As Sudan makes headway in transition to democracy, Security Council delegates urge sustained support for tackling causes of intercommunal fighting.
Permanent Representative Says Transitional Government Has ‘Strong Will’ to Uphold Juba Peace Accord, Build Stable, Prosperous Country
Sudan is making headway in its transition to democracy, with growing momentum towards drafting a new Constitution and organizing elections, but long‑term success requires sustained international support, the Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) told the Security Council today.
Volker Perthes, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Sudan and the activities of UNITAMS (document S/2021/766), pointed to several positive developments, including steps taken by the Transitional Government in Khartoum to address violence in Darfur and eastern Sudan, undertake economic reforms and renew trust in political change. He also noted efforts to establish a transitional legislative council and to augment the role of women in political life, more than two years after long-time President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a coup d’état.
He drew attention, however, to growing humanitarian needs, driven by economic hardship and intercommunal conflict, as well as the impact of conflict in neighbouring Ethiopia which has led to Sudan hosting the largest number of refugees of any African country. He underscored the Mission’s role in monitoring the Darfur ceasefire and its focus on priority areas identified by the Council, including peace talks and supporting the National Plan for the Protection of Civilians. If Member States want security in Darfur, they should not shy away from making resources available, he emphasized, adding that UNITAMS needs additional capacity to provide the “scalable support” which the Council expects, particularly as related to ceasefire monitoring in Darfur.
“Sudan’s challenges 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,” he said, adding that UNITAMS is counting on the Council’s robust support as it navigates the path forward.
Hala al-Karib, Regional Director of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, also briefed the Council, stressing that the slow implementation of reforms is fuelling violence and impacting Sudan’s already fragile economy, governance system and public institutions. As was the case before the April 2019 revolution, women remain disproportionately impacted, with the worst food crisis in Sudan’s history pushing families to desperation. Women in conflict-affected areas, such as Darfur, Blue Nile, the Nuba Mountains and Kordofan, face such risks as rape, displacement and even death, she noted.
“Despite women leading the revolution, we have been shut out from equally and meaningfully participating in every step of the transition,” she continued. Their calls to end sexual violence, ensure just family laws and enable equal access to resources, education and employment continue to be ignored. Describing violent incidents of disrespect by armed groups of men — including those who roamed the streets of Khartoum early this year, attacking women for demonstrating a “lack of modesty” — she said such actions are making an inclusive and democratic transformation more difficult.
Against that backdrop, she urged the Council to support Sudanese women by ensuring their full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership throughout the Transitional Government’s bodies, and in the peace processes. Despite the 40 per cent quota demanded in the Constitutional Declaration, women are still fighting for representation, and only one woman currently sits on the Sovereign Council. “We must learn from our past mistakes, or else risk making them again,” she warned, calling also on the Transitional Government to urgently reform the legal system to ensure protection for women’s rights.
In the ensuing debate, Council members took note of the progress being made in implementing the Juba Agreement for Peace in Sudan, signed in October 2020, while also expressing concern over increased intercommunal clashes, particularly in Darfur. Many speakers also pressed for women to play a greater role in political processes and peacebuilding.
The United Kingdom’s representative praised “significant and continued progress” towards a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic Sudan and commended the Transitional Government’s deepening cooperation with the International Criminal Court, which has issued arrest warrants for Mr. Al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He called for all commitments to be swiftly translated into actions that improve the lives of civilians.
Tunisia’s representative, speaking also for Kenya, Niger and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, called on signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement to continue to implement its provisions, including for the establishment of key transitional institutions. “Peace in Sudan will not be complete until all conflicts come to an end,” he said, emphasizing that sporadic intercommunal violence and clashes with armed groups attest to the need to address the root causes of the fighting. Noting a lack of sufficient financial and technical resources to implement the Juba Peace Agreement, he welcomed the establishment of the Sudan Peace Fund and called on all the country’s partners to support that initiative.
China’s representative said that UNITAMS should align its activities with Sudan’s strategic priorities. Efforts must also be ramped up to keep Darfur stable. Given Sudan’s dire economic woes, developed countries should fulfil their debt‑relief commitments, he said, adding that lifting sanctions on Sudan would be consistent with benchmarks on the ground.
The United States’ representative reiterated his delegation’s full support for the UNITAMS mandate, while also sharing concerns about heightened risks to civilians amid intercommunal clashes in Darfur. Noting that Sudan’s authorities bear the primary responsibility to protect civilians, he said that perpetrators of human rights violations must be held to account and reforms advanced to address the causes of violence.
Sudan’s representative, taking the floor at the end of the meeting, said the Transitional Government aims to build a safe and stable country in which everyone enjoys peace, prosperity and justice. It has a strong political will to implement provisions of the Juba Peace Agreement dealing with security arrangements, and the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation programme. It also aims to deploy a joint force for civilian protection to enhance security in Darfur. However, those tasks are difficult for Sudan to shoulder single-handedly, he said, calling on the international community to share the burden through financial and technical support, with UNITAMS playing its role, as well. He also stated that several elements in Ms. Al-Karib’s briefing did not align with the current situation in Sudan or with reports compiled by relevant entities.
Also speaking today were representatives of France, India, Norway, Estonia, Mexico, Russian Federation, Viet Nam and Ireland.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:01 p.m.