New York, 11 September 2006 - Secretary-General's remarks to the Security Council on the situation in DarfurMr. President, Excellencies,
The tragedy in Darfur has reached a critical moment. It merits this Council's closest attention and urgent action.
It is vital that we all speak candidly about what is happening, and about what it will take to bring an end to the suffering of so many millions of people.
I am very pleased to see the African Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference represented here today. It is also important that the Government of Sudan is participating in this session.
We have all heard the latest, deeply dismaying reports of renewed fighting, particularly in North Darfur, among the various factions. Thousands of Sudan Armed Forces troops have been deployed to the area, in clear violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. Even worse, the area has been subjected to renewed aerial bombing. I strongly condemn this escalation. The Government should stop its offensive immediately and refrain from any further such action.
These latest clashes have brought even greater misery to a population that has already endured far too much.
Once again, people have been displaced. The total number of displaced now stands at 1.9 million. Nearly 3 million people in Darfur depend on international aid for food, shelter and medical treatment.
The fighting has made it much, much harder for humanitarian workers to reach them. In July, insecurity prevented the World Food Programme from delivering food to 470,000 people in desperate need. In August, WFP reached the people in South Darfur, but some 355,000 people in North Darfur remained cut off from food aid – most for the third consecutive month. Never since July 2004, when I signed a joint communiqué with Sudan' s foreign minister, has access been so severely limited.
Humanitarian workers have continued to be targets of brutal violence, physical harassment and rhetorical vilification. Many of their vehicles have been stolen. Twelve aid workers have lost their lives in the last two months alone -- more than in the previous two years. We pay tribute to their sacrifice, but we cannot and must not accept the acts that led to it. Relief personnel must be allowed to do their jobs, unhindered and in safety.
As access gets harder, the humanitarian gains of the past two years are being rolled back. Unless security improves, we face the prospect of having to drastically curtail an acutely needed humanitarian operation. Can we, in conscience, leave the people of Darfur to such a fate? Can the international community, having not done enough for the people of Rwanda in their time of need, just watch as this tragedy deepens? Having finally agreed just one year ago that there is a responsibility to protect, can we contemplate failing yet another test? Lessons are either learned or not; principles are either upheld or scorned. This is no time for the middle ground of half-measures or further debate.
This latest fighting shows utter disregard for the Darfur Peace Agreement.
That agreement created hopes that are being shattered. Current developments defy several of this Council's resolutions, and violate commitments that were made, including the non-deployment of additional Sudanese Armed Forces. Such action is, legally and morally, unacceptable.
Evidently, those who have ordered this action still believe that there can be a military solution to the crisis in Darfur. Yet surely all parties should have understood by now, after so much death and destruction, that only a political agreement, in which all stakeholders are fully engaged, can bring real peace to the region.
As the Council made clear in resolution 1706, the Darfur Peace Agreement gives us a chance to achieve peace. In the coming days, we in the UN Secretariat will be meeting senior officials from the Commission of the African Union to finalize a support package for AMIS. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations will also convene a meeting of potential troop and police contributors to discuss the expansion of UNMIS to Darfur.
The African Union has been very clear about the need for the transition from AMIS to a United Nations peacekeeping operation, on which this Council has decided. The AU has been equally clear about the need for AMIS to continue until then, and the need to resist any attempt to subvert decisions aimed at achieving these vital objectives. The League of Arab States has also offered vital backing for the transition, and has voiced its conviction that AMIS should stay until the end of the year.
Indeed, there can be no walking away from AMIS. The AU troops have performed valiantly, in very difficult conditions. They have a vital role to play until a UN operation can be put in place. But they still lack the necessary resources. Once again, I call on AMIS's partners to ensure that it can continue its work during this crucial transition period.
But let us be clear. We all know that the Government of Sudan still refuses to accept the transition. And the Council has recognized that without the Government's consent the transition will not be possible.
Once again, therefore, I urge the Government of Sudan to embrace the spirit of resolution 1706, to give its consent to the transition, and to pursue the political process with new energy and commitment. The consequences of the Government's current attitude -- yet more death and suffering, perhaps on a catastrophic scale -- will be felt first and foremost by the people of Darfur. But the Government itself will also suffer, if it fails in its sacred responsibility to protect its own people. It will suffer opprobrium and disgrace -- in the eyes of all Africa, and the whole international community. Moreover, neither those who decide such policies, nor those who carry them out, should imagine that they will not be held accountable.
But my voice alone will not convince the Government. I have tried repeatedly to explain the transition to the Government, and to clear up any misconceptions or myths. In public and in private, I have stressed the humanitarian situation and appealed to the Government's own sense of pragmatism. It is time now for additional voices to make themselves heard. We need governments and individual leaders in Africa and beyond, that are in a position to influence the government of Sudan, to bring that pressure to bear without delay. There must also be a clear, strong and uniform message from this Council.
This is a perilous moment for the people of Darfur. But it is also a decisive moment for the Council itself. For more than two years, you have been working to stem the fighting and improve the situation in Darfur. Yet once again we find ourselves on the brink of a new calamity.
The current situation cannot be sustained. It is time to act. Not only in Darfur, but by people around the world, this is seen as a crucial test of the Council's authority and effectiveness; its solidarity with people in need, and its seriousness in the quest for peace. I urge you, I urge you in the strongest possible terms, to rise to the occasion.
Thank you very much.
Statements on 11 September 2006