Emergency Relief Coordinator Tells Security Council March Expulsion of Humanitarian Workers from Sudan ‘Wrong and Unjustified’, Briefing on Trip to Assess Impact

11 June 2009

Emergency Relief Coordinator Tells Security Council March Expulsion of Humanitarian Workers from Sudan ‘Wrong and Unjustified’, Briefing on Trip to Assess Impact

11 June 2009
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6139th Meeting (AM)



John Holmes Says Efforts by Humanitarian Community, Government

Line Ministries Prevented, for Now, ‘Feared Extra Humanitarian Crisis and Deaths’

John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed the Security Council today on his recent trip to the Sudan, acknowledging the recent efforts of the Government to work more closely with humanitarian workers in north and south Sudan, but saying the situation in the south was of major concern, and a full return of humanitarian capability was still needed in Darfur.

Mr. Holmes visited the vast African country in early May to promote an improved relationship between the Government and the humanitarian community following the Government’s decision on 4 March to expel 13 international non-governmental organizations and to close three national organizations.

“We continue to believe the expulsions of 4 March were wrong and unjustified, to deplore the often brutal way in which they were carried out, and to regret the increased dangers created for hundreds of thousands of people in need in Darfur and elsewhere,” he said.  In Darfur, he said, 4.7 million people still required assistance, with recent tribal violence in South Sudan exacerbating the situation there as well.

Following the Joint Assessment carried out in March by the Government and United Nations, the humanitarian community, he said, had worked with the Government line ministries to fill the most critical lifesaving gaps left by the expulsions.  While it had not been possible to do that in a fully satisfactory or sustainable way, it seemed that those efforts had significantly narrowed the gaps and prevented, for now, the feared extra humanitarian crisis and deaths.  The Government had also taken some important steps towards rebuilding the cooperation architecture so badly fractured in March.

In that vein, he said, the Government had reaffirmed agreements and guaranteed multiple entry visas for all non-governmental organization workers.  With some new non-governmental organizations now allowed to enter, four of the expelled organizations had returned under new names and logos.  The level of hostile comment in the media had also been reduced.  An enhanced high-level committee that oversaw relations between the humanitarian community and the Government would now be replicated at the state level in the three Darfur states.

However, he said, the safety and security of humanitarian staff had become increasing perilous over the past 18 months, including two “very disturbing” kidnappings and an attack on a helicopter in the wake of the expulsions.  He looked forward to seeing assurances from the Director-General of National Security on steps to improve access and security, particularly in state capitals and along main supply routes.  In addition, he stressed that consistent and sustained implementation of agreements must occur, and any so-called “Sudanization” of humanitarian work must be done in a credible and professional manner.

He said that, in Darfur, many gaps in assistance still remained, which would be exacerbated by seasonal food scarcities.  In addition, basic services were substantially reduced in a number of displaced persons camps, particularly in sanitation and health, and the risk of cholera outbreaks had increased.  He stressed also that gaps in education, livelihood assistance and other “less visible” areas were also of deep concern.  In that context, he urged the Government to allow agencies such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to carry out all their mandated programmes.

In his discussions with the Government, the return of displaced persons was discussed, he said, noting that the current conditions in Darfur were not yet conducive for large-scale returns.  He added, however, that the United Nations and partner agencies were keen to support voluntary returns when conditions met international standards.

While Darfur was of most immediate concern, the expulsion of non-governmental organizations had a serious potential impact on Eastern Sudan and other areas, he said.  He hoped that the four organizations that had recently received new registrations would be able to resume their work there.  In Southern Sudan, visiting Jonglei State, he was shocked by the destruction and human toll of tribal violence, with entire villages levelled, possibly more than 1,000 killed or kidnapped and around 30,000 displaced.  While the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) had taken some measures to act as a buffer between the tribes, he urged the Government to take priority measures to protect civilians and he called on the international community to provide support.

In addition, he said that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had provoked large-scale killings south of Juba in southern Sudan, accompanied by the displacement of as many as 100,000 people.  United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and the Government were doing what they could to mitigate the humanitarian consequences.  With the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for South Sudan also facing many challenges, he stressed, the Government and the international community could not afford to lose focus on the region.  He was particularly concerned about cuts to social services, primarily in health and education, in the context of the global financial crisis.

Concluding, he said it was important to acknowledge the recent efforts by the Government to work more closely with the humanitarian community.  Also, a return of humanitarian capacity and full freedom of movement was needed in northern Sudan.  Further, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan with the level of civilian casualties, displacement and abduction of children, is of major concern.  Finally, to meet the requirements of the new situation throughout the Sudan, the financing needs for humanitarian assistance must be reworked.  He noted that the review of the Sudan workplan should be available later this month and he called on both the Government and the donor community for accelerated help.

Finally, he urged political progress towards a lasting settlement in Darfur, towards a durable understanding between the Sudan and Chad and towards resolution of the many challenges for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  With progress in those areas, the resources currently devoted to humanitarian assistance could be more productively used on the huge development tasks ahead, he said.

The meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and closed at 10:29 a.m.

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