UN envoy calls for more int'l support to help maintain stability in Sudan's Darfur region
United Nations Sep 15: The top UN envoy for Sudan on Tuesday called for more international support to help maintain stability in the Darfur region, as well as more resources for his UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) to better carry out its mandate.
UNITAMS has moved to refocus its efforts on the priority areas identified by the UN Security Council, including peace talks, cease-fire monitoring, and support to the national plan for the protection of civilians, said Volker Perthes, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS.
On June 30, the chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, issued a series of decrees by which the Permanent Cease-fire Committee for Darfur, as well as sectoral committees for the five states of Darfur, were established. According to these decrees and in line with the Juba Peace Agreement, UNITAMS will serve as the chair of these committees, he told the Security Council in a briefing.
UNITAMS has consequently begun to operationalize the Permanent Cease-fire Committee, starting with technical consultations on Sept. 5 and 6 in Khartoum, which brought together all members of the committee from the military, the armed groups and other key stakeholders to discuss concrete modalities of implementing a meaningful cease-fire mechanism.
The parties have clearly conveyed to UNITAMS that they expect logistical and financial support from the international community for the implementation of the security arrangements, said Perthes. "And indeed, if (UN) member states want security to be stabilized 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."
Sudan also needs to assume its own responsibility to begin implementing the security arrangements and reforms to gain such international support, he added.
Expectations of the Permanent Cease-fire Committee are high, but also partially misplaced, particularly concerning the protection of civilians, he warned.
While the committee can contribute positively to stability in Darfur, its role and mandate remain distinct: It is about monitoring, reporting and trying to mediate and reconcile, but not about physical protection. The recent resurgence of intercommunal violence in Darfur, therefore, demonstrates the urgency of supporting the Sudanese police and for deploying the Joint Security Keeping Forces. The Permanent Cease-fire Committee is not and cannot be a substitute for these forces and their protection mandate, he said.
UNITAMS has continued its efforts to maximize its impact in the priority areas, through refocused mission capacities. It has also accelerated recruitment and deployment efforts and intensified cooperation with the UN Country Team in Sudan, he said.
UNITAMS has also identified several critical gaps, where the mission will require additional capacity to provide "scalable support" as expected by the Security Council. This applies particularly to the task of cease-fire monitoring in Darfur, he said.
For now, UNITAMS has deployed a multidisciplinary advance team to support the operationalization of the Permanent Cease-fire Committee. UNITAMS is recommending to the UN secretary-general the establishment of an initial operational capability to allow it to fulfill its roles as the chair of the committee, secretariat and chair of subsidiary mechanisms across Darfur's five states, he said.
The concept for this deployment will be light and mobile, with a focus on facilitation and advisory functions, and the capacity to deploy small teams to react to cease-fire 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, said Perthes.
"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 hot spots, 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."
Challenges for Sudan are immense, and the United Nations remains fully committed to supporting state and society in addressing them and realizing the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a peaceful, stable, and democratic Sudan, he said. "We count on the robust backing of this council as we navigate the path forward."
UNITAMS, tasked to help Sudan with its current political transition, is a follow-on UN presence after the withdrawal of the UN-African Union hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur.