SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFING ON THE UN INTEGRATED TRANSITION ASSISTANCE MISSION IN SUDAN (UNITAMS)
Madam President, Members of the Security Council,
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to brief you again on the situation in Sudan.
Since my last briefing in May, there has been some progress in Sudan’s transition as well as continued setbacks and challenges. The violence in Darfur and the East, the absence of justice and accountability, and the difficult economic situation, has continued to inflict hardship and suffering on the Sudanese population. The transitional government has taken measures in an attempt to address these challenges and to renew trust in the political transition. In June, Prime Minister Hamdok launched a political initiative, entitled, “The National Crisis and Transition Issues: The Way Forward.” And in August, he established a follow-up mechanism, a form of Sudan-Sudan dialogue, to reinvigorate or shape national consensus around key transitional objectives, including the reform of the military and security sector, the economy, justice and peace. This initiative enjoys broad support among the forces backing the transition and, if it is implemented, it can address the expectations of the Sudanese people.
Just last week, the Forces for Freedom and Change – the ruling coalition in the transitional government – the Forces for Freedom and Change agreed on a reformed and more inclusive structure. This is a welcome development which I hope will also lead to a swift formation of the Transitional Legislative Council with, as agreed in the Constitutional Document, at least 40% female participation.
There is also growing momentum to move forward on the preparations for constitution making and for elections. The Government has produced a draft law on the constitution-making process, which will now be subject to public consultations. And the UN is providing technical support to the process as well as on the drafting of the law on the Electoral Commission.
In line with the Prime Minister’s initiative and with the Juba Peace Agreement, I continue to encourage an inclusive dialogue on a roadmap for security sector reform. We, UNITAMS, stand ready to provide technical support at the request of the Sudanese.
Sudan's continued economic reforms have allowed it to reach the so called Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) decision point on 29 June and thereby become eligible for debt relief. This is very important as it will unlock critical financial resources to strengthen Sudan's economy and improve social conditions. Sudan must ensure the most vulnerable segments of Sudanese society are protected. I also commend the launch of the Sudanese Partnership Forum under Prime Minister Hamdok’s leadership last week, on 9 September, which should facilitate the coordination and alignment of development and humanitarian assistance between the state of Sudan and the donors.
Humanitarian organizations in Sudan are advocating for timely and flexible funding as humanitarian needs, largely driven by the economic crisis and increased intercommunal conflict, continue to rise. Between January and August this year, 2021, about 418,000 people were newly displaced as a result of conflicts and armed attacks across Sudan, mainly in Darfur, parts of Kordofan and Blue Nile. This is about six times as many newly displaced persons as in the same period last year.
On the regional front, I remain concerned about the impact of the conflict in Ethiopia on Sudan including the flow of refugees from Ethiopia to Sudan which Sudan is dealing with in a very constructive way. Also, the tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia over the al-Fashaga border as well as the stalemate over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam are persisting. I continue to urge all stakeholders to avoid further unnecessary escalation.
Following this Council’s passing of resolution 2579, UNITAMS has moved to refocus its efforts on the priority areas identified by the Council, including peace talks, ceasefire monitoring, and support to the national plan for the protection of civilians.
In June, working closely with the mediator South Sudan, UNITAMS facilitated negotiations between the SPLM - Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North al-Hilu faction and the Government. Both sides made significant progress on key elements, yet they were unable to reach agreement on a framework agreement. We continue to engage both parties to advance the process and we look forward to a return to talks in the near future. UNITAMS facilitated, alongside UN Women and UNDP, the establishment of a Gender Working Group to mainstream gender into the peace talks, including a women’s observer gorup inside the negotiation chambers.
This Council in its resolution 2579 (2021) emphasized ceasefire monitoring in Darfur as a priority area for UNITAMS’ support to Sudan. This is in line with the Juba Peace Agreement. On 30th of June, the Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, Gen. Burhan issued a series of decrees by which the Permanent Ceasefire Committee for Darfur, as well as sectoral committees for the five states of Darfur, were established. According to these decrees as well as in line with the Juba Agreement, UNITAMS will serve as the chair of these committees.
