20 December 2005
Determined, Energetic, Sustained Efforts Needed to End Conflict in Africa, Security Council Told
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Appeals for Expanded, more Effective Security Presence in Darfur, Sudan, as Soon as Possible
NEW YORK, 19 December (UN Headquarters) -- "The greatest contribution we can make to addressing humanitarian crises in Africa is determined, energetic and sustained efforts to bring an end to conflict and injustice that cause so much suffering in Africa", Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told the Security Council this morning.
Briefing delegations on several major challenges the humanitarian community faced in Africa, particularly in the Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe, all of which had considerable regional implications, Mr. Egeland said that more was currently at stake in terms of lives saved or lost in Africa than on any other continent. The loss of so many lives every year on the continent to preventable diseases, neglect and senseless brutality could not be accepted. It must be recognized that too many of those humanitarian crises resulted from a total absence of peace and security. Humanitarian aid could not be an alibi for unwillingness to address the root causes of conflict.
Regarding the crisis in Darfur, as well as its impact on neighbouring Chad, he said, "We must be acutely aware that all that has been built up by the thousands of relief workers and hundreds of millions of dollars in donor contributions could be destroyed, and we could be on the brink of losing this huge humanitarian operation." No amount of humanitarian relief could provide what those threatened by the conflict had wanted most from day one: effective protection against violence of the most vicious kind, and the ability to return to their homes. Only an effective ceasefire, a political solution, and a strong international security presence could accomplish those objectives.
He noted that unless measures taken by the Council had a real impact on the ground, the wound would continue to bleed, and he appealed for an expanded and more effective security presence on the ground as soon as possible. "It cannot be right that we have twice as many humanitarian workers in Darfur as international security personnel", he said.
Turning to the regional crisis caused by the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, the Sudan and, most recently, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, attacks by that group on civilians and humanitarian workers had escalated, severely undermining the ability to provide relief to millions of people, and disrupting the long awaited return of refugees to southern Sudan. While the overall number of LRA combatants might not have increased, they had spread out over a larger area and now constituted a significant threat to regional security, with appalling consequences for several million people.
The Council should pay close attention to the regional dimension of the crisis and the threats to humanitarian work, he said, and it could consider several potential steps, including strongly condemning the LRA's attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers and insisting on an immediate cessation of the violations. It could also appoint an expert panel to consider further steps and improve its understanding of the LRA.
Having just returned from Zimbabwe and South Africa, he said that the humanitarian situation in the subregion was already very serious due to severe food insecurity, widespread HIV/AIDS and inadequate basic services. More than 10 million people in the region were in need of food assistance, in a situation that could deteriorate in 2006, particularly in Zimbabwe and Malawi, unless key actions were taken to meet immediate needs and reverse the decline in key sectors.
The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe had worsened significantly in 2005, he stated. During his visit, he had told the Government that the massive urban eviction campaign of hundreds of thousands of people was the "worst possible action, at the worst possible time". He was convinced that the United Nations and the humanitarian community at large must try to engage more actively with the Government. Agreement had been reached on some issues during his mission, including a more active and systematic dialogue on food security. Sustained progress, however, would require, among others, the cessation of further evictions and greater flexibility in allowing shelter and other programmes for those affected.
In the discussion that followed, Council members said Mr. Egeland's suggestions, including the appointment of a panel of experts, deserved the support and careful consideration of the Council. They noted that humanitarian crises were the result of several factors, of which armed conflict, food insecurity, poor national policies and a lack of good governance were but a few. Several speakers expressed support for a visit to Zimbabwe by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but stressed that such a visit should be undertaken under the right conditions, including the fulfilment by that Government of the obligations entered into in recent agreements.
Noting recent negative comments by President Robert Mugabe concerning Mr. Egeland personally and the United Nations in general, Denmark's representative said such statements "speak their own tragic language". With the situation worsening daily, she noted that unless the international community started making operational plans immediately, there was a real risk that thousands in Zimbabwe would die of hunger in the next few months. The food situation was also precarious in neighbouring countries, but the food shortage in Zimbabwe had been amplified by the ill-conceived economic policies of the Government, which could have disastrous consequences absent immediate action.
