Sudan and South Sudan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 18th June 2013.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury) 5:08 pm, 18th June 2013

I fully accept what the hon. Gentleman says—of course there is a humanitarian crisis, as I think many other hon. Members will also emphasise.

Since the fact of this debate was published, I have been struck by how many of us have been contacted by non-governmental organisations, which have provided urgent briefings and said how glad they are that we are having this debate. It is particularly telling that some of them said, “You cannot give out the locality-specific information that we are giving to you, because it could be traced back to us and compromise NGO operatives and associates in particular regions.” Their nervousness about being named and about their briefings being traced speaks volumes about the situation and their bravery and good work.

These NGOs do not take the side of particular political interests; theirs is purely a humanitarian effort, and like the Government—I know that we will hear from the Minister later—they welcome and encourage any positive steps, whether in the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan or towards improving conditions in the two countries. They are also clear about the risks and about the trespasses against human rights and humanitarian standards that take place all too frequently and are seemingly met with indifference. In Darfur, for instance, the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur has recently seemed to be saying, “Well, because there has been statistical easement in some features of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, we should treat that as though the crisis is ending,” but clearly it is not ending. Even when there are statistical easements, factors and circumstances change, whether it is factors of conflict or seasonal factors or other trepidations that interfere with the situation, and as a result, people find themselves in an ever graver plight, so we cannot act like this is done and dusted on the basis of comprehensive peace agreements that are given only faltering acknowledgment.

I hope that the Minister will explain not only how engaged the British Government are with the political interests in both countries, but how much support they are giving to, and how engaged they are with, the various NGOs. I hope that he will also indicate how well the UK engagement effort works with that of the EU, given that the EU is the single biggest donor in the area, and respond to questions about the UN’s role. Given the misgivings about the UN’s action and the lack of reportage and serious monitoring in Sri Lanka, fundamental questions remain about UNAMID’s competence and sense of purpose in Darfur, where it does not report every transgression with equal seriousness.