posted on Mon 10 Aug 2020 6:45 PM
Security Council Members to Discuss Sudan (Darfur) under “Any Other Business”

Tomorrow (11 August) Security Council members will discuss the situation in Sudan (Darfur) under “other matters” (also known as “any other business”) at the request of the UK and Germany, the co-penholders on Darfur. A Secretariat official is expected to brief. The request to discuss the situation in Darfur comes after a series of violent incidents in that region in recent weeks.

On 25 July, more than 60 people were reportedly killed and another 60 injured when approximately 500 armed men attacked Masteri, a village in West Darfur. On 13 July, unidentified armed men attacked the Fata Bornu camp for internally displaced persons in Kutum, North Darfur, killing nine people and injuring 20. According to OCHA, at least seven violent events have been reported in West Darfur from 19 to 26 July, leaving “dozens of people dead or injured, several villages and houses burned down” and leading to “increased displacement, compromising the agricultural season, causing loss of lives and livelihoods and driving growing humanitarian needs”.

The UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) announced on 28 July that it is “working closely with the relevant Sudanese authorities and communities to de-escalate tensions and prevent further escalation of violence”. While emphasising that the “primary responsibility of protecting civilians lies with the Government, particularly in areas where UNAMID has withdrawn in the context of its drawdown”, the mission has offered assistance to the government to fulfil this responsibility.

During a previous “any other business” discussion on 29 July, the UK and Germany seem to have requested that Council members meet in closed consultations to discuss the recent increase in violence in Darfur and assess how UNAMID could assist the government’s response. However, this failed to garner the requisite support among Council members to be included on the programme of work. Apparently, some Council members subsequently suggested organising an informal interactive dialogue (IID)—a closed, informal meeting format that allows for the participation of non-Council members—which would also allow the participation of Sudan. This too failed to obtain the necessary support.

Tomorrow’s meeting also comes as UNAMID has begun its transition to a new mission, the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). On 4 June, the Security Council adopted two resolutions related to Sudan. Resolution 2525 extended the UNAMID mandate at its current troop and police ceiling, as outlined in resolution 2495, for two months from 31 October until 31 December 2020, while resolution 2524 established a follow-on mission, UNITAMS, for an initial period of 12 months. Although the two resolutions were adopted unanimously, negotiations at the time exposed several rifts on the Council regarding the UN’s work in Sudan, particularly with regard to the UNITAMS mandate.

Resolution 2524 establishes four strategic priorities for UNITAMS:

  • assist the political transition, progress towards democratic governance, in the protection and promotion of human rights, and sustainable peace;
  • support peace processes and implementation of future peace agreements;
  • assist peacebuilding, civilian protection and rule of law in Darfur and the Two Areas (that is, South Kordofan and Blue Nile); and
  • support the mobilisation of economic and development assistance and coordination of humanitarian assistance.

However, disagreements arose during the negotiations over references to monitoring and reporting on progress in the implementation of Sudan’s Constitutional Document, the provision of technical assistance in the areas of rule of law and security sector reform, and reporting on the human rights situation. There were also differences of view on the mission’s envisioned role in the protection of civilians. While a number of members believed that the new mission should have a mandate to protect civilians, others (Russia, China and the three African members among them) opposed the inclusion of such tasks in the mandate.

An important concern for the Council is that critical leadership positions for UNITAMS—necessary for the planning and launch of the mission and the reporting of its activities to the Council—have yet to be filled. Resolution 2524 requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Sudan and Head of Mission of UNITAMS, and a Deputy Special Representative to serve as UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator. According to the resolution, the Deputy Special Representative is expected to “swiftly initiate the planning for and establishment of UNITAMS, with a view to reaching full operational capacity as soon as possible” and to starting the delivery of the mission’s strategic objectives no later than 1 January 2021. The resolution further requested the Secretary-General to provide the Council “with a suggested structure and geographical deployment within 60 days of the adoption of this resolution”. It also requested the Secretary-General to report to the Council every 90 days on the implementation of the UNITAMS mandate and on clear and well-identified key benchmarks, to be provided to the Council in the first 90-day report, to track UNITAMS’ progress against its strategic objectives.

As the time of writing, the Secretary-General has not appointed a Special Representative, although there have been media reports that two potential candidates have been blocked from the post owing to objections from the host government and some Council members. Without a Special Representative in place to help determine the “structure and geographical deployment” of UNITAMS, the Secretary-General was unable to meet the 60-day deadline for submission of his report and has asked the Council for an additional 30 days. This means that the report should be received on 3 September and discussed later in September.