Friday, May 12, 2006

Darfur after Abuja (Catherine Jameson & Jan Egeland)

Norman Geras alerts us to two significant items: A piece by Catherine Jameson on her Guardian "Comment is Free" weblog, which concludes with this ...
In my mind, there's no question that Darfur will not be secure until more troops are in place, with enough donor funding and a stronger mandate to protect civilians. Until someone takes away the guns of those who are behind the vicious attacks, the peace agreement will unfortunately do little to help Darfurians sleep tonight.
... and an interview with Jan Egeland, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, which begins as follows.
--Jeff Weintraub.
In December 2003, almost two-and-a-half years ago, you declared the humanitarian situation in Darfur to be "one of the worst in the world." Why has it taken so long for the rest of the world to notice?

The world did wake up for the first time, belatedly, in April 2004 after I gave two briefings [on Sudan] to the Security Council. My ability to come straight out of the briefing room, go to the noon press briefing, and say, "I just declared this to be ethnic cleansing of the worst kind to the Security Council," that made the journalists feel that they had something to go on.

Then, in 2004, we made a lot of progress. We started with a couple hundred humanitarian workers on the ground and by the end of that year we had several thousand. And in 2005 we established the largest humanitarian operation on earth. At that time, mortality rates went down quite dramatically--they were then one-third of what they were in the summer of 2004.

But perhaps we were too successful in keeping people alive in 2005, in that the lack of dire news meant that attention to solving Sudan's political and security problems faded. We saw the limits of humanitarian action.

And what are those limits?

We can keep people alive but we cannot protect them. We are unarmed humanitarian workers; we can provide food, health care, water, sanitation. But we cannot keep people from being killed, or from being displaced for the second or the third or the fourth time. We are plaster on the wound. We need to heal the wound, but the wound can only be healed by massive political pressure and security action.

But I should also hasten to say that I think we are now on the wrong track. Everybody now discusses the optimal kind of U.N. mission - for next year, for nine months from now. This whole thing could unravel in nine days or nine weeks because we have no money to continue lifesaving humanitarian work.

Secondly, we don't have an African Union force on the ground already well resourced enough to stem the onslaught of militias that is happening today, and that will happen tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. So we need to be taking stop-gap, short-term measures at the same time as we discuss a mission for next year. [....]