The United Nations and Sudan signed a joint communiqué today in which the Government pledged to support, protect and facilitate all humanitarian operations in the strife-torn Darfur region, where an estimated 4 million people now depend on outside aid.
The communiqué, signed in the capital, Khartoum, commits the Government to rapid and full implementation of all measures relating to humanitarian access contained in a July 2004 communiqué that followed a visit to Darfur by the then UN Secretary-General.
Under today’s agreement, both parties recognize that significant progress has been made in tackling the humanitarian situation since 2004, most notably in improving rates of deaths and malnutrition. But more joint efforts are needed to facilitate relief activities, including securing access to affected areas and solving any emerging procedural problems.
Sudan has committed, among other measures, to extend the current visas and permits for humanitarian workers through next January, and to issue multiple-entry visas to the directors of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their families. It will also fast-track visa applications and customs procedures for UN staff and NGOs.
The communiqué also stipulates that a high-level committee will be set up to monitor and regulate the commitments, and this new grouping will includes representatives of the UN, the Government, NGOs and the international community.
The agreement comes as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes arrived in N’Djamena, the capital of neighbouring Chad, for talks with that country’s Government.
Mr. Holmes reached N’Djamena after visiting camps for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and aid projects around the eastern Chadian hamlet of Goz Beida, about 100 kilometres from the Sudanese border.
Dwindling water resources have become a major problem in Goz Beida, where the population has more than quadrupled in the past three years because of the insecurity in Darfur that has now extended into Chad and also the Central African Republic (CAR).
More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others displaced from their homes in Darfur since rebel groups there took up arms against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias in 2003.
Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, also visited Chad today, where he met with Prime Minister Delwa Kassiré Koumakoye and officials from the country’s Foreign Ministry.
Mr. Eliasson and his African Union (AU) counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim have been travelling around the region this week to try to re-energize the political negotiation process so that a comprehensive solution can be found to Darfur, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said is home to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Yesterday Mr. Eliasson told a joint press conference in Khartoum that the path to peace in Darfur needs not only the support and goodwill of the parties involved in the conflict, but broad public support as well before a durable solution can take effect.
The UN and the AU would like to deploy a hybrid peacekeeping force inside Darfur, a region roughly the size of France, to end the bloodshed and protect civilians.