Security Council Briefing on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo
Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Security Council today on the situation in Sudan.
Since my last briefing in September, Sudan has made progress in its democratic transition. The Juba Peace Agreement between the Transitional Government, the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudan Liberation Army – Minni Minawi faction was signed on 3 October and was enshrined in the Constitutional Document on 2 November.
The amended Constitutional Document extends the transitional period to 39 months from the date of signature of the Juba Peace Agreement. It expands the membership of the Sovereign Council from 11 to 14 members; provides for the signatories to select 25 per cent of ministerial portfolios and 75 seats out of 300 of the Transitional Legislative Council. It also provides for the establishment of the Council of Partners during this period and further exempts representatives of the signatories from the ban on running for office in elections that will follow the transitional period.
The formation of the Transitional Legislative Council has now been postponed until 31 December. All political stakeholders will need to engage in constructive consultations to ensure the creation of an inclusive and representative body that reflects the diversity of Sudan’s social and political landscape and includes significant representation of women.
Despite the progress observed, political forces are increasingly fragmented. Disagreements have surfaced particularly over the mandate and functions of the Council of Partners that was established on 1 December. Key political stakeholders expressed concern that the nominally advisory and coordination body may have been given additional powers that would undermine those of other transitional institutions.
While initially supportive, the Council of Ministers and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) subsequently rejected the suggested authority of the Council of Partners and its current composition and deplored the lack of women and youth representation.
The Council of Ministers also called for the swift formation of the Transitional Legislative Council, emphasizing its exclusive power of oversight and accountability, and its role in guiding the transitional period.
I hope that consensus can be found to ensure the functioning of clearly defined transitional institutions that are inclusive and effective. I also echo the Transitional Government’s call for the swift formation of the legislative body as per the Constitutional Document.
Let me note that while the transitional authorities have committed to the promotion of gender equality, women remain underrepresented in transitional structures. The Cabinet includes three women out of 18 ministers and the Council of Partners has only one female representative. I welcome efforts by women’s organizations to develop a common agenda in promoting the inclusion of women. The equal right to political participation and representation of women in decision-making at all levels of the transition is an integral part of democratization. I commend the Transitional Government’s efforts on legal reforms that promote gender equality.
The dire economic situation continues to cast a dark and long shadow over all these efforts. COVID-19 restrictions, including the five-month shutdown to prevent its spread, resulted in a severe decline in economic activity, and a loss of approximately 42 per cent of State revenues.
Given Sudan’s arrears, the country has been unable to avail of debt relief. The increased spending on emergency health programmes, coupled with a decline in public revenues, has led to a budget deficit of approximately USD 250 million per month. Rampant inflation and exchange rate fluctuations are negatively impacting the amounts of funding for programme delivery. The inflation rate also increased to 229 per cent in October, negatively affecting UN agencies’ and partners’ operations.
19 December will mark the second anniversary of the revolution in Sudan. Demonstrations continue to occur intermittently across the country because of the economic crisis, demands for government reform and rejection of the amendments to the Constitutional Document. Some have been accompanied by loss of life and injuries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the humanitarian needs, also driven by severe flooding, intercommunal violence and prolonged displacement. In recent weeks, over 48,000 people have fled the Ethiopian conflict in the Tigray region and have sought refuge in Sudan. This has put an additional strain on the Sudanese authorities.
In the IMF Staff-Monitored Program, signed in September, the Transitional Government agreed to implement the removal of subsidies and implement macro-economic reforms. This has caused serious hardships for the population in the short-term.
It is critical that the international community continue supporting Sudan’s economic recovery through funding of the basic income cash transfer programme known as the “Family Support Programme,” intended to mitigate the social impact of the transitional Government’s economic reform agenda.
I welcome once again the intention of the United States to rescind Sudan’s designation as a State sponsor of terrorism, a change that will facilitate the country’s access to critical international financial assistance. I also welcome the commitment of President Emmanuel Macron of France to hold an international economic conference in Paris next year in support of Sudan.
After a thorough planning process involving the UN system, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, UNITAMS, began to deploy to Khartoum in October.
The team is now continuing its consultations with transitional authorities regarding priorities for this time-bound mission.
The Transitional Government has underscored the need for UNITAMS to have a light footprint, and this is how the mission has been configured. The mission will focus on the four objectives outlined in Resolution 2524: assist the political transition; support peace processes; assist peacebuilding, civilian protection and the rule of law; and support the mobilization of economic, development and humanitarian assistance. It will provide good offices, technical support and capacity building, and will leverage the work of the United Nations country team.
UNITAMS is headquartered in Khartoum but will establish field offices in Darfur, the Two Areas and eastern Sudan. Let me stress that UNITAMS will be a fully integrated mission, and the mission staff and the UN Country Team are now developing an Integrated Strategic Framework and coordination structures to maximize UN support and effectiveness. Our goal is for UNITAMS, together with the Country Team, to begin delivering against all the mission’s strategic objectives by 1 January 2021.
As the Mission establishes itself, we count on the Transitional Government’s continued support.
UNITAMS is also working closely with UNAMID, in anticipation of its drawdown. The protection of civilians remains a concern, especially for women and children who face a multitude of risks in areas still under the control of armed groups. Protection of civilians will be the responsibility of the Transitional Government, but UNITAMS will provide support and help to create a protective environment for vulnerable populations.
I welcome the steps the government has taken to address this issue, including through the formulation of a National Plan for Civilian Protection and the announcement that 12,000 members of a protection force will be deployed in Darfur. National and local authorities have made a strong commitment to ensure basic security and protection across Sudan. UNITAMS will support the Transitional Government by helping to create a protective environment.
UNAMID and UNITAMS joint teams are conducting assessment visits focused on the protection of civilians to ensure that lessons learned from UNAMID are sustained. UNITAMS will have child protection advisors, women’s protection advisers, human rights officers and police trainers to support the Transitional Governments’ efforts.
However, effective protection of civilians will only be achieved through Sudan’s own efforts.
Key to the efforts to protect civilians will be the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement. The agreement is a major step towards ending years of conflict in the country, addressing the root causes, and building a sustainable peace.
Sudan is at a critical juncture. It can move forward decisively in its transition, but that progress can still be derailed by the many challenges it faces. It is incumbent on all of us to support Sudan in its efforts to achieve democratic governance, economic prosperity and an inclusive society for all Sudanese.