against humanitarian workers, saying that carjackings were worrisome because assets belonging to the organizations often ended up being turned to military use. Such attacks were reportedly perpetrated by rebel movements, and could constitute a war crime. Close cooperation between the Government of the Sudan and the humanitarian community could contribute greatly to improving the humanitarian situation. A Government had a responsibility to protect humanitarian workers who were in its country, and he looked to the Sudanese Government to take every measure to do so. For humanitarian efforts to be successful, the international principles of humanitarian assistance should always be observed. They included the primary role of the affected State in the initiation, organization, coordination and implementation of humanitarian assistance within its territory, and observance of international and national laws. Finally, he said the Council should not lose sight of “the development perspective”. Parties to the conflict needed to be reassured that the dividends of peace would be real and that the international community would assist them in establishing a sustainable peace.
PAUL ROBERT TIENDREBEOGO ( Burkina Faso) expressed particular concern over the situation in Chad, including continued acts of violence and the killing of humanitarian workers, especially in the east. That situation, along with other situations of concern, such as the forced recruitment of children, called for the Security Council to take action. While welcoming some encouraging signs regarding safety in refugee camps and among displaced persons, he expressed hope that MINURCAT II would be able to meet the expectations that many held for it. At the same time, he encouraged donors to make additional efforts to help the people of Chad, especially in terms of the Under-Secretary-General’s appeal, first made in November in Geneva and reiterated again in the current meeting.
Turning to the situation in the Sudan, he said there was a great deal that was left to be done, and he encouraged the Government and rebel forces to do their utmost to ensure the protection and freedom of movement of humanitarian staff. He welcomed the constructive spirit of discussions between Sudanese authorities and the Under-Secretary-General during his recent visit.
The situation of refugee and IDP camps in Chad and the Central African Republic required international attention, and he suggested that MINURCAT and UNAMID further strengthen their presence in the camps, and in the region overall. He welcomed the diplomatic relations between Chad and the Sudan and expressed hope that those efforts, along with the implementation of the Dakar agreement, would contribute to greater peace in the region. Finally, in closing, he paid tribute to the humanitarian staff risking their lives every day, working in the field.
KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said her Government was the second largest bilateral donor to the Sudan, having donated more than $700 million in aid, with more than $250 million dedicated specifically to Darfur. She shared concerns regarding security and access to humanitarian aid and noted that, despite the Security Council’s efforts, the situation continued to worsen, with car hijackings and killing of aid workers. In addition, the Government appeared ready to break the ceasefire, recently announced. Though the renewal of the Moratorium on Restrictions was a welcome step, there continued to be bureaucratic impediments to the work of humanitarian agencies in Darfur. She invited the other delegates around the table to join her in calling on the Government to abide by the spirit of the joint communiqué on humanitarian access.
Continuing, she said the United Kingdom looked to the Sudan to give a firm commitment that humanitarian operations and the safety of those workers would not be affected by any impending announcements of the International Criminal Court. On southern Sudan, she said it was important to have the full commitment of the South Sudanese Government to the peace process. Since 2005, her Government had committed roughly $500 million towards projects in that region and, to that end, she welcomed the launch of the recovery fund for the region. Turning briefly to the precarious humanitarian situation in Chad, she said it demanded a continued, consistent and sustained humanitarian engagement, and interruption to the delivery of aid, due to insecurity, should come to an end.
LA YIFAN ( China) said it was well known that armed conflicts led to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, which could only be resolved through a return to peace. With bilateral relations between the Sudan and Chad improving, tension in border areas between those two countries could expect to be eased. He welcomed those two countries’ efforts to improve relations, noting that both sides planned to conduct joint patrols, which would hopefully improve the situation in border areas. Expressing concerned at the safety of humanitarian personnel, he urged all parties to refrain from attacking international humanitarian relief organizations and to help ease their access to places in need. However, the humanitarian crisis was only one aspect of the Darfur question, while the most urgent need was to realize a comprehensive ceasefire. He voiced support for African Union mediation efforts, and hoped that efforts by all sides would create the necessary environment to improve the humanitarian situation.
