Following up on his appeal to international donors to honour their pledges of aid for reconstruction and peace-making in war-ravaged Sudan, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on the world not to repeat the mistakes of past crises when many people died because promised funds never materialized.
“Hungry people cannot eat pledges,” Mr. Annan said in an opinion piece in The New York Times two days after he told a donors’ conference in Oslo, Norway, that if ever there was a time for donors to get off the fence, it was now in Sudan, where a peace accord in January ended a civil war in the south that killed 2 million people and drove more than 4.5 million others from their homes.
“Through long and bitter experience we've learned that donor pledges often remain unfulfilled. In Cambodia, Rwanda, Liberia and elsewhere, a large percentage of promised funds failed to materialize, and many lives were lost as a result,” he added, noting that of $880 million pledged for Cambodian war rehabilitation in 1992, only $460 million had been delivered three years later.
“Clearly, we must do better in Sudan. I urge donors to convert their generous pledges into cash without delay,” he said of the $4.5 billion pledged. “And I urge the public to hold them accountable for their promises. This time, let us keep our commitments, and not turn a blind eye to a whole generation of Sudanese who have earned this peace and desperately need it.”
As he did in his speech Monday in Oslo, the Secretary-General focused particular attention on a separate and ongoing conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region, where fighting between Government, militia and rebel forces has killed tens of thousands of civilians and uprooted more than 2 million others in the past two years.
“We know what is happening in Darfur. The question is, why are we not doing more to put an end to it?” he asked of the amply documented cases of murder, mass rapes, abductions and other atrocities committed there.
He stressed the need for a much more muscular force to support the distribution of humanitarian aid than the current African Union (AU) monitoring deployment of some 2,000 troops.
“While we are grateful to African leaders for their contributions thus far, we need thousands more – and not today or tomorrow but yesterday,” he wrote. “After all, giving aid without protection is like putting a Band-Aid on an open wound.
“Unarmed aid workers, while vitally necessary, cannot defend civilians from murder, rape or violent attack. Our collective failure to provide a much larger force is as pitiful and inexcusable as the consequences are grave for the tens of thousands of families who are left unprotected.
“We saw this all too well in Bosnia a decade ago. Back then, Bosnian civilians watched the aid trucks continue to roll while their neighbours were gunned down in full daylight. ‘We will die with our stomachs full,’ they used to say. Are we now going to stand by and watch a replay in Darfur?”