Sudan — Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:26 pm on 7th January 2010.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 12:26 pm, 7th January 2010

My Lords, I am sure the House will be agreed on three points: first, our gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for having given us an opportunity to debate this important subject today and our respect for her personal experience and consistent interest in the people of Sudan; secondly, that we ought all to be sending a message of solidarity to the front-line workers in southern Sudan and Sudan as a whole who carry so many burdens on our behalf and do it so effectively, with so much commitment; and thirdly, how good it is to see my noble friend handling this issue on the Front Bench-nobody can question her long-standing commitment to the people of Africa. I understand that she may soon be going to visit southern Sudan. When she does, I hope she will take the opportunity to meet with and hear the insights of NGOs such as Oxfam and Saferworld-in which I declare an interest as a trustee-which are anxious to share with her what they are discovering.

This month sees the fifth anniversary of the comprehensive peace agreement. It is, therefore, sad that it is faltering so badly. There is an urgent need for the troika-the UK, the US and Norway-to re-energise it. The US, of course, has a lead role, but I believe that the UK must now become a catalyst and my noble friend is exactly the person to ensure that this happens. We have to learn from history. A re-energised comprehensive agreement must not be seen as an end in itself. What follows in terms of economic and social progress and human rights is what matters, and this will demand resources and sophisticated support from the international community.

Similarly, the result of the 2011 referendum on secession of the south must not be seen as an end in itself. Unless it is to contain the seeds of renewed bitter conflict, the context in which it takes place will be vital. For example, there will have to be absolute clarity about where exactly the north/south border lies and about arrangements for sharing and handling oil revenues, together with convincing arrangements for both north and south on dependence on Port Sudan as the exit point for exports.

I vividly recall that I was in south Sudan in 1983, on a visit as the director of VSO, when the garrison down the road from Juba rebelled. General Garang had been recalled from his PhD studies in the States to try to persuade the garrison to behave itself. I was staying at an FAO project. General Garang arrived when the rebellion took place. It was interesting then to see that he was actively debating with himself and those immediately around him whether to stay with the Government of Sudan or take the road that he did take of leading the SPLA and the independence movement.

That was almost 30 years ago, and it is more than 50 years since the bitter dispute began. It is difficult to envisage the pain, suffering, slaughter and bereavement which is the terrible reality of this dreadful saga. As we have been reminded, 2009 was the most violent year since the comprehensive peace agreement was signed, with 2,500 people killed and 350,000-I repeat, 350,000-people displaced. Meanwhile the poverty remains acute: one in seven pregnant women will die; one in seven children under five will die; less than 50 per cent of the population has access to safe water. We cannot compare the national neurosis about our current cold spell with challenges of that scale.

Against this background, it is troubling that the World Bank multidimensional fund is evidently not being dispersed as effectively as it might be. Front-line NGOs are seriously short of funds for the sustainable long-term work which they desperately want to do, as distinct from the short-term relief projects which come their way. As the noble Baroness stressed, roads are a critical element in this.

Yesterday afternoon I was able to have a personal briefing by Maya Mailer, the Oxfam policy adviser in Juba. She had returned on Tuesday from the searing heat of Juba to the snarled-up, frozen London for a brief working visit. It was a first-class but very challenging briefing. Later today, in Committee Room 4A, she, together with representatives of other organisations, will be presenting a report on the situation which they have just prepared.

The insights of those working on the front line lead me to make the following observations, which I hope my noble friend will take on board and respond to. While the Government of south Sudan are right to be concerned about the need to disarm the civil population, how realistic is it to overconcentrate on this in the total absence of effective human security? Surely the provision of convincing human security must be the first priority, although I recognise the chicken and egg dimensions of this. The situation is complex and confused. In Jonglei state alone, traditional cattle raiding has escalated into vicious attacks on whole communities and is made all the more devastating by the widespread presence of AK-47s, machine guns and grenades. The SPLA uniforms worn by some of the participants suggest that SPLA deserters have been opting to join their kin.

The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, referred to the Lord's Resistance Army, which is involved in sinister and far-reaching destabilisation across the region as a whole. Children who should be at school are instead joining the so-called Arrow Boys, endeavouring to resist the LRA and protect their communities. One thing is sure: if human security is to be achieved, the international community must act resolutely and fast on the control of arms trafficking and the flow of arms into conflict regions such as this. The objective of an arms trade treaty is highly relevant in this context. There is also an urgent need for a regional strategy in dealing with the cruel presence of the LRA, whose real motivation has so far escaped analysis.

More generally in Sudan as a whole, there are other issues on which the policy of my noble friend and HMG will be important. I shall list them briefly. There is a need for independent assessments to be conducted throughout-I emphasise throughout-northern Sudan. These are also badly needed along the north/south border in order to pinpoint gaps in humanitarian assistance and basic services. There are similar requirements in the east. Apparently the current joint communiqué and subsequent monitoring system in effect apply only to Darfur. Similar agreements are a necessity for the rest of northern Sudan. The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the resident co-ordinator's support office should be strongly supported by the international community in achieving these.

There is a need for the high-level committee to hold the Government of Sudan to account for their commitments to remove bureaucratic impediments and for their responsibility to ensure that commitments made at the federal level are turned into realities at the state level. There is also the imperative of ensuring that humanitarian services in northern Sudan are delivered to their targeted beneficiaries in an independent, neutral and impartial manner. In this context it is important not to let rest the inexplicable expulsion of certain key international NGOs such as Oxfam UK and to insist that the Government of Sudan should stop their internal and external misinformation campaigns and negative propaganda, enabling such agencies to return. I always recall that, when I was director of Oxfam, we realised that what we called in one of our publications on Central America "the threat of a good example" was invariably one of the most difficult challenges for liberal authoritarian regimes.

There is also the need for the UN donors and diplomats in Khartoum, through both the high-level committee and bilateral discussions, to persuade the Government of Sudan to accept a clear definition of humanitarian assistance, which includes the vital task of protection. The urgency of recognising that UNAMID must have a greater capacity to protect civilians and increase security to ensure humanitarian access cannot be ignored. Quick-impact operations can blur the ongoing civil-military imperative. UNAMID has a key role in protecting humanitarian assets and personnel. In the total absence of alternatives, it also has to increase its role in the protection of civil populations by more patrolling of roads, towns and internally displaced camps. Its monitoring of human rights and human protection issues through its civilian and police elements is an essential part of this. However, if we will this, we have to will the resources for it to happen.

The UN mission in Sudan must be supported in putting its core mandate-namely, monitoring CPA security arrangements-more effectively into action. When the mandate of the UN mission is renewed this coming April, it would be unforgivable if the opportunity was not seized to reinforce its responsibility for civil protection. However, again, if we understand it and will it, the provision of adequate resources is an essential obligation. The situation on the ground is far too grim for playing intellectual, theoretical policy games on the international stage. Those involved internationally have, above all, strenuously to continue to seek and facilitate a cessation of hostilities, followed by an effective, monitored ceasefire which brings on board all major parties to the conflict. This is indispensable if human security and humanitarian access to people in need is to be ensured.

Finally, in all that we do we must constantly remember that, ultimately, sustained and enduring stability can be ensured only by the people of north and south Sudan, the wider region as a whole and their Governments. They have to own the solutions; the absence of such ownership contains the seed of inevitable failure. We must, therefore, constantly ensure that we are in the long run-and it will be a long run-enabling and not disempowering. One day we will all have to learn across the world that peace and security can only be painstakingly and patiently built; they cannot be imposed. We have all the time to remember that if we will the end, we must will the means. It is good that HMG take this point and are determined to pursue it.