HOANG CHI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) said he shared the concerns expressed by others, especially with 4.5 million people in Darfur living in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The situation of sexual- and gender-based violence was alarming. He condemned the frequent acts of banditry and armed attacks against relief workers, and voiced support for the need to investigate those acts and to bring the perpetrators to justice. He asked that the parties involved respect international humanitarian law.
In terms of relations between Chad and the Sudan, he praised the exchange of ambassadors and voiced hoped that efforts to improve security and the humanitarian situation would continue. He took note of the Sudanese Government’s extension of the Moratorium on Restrictions to 2010, which would hopefully fast-track procedures for humanitarian actors in Darfur and enhance humanitarian assistance to affected regions. That momentum should be encouraged. He commended the work of the humanitarian community and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to improve the humanitarian situation in the region. He commended the visit by Mr. Holmes to the area in November, as well as the November launching of a workplan for the Sudan. He called on the international community and donors to extend resources to expedite that plan’s implementation.
He said better coordination between UNAMID and MINURCAT would help improve the humanitarian situation in the two countries. The root causes of the conflict and humanitarian disasters must be addressed through the political process and the promotion of socio-economic development.
JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) expressed a shared concern with the Under-Secretary-General in regard to the insecurity in Chad, including ongoing banditry. The EUFOR had done commendable work to improve the situation and the transition to MINURCAT II should help towards creating continued improvements for the civilian population. He was pleased to see that matters regarding the harassment of, and violence against, humanitarian workers had been raised with Chadian authorities, and he called on those authorities to strengthen investigations into the matter. At the same time, the Government should take advantage of the support of the international community to fight impunity and to improve the rule of law.
Costa Rica also shared the Under-Secretary-General’s concern over the worsening of the security situation in the Sudan, he said. A verifiable ceasefire was essential for humanitarian assistance to be more effective, and the recent ceasefire declaration was a positive step in that direction, which could lead to a real improvement in the situation on the ground. Attacks on humanitarian workers were also of concern, since those workers had a direct impact on the lives of more than 4.5 million people. A clear commitment to the principles of international humanitarian law was required by all parties, and he asked Mr. Holmes to further clarify his assessment on one aspect of the humanitarian situation, specifically regarding refugees.
He drew attention to recent diplomatic relations between Chad and the Sudan and the contributions of Libya and the Contact Group in that effort. Since the obligation to protect civilians was, primarily, the obligation of States, Chad and the Sudan must do whatever necessary to comply with that obligation. Rebel groups must implement their obligations in that regard, as well. In conclusion, he expressed hope that there would be another opportunity to discuss the issue at the upcoming debate on the protection of civilians.
ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) said the Under-Secretary-General’s briefing conveyed a disturbing message that the situation on the ground was still very precarious and the international community must prepare itself for a “massive, long-term involvement”. The results already demonstrated by EUFOR and MINURCAT needed to be consolidated through ongoing international involvement. The conflict in the region was the primary cause of the humanitarian crisis in the Sudan and Chad, and there was, therefore, a need to reinvigorate the peace process and to have all parties comply with a monitored ceasefire. The UNAMID had made a difference in the Kalma camp, and he expressed hope that the operation could further strengthen its presence.
Continuing, he said that a full respect for international humanitarian law was required by all parties. Italy’s commitment to the stabilization process in the Sudan had been demonstrated by its annual pledge of €20 million. However, a longer-term solution to the humanitarian problem depended on the voluntary return of the 2.7 million people displaced by the fighting. He asked what exactly the international community could do to improve the situation for those affected by the conflict, and, considering the significant impact of the conflict on the environment and on the use of land, whether greater attention should be given to that issue, as well.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa) expressed support for humanitarian workers who were the “face of the United Nations on the ground”. He expressed worry for their safety under difficult circumstances, and reiterated the belief that a final solution could only be achieved through a political process and when the necessary security was in place. He said he was delighted by the normalization of relations between Chad and the Sudan.
NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia), President of the Council and speaking in his national capacity, joined others in thanking Mr. Holmes for his briefing and for his work done to date. He also thanked the representative of Chad for his statement. He recalled the briefing heard by the Council in the morning on Sudan’s lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Court. The Council had now heard a briefing on the situation in that country, including on the ongoing suffering of refugees and internally displaced persons, many of whom were women and children. He had found the report disturbing and echoed the indignation of others in the chamber. The international community needed to invest more effort to resolve the conflict and end the impunity for war crimes, since there would be no sustainable peace without justice.
The humanitarian situation was affected by all that, he continued. A large number of refugees and IDPs lived in unsafe conditions and their rights were not always protected. He acknowledged that the Government of Chad was “under pressure”, but nevertheless pointed to its need to invest in a viable political dialogue to restore the normalcy that was needed to address humanitarian and development issues. He was encouraged by the optimistic assessment given by Mr. Holmes and hoped that the trend would continue. He hoped that improved relations between Chad and the Sudan would bring positive change. He ended by expressing deep gratitude to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, under Mr. Holmes’ leadership, and to all other relief workers for their effort under challenging conditions.
Mr. HOLMES, taking the floor to respond to questions, welcomed the support expressed by delegates for the humanitarian workers on the ground and their concern regarding issues such as access, the protection of civilians, gender-based violence, the importance of speeding up administrative procedures and reducing administrative obstacles, and the responsibility of Governments to facilitate humanitarian work and protect aid workers, especially by putting an end to ongoing banditry. He expressed hope that the parties involved would listen to the messages coming out of the Council and echoed and agreed with the statements made regarding recent improvements in the relationship between Chad and the Sudan. On his recent visits, he had noted a cautious movement towards working further on those relations, based on the Dakar agreements, an essential element of a peaceful settlement in Darfur.
Referring to the comments made by France regarding the tragic August incident in Kalma camp, when more than 30 internally displaced persons were killed, he reminded the parties involved of the need for a proper investigation into the matter. Regarding the suggestion that, at times, United Nations agencies might have acted too slowly in terms of the return of IDPs, he assured the ambassador that the United Nations recognized the importance of providing proper assistance to returnees, though he also raised a note of caution, saying that the process of consultation and voluntary return must be maintained and no undue pressures should be placed on individuals to return before they were ready.
Following up on the statement made by the Russian Federation, he said the United Nations recognized the need to support Governments and to show respect for State sovereignty. However, he also drew attention to the fact that the safety and security of citizens and humanitarian workers also rested with the Governments concerned.
On what could be done for people living in refugee camps and to ensure their safe return, he said that the United Nations was fully in favour of the return of those concerned to their countries of origin, since life in those camps could be dehumanizing, demoralizing and damaging to future prospects of return. However, before any return could take place, basic conditions must be met, especially in terms of security and the provision of basic services, like health and education. It would, therefore, be difficult to imagine a “wholesale return” until there was a proper and peaceful settlement in place. Locally-led reconciliation efforts, if properly maintained and pursued, could also facilitate returns.
Regarding land and property rights, as mentioned by the representative of Italy, he said there was no doubt in his mind that those were fundamental issues, requiring a solution that would ensure that, when people did return home in large numbers, any problems surrounding the use of land would be resolved peacefully.
To that end, he welcomed the suggestion of the representative of Costa Rica to continue the discussion around the protection of civilians when that debate took place, likely in January.
Finally, returning to the question posed by Italy on the effect of the conflict on the environment, he said he had been shocked by some of the things he had seen and heard during his visits. For example, the Kalma camp site used to be forest, yet, currently, there were no trees around that area at all. Indeed, the camp was now littered by the trunks of trees that had been felled. Environmental experts had raised the point that, if something was not done to resolve the issue now, by the time the conflict was resolved, the damage might be irreversible. The international community and peacekeeping forces should also bear in mind their impact on the environment in the region, as well.
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