Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the high‑level event on Sudan, in New York today:
This is clearly the happiest moment I have in this high-level week. If, one year ago, we would be forecasting the possibility of this meeting, I think nobody would believe [it], but the fact is that we are here, and we are here celebrating a new Sudan.
I have a special emotional relationship with the people of Sudan. Sudan was the first country in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has established an operation, an active operation, many decades ago. I was not yet there. But, in my 10 years as High Commissioner for Refugees, I went to Sudan many times to visit refugees from different origins, and the generosity, the openness with which the people of Sudan always have received refugees is absolutely outstanding.
I remember in one of my visits, there was, at the time, of course, the climax of the crisis in Darfur, but there had been some interactive conflicts in eastern Chad and a group of a few tens of thousands of Chadian refugees went to Darfur, to the remote south-western part of Darfur. And it was very difficult to provide effective assistance so far away. I went there and I saw how the people of those villages were receiving their Chadian brothers and sisters and sharing everything with them with an enormous generosity and not complaining. Not saying the kind of xenophobic things that we listen [to] sometimes in other parts of the world, when some foreigners come to our door. This enormous generosity always impressed me tremendously, and so when I could witness the extraordinary transformation taking place in Sudan, I must say this was for me something I followed with enormous joy.
And I am, on top of that, very proud that the Prime Minister of Sudan that is here today with us is a former colleague of the United Nations, with whom I always had not only an excellent relationship, but I can testify of the enormous competence, dedication and capacity that he has always shown in all his activities in the context of the United Nations. I am pleased to welcome you to this high‑level event on Sudan, which is taking place in a pivotal moment of change and hope.
The events of the past few months, which culminated in the establishment of a civilian-led Government earlier this month, have been extraordinary. We are all familiar with the scenes, beamed across the world, of peaceful protests at the sit-in site in Khartoum’s “Freedom Square”. The most striking element of the transition is that the drive for change has been led from the beginning by Sudanese men, women, especially the young from all sections of society who have risked their lives to achieve their long-held aspirations for democracy and peace.
The United Nations remains committed to supporting the new Government and the people of Sudan as they embark on the delicate period ahead. The transition is not the end of the journey but marks the start of Sudan’s long road to socioeconomic recovery and to the achievement of sustainable peace and inclusive development that will benefit all of Sudan’s diverse and vibrant society.
This has been a Sudanese-led process from the beginning, supported by the mediation efforts of the African Union and Ethiopia, and I want to express to the African Union my deep gratitude and deep appreciation for the excellent work that was done creating the conditions or facilitating the conditions for the success of the transition. But, looking ahead, the international community has a key role to play, and here I have to say that we have altogether an enormous responsibility.
Sudan is a country that is in the centre of an extremely important area of the African continent. Sudan has borders with a large number of States. Sudan has an enormous importance for the stability and the prosperity of the region. The success of this transition is, of course, essential for the people of Sudan, but is extremely important for the whole region.
And in my political experience, there is one thing that is clear — much worse than a situation that has created the difficulties, that is not well accepted by the people of a country — much worse than that is if a transition in which people have put their hopes and their engagement fails. Because, even in the past situation, there was hope. And if things fail, the hope leads to despair, and we come to a situation that is much worse than the one in the beginning.
So, the international community has a strict obligation to do everything possible to help facilitate the conditions for the success of the present Sudanese democratic experience. And we need to be aware of the enormous challenges that Sudan faces and the enormous support that will be required to allow for those challenges to be overcome, and for the country to be able to create a new future that is a future of democracy, a future of prosperity and a future of justice and human rights. Now we need from the international community a number of things, and they should include removing immediately Sudan’s designation as a terrorist-supporting State, lifting all economic sanctions and mobilizing massive financial support for development to make the current political gains durable.
We are entering a new phase of partnership, including in Darfur, following decades of humanitarian, peacekeeping and development support. As a first step, the United Nations convened a meeting in Khartoum earlier this month to develop initial priorities for our support to the transition. But those priorities will be the priorities defined by the Government of Sudan in a process that needs to be a process of national ownership. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Government in the coming weeks to achieve that objective.
I commend the priority placed in the Constitutional Declaration on achieving a just and comprehensive peace with the armed groups. I am optimistic that, under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the Transitional Government will be able to strengthen governance and the rule of law, uphold human rights and set the country on a path towards economic recovery. This must include addressing the root causes of conflict and achieving inclusive peace, including in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
As we accompany Sudan in this critical transition, we must also keep a strong focus on the scale of humanitarian needs in the country, with more than 8 million people now in need of assistance. The economic recovery that will take place will take time. And we must absolutely guarantee that the humanitarian needs of the country, the immediate humanitarian needs of the country, are covered, giving time for the economic recovery to be in full swing. And I welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that critical assistance reaches all those who need it efficiently and in a principled manner.
In addition to scaling up humanitarian assistance, investment is essential in the provision of basic services and social protection to ensure that more people do not become reliant on humanitarian assistance in the coming periods. I look forward to hearing the vision of the Government for the transitional period. And I thank everyone here for their engagement and their support. Thank you.