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Washington, DC – In advance of today’s ministerial-level United Nations Security Council meeting on Sudan, Refugees International (RI) urged the Council to prioritize the status and security of minority communities on both sides of the north-south border. In an open letter to all Security Council Members, Refugees International urged the UN to demand that the governments in Khartoum and Southern Sudan respect their commitments to protect these communities regardless of the results of January’s referendum. In addition, RI called for increased international funding and coordination among aid agencies to ensure that civilians receive the assistance and protection they need in the event of any violence.
“Both President Bashir and Government of Southern Sudan President Kiir have publicly committed to the protection and security of minority populations regardless of the results of the referendum,” said RI President Michel Gabaudan in the letter. “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.”
Refugees International has conducted four field missions to Sudan in 2010 and is currently in south Sudan analyzing humanitarian agencies’ preparations to respond to potential outbreaks of violence and protect civilians in the aftermath of the referendum. In June, RI staff members met with and interviewed displaced southern Sudanese near Khartoum, many of whom expressed serious concern about becoming the targets of discrimination or violence should the south choose to separate.
Governments in the north and south are negotiating outstanding issues around the referendum, including citizenship arrangements should the south opt for independence. It is unclear how much progress is being made with these negotiations, and Refugees International urges the international community to ensure that both sides commit to a peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues.
At the same time, humanitarian agencies must also provide support to the millions of people who have returned home since the end of the war in 2005 and are in need of basic services. Providing access to water, medical assistance, education, and sustainable livelihoods will go a long way towards minimizing conflict.
“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,” Mr. Gabaudan said. “Even if there is no outright violence, spontaneous 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.”
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. For more information, go to www.refugeesinternational.org.