Prioritize Stability in Talks on Mission Drawdown, Permanent Representative Tells Members, Stressing Principle of National Ownership
The head of United Nations Peace Operations called upon the Security Council today to help the Government of Sudan and armed movements in Darfur to seize the opportunities for building comprehensive peace arising from recent political change in the country.
“Sudan is at a historic crossroads,” Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations, told the Council as he briefed members. “We have the unique opportunity to support the authorities in ending the conflicts that have plagued the country for years.”
Presenting the latest special report of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (document S/2019/816), he added: “I hope we can count on your support in this critical endeavour.”
He went on to report that Sudan’s new Sovereign Council and a number of armed groups, including several from Darfur, signed the Juba Declaration in preparation for a countrywide peace process. Negotiations began on 14 October in Juba with the aim of reaching a peace agreement by 14 December 2019, he said.
Turning to the Secretary‑General’s recommendations on the drawdown of UNAMID in that context, he pointed out that Darfur continues to experience clashes between security forces and a resistant armed movement, in addition to displacement and criminality. He proposed, instead of the phased drawdown of mission personnel due to be completed by July 2020, an option to shrink UNAMID’s footprint to five sites in areas that remain most troubled, while maintaining current troop strength until the peace process produces results on the ground.
He went on to note that during his recent visit to Sudan, stakeholders insisted that effective peace consolidation requires tangible economic progress. He also reiterated the Secretary‑General’s call for the lifting of all economic and financial sanctions imposed on Sudan, its removal from the list of State sponsors of terrorism, and for a stepped‑up economic partnership with the country.
Council members then took the floor to commend the Government and people of Sudan on the recent political changes and the talks sparked by the Juba Declaration. At the same time, he pointed out that violence and displacement persist alongside human rights violations, including sexual crimes.
Many delegates emphasized the need for the strategy for UNAMID’s drawdown to prioritize continued protection of civilians. Germany’s representative said “we need to secure UNAMID’s investment in Darfur” by ensuring that the situation on the ground remains stable.
Equatorial Guinea’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa, stressed that suitable conditions must be in place before the Mission’s withdrawal, calling upon the Council to consider punitive measures against such armed groups as the Abdul Wahid militia.
The Dominican Republic’s representative emphasized that any transition from UNAMID must be able to ensure continued protection of human rights and empowerment of women.
However, the representatives of China and the Russian Federation emphasized that the Mission’s transition must conform with the phased drawdown described in previous Council resolutions. “The time has come to focus on the recovery and economic development of Darfur,” the Russian Federation’s representative said, adding that, in any case, the Government’s opinion on the matter should be decisive.
“This is a new start for Sudan,” that country’s representative declared as he took the floor. He encouraged the Council to prioritize peace and stability in its discussions on UNAMID, while taking into account the principle of national ownership. He also urged the Council to lift all sanctions imposed on his country. Underlining the need to transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, he called for help in addressing the economic situation while building capacity. He went on to outline the Government’s broad inclusion of women, members of civil society and other stakeholders in its work, insisting: “The Sudan of today has nothing to do with the Sudan you’ve known in recent decades.”
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, France, United States, Poland, Belgium, Kuwait, Indonesia and Peru.
The meeting began at 3:16 p.m. and ended at 4:41 p.m.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, United Nations Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations, noted he had just returned from Sudan in the wake of what he called remarkable political developments. Introducing the special report on the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (document S/2019/816), he said that the new Sovereign Council of the country and a number of armed groups, including several from Darfur, have signed the Juba Declaration that provides a road map and trust‑building framework for peace processes including a ceasefire, opening of humanitarian corridors, release of war prisoners, the end of travel bans for movement leaders and the establishment of a preparatory committee for negotiations. Talks began on 14 October in Juba aimed at reaching a peace agreement by 14 December 2019. For the first time in Sudan’s modern history, the process is expected to include almost all armed groups in the country. Unfortunately, the negotiations were suspended two days later when the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement‑North (SPLM-N) suspended participation due to clashes that reportedly involved herders and merchants. However, the Head of the Sovereign Council issued a decree announcing a nationwide ceasefire the same day.
While the effects of the talks are yet to be witnessed on the ground in Darfur, he said, the overall situation remains largely unchanged since the last report, which highlighted several violent incidents, and an uptick in criminality due to a shift of authorities’ focus towards the events in Khartoum. The humanitarian situation as well remained similar to the last reporting period, with displacement as a result of intercommunal conflict and fighting between security forces and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is getting worse due to the effects of political unrest, economic crisis, natural hazards and disease outbreaks.
During the reporting period, he affirmed, UNAMID has continued to implement its mandate, including the protection of civilians. Despite challenges, UNAMID has continued its transition‑related activities through State liaisons and enhancement of the United Nations country team. In that context, he said that on his visit to Darfur together with the Commissioner of the African Union, challenges faced by Government institutions in taking over key UNAMID responsibilities were discussed, including protection of civilians and security. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok made a strong request for a well‑sequenced transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding in Darfur aligned with Government priorities that would take the ongoing talks into consideration. Government officials also asked for international support for a comprehensive peace, in the context of the Abdul Wahid faction’s rejection of the transition process. The Government requested more time to formulate its needs for a possible follow‑up mechanism to UNAMID.
