Thu, 11/11/2010 - 10:26
Open letter to all Security Council Members
Refugees International (RI) welcomes the upcoming ministerial-level meeting on Sudan on November 16. As a Washington D.C.-based organization that advocates for improved support to displaced and refugee popula¬tions around the world, RI has been very concerned about the situation in Sudan in the run up to the January referenda in the south and Abyei, and we are grateful that you are continuing to raise the profile of Sudan at the United Nations during this critical time.
A key issue of concern continues to be the status and protection of minority communities on both sides of the north-south border around the time of the referendum and in its aftermath. RI interviewed displaced southerners in Khartoum in June 2010 and many expressed grave concerns for their security and wellbeing in Khartoum if the south opted to secede. Indeed, there have been troubling statements from some NCP officials about the status of southerners in the north post-referendum. RI has noted that both President Bashir and Government of Southern Sudan President Kiir have publicly committed to the protection and security of mi¬nority populations on their respective territories regardless of the results of the referendum. However, words are not enough, and it is imperative that both governments understand that they will be held accountable by the international community for failing to respect their own commitments in this regard. We urge you to in¬clude language to this effect in your statement at the meeting, and we hope that you will also raise the issue of protection of minorities in your bilateral discussions with the parties.
In addition to ensuring that both parties understand clearly that committing or tolerating attacks against minority populations is unacceptable, the humanitarian community must take the opportunity before the referendum to think through how it may need to respond to such attacks, should they occur. The humanitar¬ian community must include in its contingency plans such options as establishing safe corridors, security and protection support for people on the move and providing emergency life-sustaining support to displaced populations once they reach more secure areas. To do this, coordination between the humanitarian commu¬nity and UNMIS is key. While humanitarian contingency planning for the referendum has made important progress since the beginning of the year, challenges remain. Coordination between the international actors in north and south Sudan on contingency planning is critical, so that places like the Three Areas do not fall through the cracks. Also, humanitarian agencies are already overstretched responding to the existing needs in south Sudan. It is crucial that their current activities be fully funded and supported if they are to have sufficient capacity to respond to emerging crises.
International donors and their partners on the ground must also urgently support the reintegration of dis¬placed people who are returning. Even if there is no outright violence, as we hope will be the case, spontaneous pre-emptive movements based on fear or lack of information are likely to increase as we approach the referendum, and the humanitarian community will need to be in a position to respond. Robust, well-coordinated interna¬tional support to the Government of Southern Sudan’s organized return strategy for southerners in the north and abroad is one way of minimizing chaotic spontaneous movements.
Once again, RI would like to express its appreciation for your attention to Sudan. We look forward to hearing the results of the meeting on the 16th.
President of Refugees International