We have consequently begun to operationalise the Permanent Ceasefire Committee, starting with technical consultations last week, 5 and 6 September in Khartoum, which brought together all the members of the Ceasefire Committee from the military, from the Armed Groups and other key stakeholders to discuss concrete modalities of implementing a meaningful ceasefire mechanism. Preparatory meetings were also held with the signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement, civil society, women’s groups, and the United Nations country team. Women’s participation in the implementation of security arrangements remains a key concern and is one of the conditions for the legitimacy and effectiveness of any ceasefire arrangement.
By chairing the Committee the PCC or Permanent Ceasefire Committee for Darfur, UNITAMS will follow the provisions of the Juba Peace Agreement. Signatory parties will have to extend the necessary commitment so that the Committee can effectively fulfil its mandate. The parties – both Government and armed groups - have clearly conveyed to UNITAMS that they expect logistical and financial support from the international community for the implementation of the security arrangements. And indeed, if Member States want security to be stabilised in Darfur they should not shy away from making resources available for, among other things, the training and support of the planned Joint Security Keeping Forces, the Police, or the demobilization and reintegration of fighters. However, Sudan also needs to assume its own responsibility and begin implementing the security arrangements and reforms to gain such international support.
Madam President, members of the Council,
Expectations of the Permanent Ceasefire Committee are high, and partially misplaced, particularly concerning the protection of civilians. While the Committee can contribute positively to stability in Darfur, its role and mandate remains distinct: This committee, ceasefire mechanism, is about monitoring, reporting and trying to reconcile, but it is not about physical protection. The recent resurgence of intercommunal violence in Darfur therefore demonstrates the urgency of supporting the Sudanese police and the urgency for deploying the Joint Security Keeping Forces. The Ceasefire Committee is not and cannot be a substitute for those forces and their protection mandate.
I was encouraged that the Sudanese Government convened, on 5 September, the first high-level meeting of Sudan’s international partners with the National Mechanism for the Protection of Civilians. Challenges, advances, and needs in implementing the national plan were clearly expressed. And on the same basis, our UNITAMS Police Advisory Unit then convened a joint workshop with the Sudanese Police Force to identify the needs and strengthen the capacities of the police force for the protection of civilians, community policing and other tasks, and also to garner support from the international community.
UNITAMS has continued its efforts to maximize its impact in the priority areas, through refocused Mission capacities. We have also accelerated our recruitment and deployment efforts and intensified cooperation with the UN country team.
But UNITAMS has also identified several critical gaps, where the Mission will require additional capacity to provide “scalable support” as expected by the Council. This applies particularly to the task of ceasefire monitoring in Darfur. For now, we have deployed a multidisciplinary advance team to support the operationalisation of the Ceasefire Committee. We are recommending to the Secretary-General the establishment of an initial operational capability to allow UNITAMS to fulfil its role as the Chair of the Permanent Ceasefire Committee, Secretariat and chair of sectoral and area committees across Darfur’s five states.
The concept for this deployment will be light and mobile, with a focus on facilitation and advisory functions, and a capacity to deploy small teams to react to ceasefire violations when requested by the parties. It will not include an active UN field monitoring role, recognizing that this responsibility is primarily a function for the Sudanese parties.
Other priorities where we need additional resources pertain to my good offices function, where the need to deliver simultaneously on support to the peace talks and to key transitional activities is straining our capacity. Moreover, we need to address gaps in the Mission’s field network in critical hotspots, including in support of the Sudanese Police Force; and with regard to critical operational and security enablers.
By filling critical gaps in what remains a modestly sized mission, I hope we can effectively respond to the evolving needs of the transition in Sudan.
The challenges for Sudan are immense, and the United Nations remains fully committed to supporting the authorities in addressing them and realizing the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a peaceful, stable, and democratic Sudan. We count on the robust backing of this Council as we navigate the path forward.