Relaying the recommendations for the UNAMID drawdown in the report, he said one option encompasses reducing the number of team sites from 13 to 5 mainly located in central Jebel Marra, where armed elements are still active, and maintaining current troop strength during the anticipated duration of talks. The other option would follow the drawdown schedule as outlined in the previous report, to be completed by the end of June 2020. He recommended adopting an approach that would align the next phase of the transition with the pace of the peace talks in Juba. That is more consistent with the first option. During the months ahead, UNAMID’s strategy should also be adjusted to focus on support to the peace process and implementation of results and to strengthening the State liaison functions and their expansion to Jebel Marra.
Noting that Sudanese stakeholders insisted that effective peace consolidation in the country requires tangible economic progress, he also relayed the Secretary‑General’s call for the lifting of all economic and financial sanctions on Sudan, and for its removal from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. The United Nations is actively engaged with partners of Sudan in forging a path towards alleviating some of the most pressing economic challenges. “Sudan is at a historic crossroads. We have the unique opportunity to support the authorities in ending the conflicts that have plagued the country for years,” he said, concluding, “I hope we can count on your support in this critical endeavour.”
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) recalled that the new Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdalla Hamdok, “made a huge impression on all of us who met him” during the General Assembly’s recent high‑level week. Congratulating the people of Sudan on the peaceful transition of power, he said the ongoing peace talks between the Government and armed movements in Juba are of critical importance. Expressing hope that the decision to remove bureaucratic obstacles to humanitarian aid delivery will be implemented in full, he said the Council cannot ignore the ongoing intercommunal conflict, criminality, human rights violations and humanitarian needs on the ground. The Government and its partners should now consider how to address these challenges in the context of the transition to peacebuilding, he said, reiterating the United Kingdom’s support for efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) asked the Council to consider how it can best support the transition to peacebuilding, articulated by the new Prime Minister of Sudan. In the short term, “we need to secure UNAMID’s investment in Darfur” by ensuring that the situation on the ground remains stable. Calling for a tailored joint African Union‑United Nations support package, he outlined his delegation’s view that renewing UNAMID’s mandate is the most prudent way forward. “We should not wind up a peacekeeping mission at the precise moment when peace talks have been finalized,” he stressed.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France), welcoming the “new face” of the Sudanese Government, called for efforts to ensure peace and revitalize the country’s economy. Pledging France’s support to those efforts — including the provision of €60 million during the transitional period — she said it also plans to host a pledging conference for Sudan in Paris. Welcoming the signing of an agreement between the new Government and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), she called on the country to also open a new chapter in its relationship with the International Criminal Court. Echoing support for the proposal to maintain the current UNAMID troop levels for a period of six months, she warned that “we should not be hasty” in withdrawing the Mission and advocated for a continued United Nations presence in the country following the Mission’s ultimate exit.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said the recent transitional agreement and new Government pave a clear path to civilian rule and future democratic elections in Sudan. Calling on the Government to fully include women in that process, he voiced concern about increased criminality, human rights abuses, continued displacement and ongoing violence. Violations against children are of particular concern and represent a deplorable crime. “If these atrocities occur with UNAMID present, what will happen when it is not?” he asked. Urging the Rapid Support Forces to immediately turn over remaining team sites, he also called upon all parties to ensure unhindered humanitarian access and encouraged the Government to devise durable solutions to support displaced persons.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) commended the Sudanese transitional authorities on their efforts to realize the aspirations of the country’s people for peace and prosperity. Welcoming the signing of the Juba Declaration, she called on all Darfur opposition groups to engage in the talks with the Government. Noting challenges in the security, humanitarian and human rights situation in Darfur, she stressed the need to take into account developments in the nationwide political process, as the renewal of UNAMID’s mandate is considered. Poland is considering the options for UNAMID’s transition presented in the report in the light of the need to make sure that the new mandate will allow the Mission to support peace and the implementation of the peace agreement anticipated by the end of this year.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) commended Sudan on its efforts to start a comprehensive peace process in the country with the assistance of partners. The United Nations must support the country in that effort, which should result in the relaunching of the full peace process in Darfur. The international community should assist the country in achieving economic development and maintaining security in Darfur. The manner of the drawdown should conform to the previous Security Council resolution on the issue. Noting that his Government has contributed significantly to UNAMID, he pledged its continued support to the peace and prosperity of Sudan.
ALEXANDER V. REPKIN (Russian Federation), concurring with the assessment of the Secretary‑General’s report on the security situation in Darfur, said it is necessary to stay the course with the phased UNAMID drawdown according to the last Council resolution on the matter. “The time has come to focus on the recovery and economic development of Darfur,” he said, noting that most speakers at the event about Darfur on the sidelines of the General Assembly high‑level debate had concurred with that view. In any case, the opinion of the Government should be decisive, with understanding shown concerning delays in responses from the Government to critical questions.
KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) welcomed the priorities that Prime Minister Hamdok outlined recently, especially those relating to respect for the rights and fundamental freedoms of Sudan’s people. Applauding the crucial mediation role played by the African Union and other regional and international partners who provided support, she warned, however, that Darfur remains fragile with many challenges still unresolved. Ending existing conflicts in the first six months of the transition period is crucial, she said, urging all parties, especially armed groups, to engage in constructive negotiations. Emphasizing that UNAMID’s exit cannot be disconnected from developments in the rest of Sudan, she urged renewal of its mandate for six months, with no reduction of personnel levels. In that regard, she welcomed the establishment of the African Union‑United Nations‑Sudan task force that will help the Council take more informed decisions in the coming months.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea), speaking on behalf of the three African Council members — South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and her own country — said the recently signed Juba Declaration lays out a road map for the way forward. Appealing for the immediate lifting of all sanctions imposed on Sudan, and for the country’s removal from the list of State sponsors of terrorism, she said those actions will boost Sudan’s economy and facilitate foreign investment. As international attention turns from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, the wider situation in Sudan must be considered, she stressed, pointing out that “Darfur does not exist in a vacuum”. She went on to welcome the proposal to establish a joint African Union‑United Nations mechanism to replace UNAMID, and called for the responsible closure of the latter when the time is right. In that context, she welcomed the realignment of the Government’s priorities with regard to UNAMID, noting that adequate conditions must be in place before the Mission’s withdrawal. “There can be no place for spoilers in the peace process,” she said, calling upon the Council to consider punitive measures against such groups as the Abdul Wahid militia.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) emphasized that UNAMID’s new mandate must be clear and concise while confirming “it will definitely exit”. In addition, the mandate must be precise in specifying various areas of the Mission’s work and fully respect the principle of national ownership. “The Juba dialogue brings a new opportunity for durable peace,” he noted, emphasizing that the Mission’s drawdown must reflect those changes. He went on to express support for continued United Nations support even after UNAMID’s exit, stressing: “This new Sudan needs our support.” A good first step would be to lift all sanctions and to remove Khartoum from the list of State sponsors of terrorism.
Ms. MORRISON (Dominican Republic) applauded the transitional Government’s accomplishments in governance and in establishing the talks that led to the recent Juba Declaration. Calling upon all parties in Darfur to maintain the momentum towards peace, she cautioned, however, that political achievements should not distract attention from the continued suffering on the ground, given the economic crisis and continued violations of human rights, including sexual violence. In that context, she welcomed efforts to strengthen capacity in justice and to increase women’s representation at all levels, stressing that any transition from UNAMID must be able to ensure continued protection of human rights.
ROLLIANSYAH SOEMIRAT (Indonesia) emphasized the importance of a responsible drawdown of UNAMID guided by careful assessment of the situation on the ground in such a manner as not to create a security vacuum. The Council should consider supporting the strengthening of State liaison functions in enabling UNAMID, the United Nations country team and the Sudan authorities to jointly address critical drivers of conflict in Darfur. Pointing out that developing a follow‑on mechanism requires ample, timely and meaningful consultations with the authorities, he emphasized that national ownership and support are a precondition for the successful creation of such a mechanism. Pointing out that efforts to promote peace are undertaken amid persisting economic difficulties and a dire humanitarian situation, he called for removing Sudan from the list of State sponsors of terrorism and for lifting sanctions against the country.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) stressed the need for all parties to buy into the peace process. Expressing concern over rising criminality in Darfur as well as continued armed clashes resulting in continued displacement, he condemned violations of human rights and sexual crimes in particular. In that context, he expressed support for the opening of an Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Sudan and for international assistance for the peace process, underlining the priorities of protecting human rights and empowering women. There should also be due consideration of civilian protection in planning the UNAMID drawdown, he added.
OMER MOHAMED AHMED SIDDIG (Sudan) welcomed the contents of the joint report by the Secretary‑General and the African Union, and said the adoption of the Juba Declaration and civilian institutions marks a fresh chapter for his country. “This is a new start for Sudan,” he reiterated, noting that meetings to pursue lasting peace have already begun between the Government and leaders of armed movements. Negotiations opened last week involving the President of the Sovereign Council, leaders from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) countries and representatives of all signatories to the Juba Declaration, he said, adding that Prime Minister Hamdok met with the leader of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid. Strongly condemning flagrant violations against children committed by armed groups in the Jebel Marra region, he encouraged the Council to prioritize peace and stability in its discussions on UNAMID.
“The case in Darfur today is no longer a case of peacekeeping” but one of peacebuilding and development, he continued, adding that, against that backdrop, the Council should lift all sanctions imposed on Sudan. In order to ensure a seamless and effective transition, the principle of national ownership must be taken into account. He asked the Council to prioritize the Transitional Government’s efforts to realize sustainable peace; help it address the economic situation; promote the rule of law by building the capacity of national institutions; and support sustainable development projects as well as efforts to address the plight of internally displaced persons. He went on to outline the Government’s broad inclusion of women, civil society members and other stakeholders in its work, declaring: “The Sudan of today has nothing to do with the Sudan you’ve known in recent decades.”