Japan's representative said he expected the Government of Zimbabwe to pay serious heed to the voice of the international community and cooperate with the United Nations and other humanitarian actors to help ease the suffering. The international community, for its part, should respond to that dire humanitarian situation by stepping up its assistance and engaging further with the Government. He also hoped to see a more active engagement of African Governments with Zimbabwe to improve the situation.
Agreeing with Mr. Egeland's assessment that no amount of humanitarian relief could provide what those threatened wanted most, namely effective protection against violence of the most vicious kind and the ability to return home, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said that, indeed, strengthening Africa's capacity to prevent conflict and manage crises must remain the main objective. Reactive military and humanitarian interventions could prevent further loss of life in emergencies, but even at their best, those efforts could only control a situation, and not resolve it.
In that connection, he called for an investment in tools, which focused on development, capacity-building, mediation and peacebuilding to ensure that existing conflicts were resolved and that future ones were prevented. Without such investment, the demand for reactive measures would only increase.
Also making statements today were the representatives of Benin, Brazil, Greece, United States, Argentina, China, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, France, Algeria and the United Kingdom.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:22 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Africa, during which it heard a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland.
Briefing by Under-Secretary-General
JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed the Council on several major challenges the humanitarian community faced in Africa at the moment, all of which had considerable regional implications.
Starting with what continued to be the largest humanitarian operation in the world, the crisis in Darfur, as well as its impact on neighbouring Chad, he said the humanitarian operation launched in late 2003 had been remarkably effective this year, against overwhelming odds. Some 13,000 international and national relief workers had been providing relief to more than 3 million people in Darfur and Chad. The success of their work could be measured in the thousands of lives saved, as mortality rates among the displaced had dropped by two thirds over the past year. The work and lives of those providing aid were under constant threat, and their operations could now be disrupted completely any day and anywhere in Darfur.
"We must be acutely aware that all that has been built up by the thousands of relief workers and hundreds of millions of dollars in donor contributions could be destroyed, and we could be on the brink of losing this huge humanitarian operation", he said. In addition, no amount of humanitarian relief could provide what those threatened by the conflict had wanted most from day one: effective protection against violence of the most vicious kind, and the ability to return to their homes. Only an effective ceasefire, a political solution, and a strong international security presence could accomplish those objectives.
He said the killings had not stopped, and the rapes were continuing, as were the burning, looting and forced displacement which he first reported to the Council over 20 months ago. For three consecutive months now, the situation had been deteriorating. "We have had less humanitarian access during this period than at any other time since that first briefing in early April 2004." More than 20,000 more people had been displaced in the last few weeks alone. In a deeply worrying new development, internal displacement camps themselves were increasingly being attacked by militia.
The regional spillover effects of the crisis on Chad and the impact of Chadian groups crossing into West Darfur were also cause for great concern, he said. Tension between the 200,000 Sudanese refugees and Chadian host communities remained high. Attacks on innocent civilians by armed groups crossing from the Sudan continued to be reported, including the massacre in Modaina on 26 September, which the Council had condemned. Only yesterday, it had been reported that 100 people had been killed in an attack on the town of Adra in eastern Chad. Equally worrying were the recent political and military developments in Chad, including the mounting tension with the Sudan over Darfur. A further deterioration of the situation would pose a threat to ongoing relief operations to Sudanese refugees and could trigger a serious humanitarian crisis.
The Council, he noted, had taken many important steps to address the crisis in Darfur. But unless those measures had a real impact on the ground, the wound would continue to bleed. The massive humanitarian operation would not be sustainable unless there were finally commensurate efforts in the political and security areas. The next few weeks would be critical, both for the talks in Abuja and as the Council and the African Union deliberated on the next steps. "We need an expanded and more effective security presence on the ground as soon as possible, a presence that can provide more effective protection and ultimately allow people to return to their homes. This expanded presence is needed whether or not the Abuja talks succeed. It cannot be right that we have twice as many humanitarian workers in Darfur as international security personnel." He appealed to the Council to show the sense of urgency and determination needed to achieve the objectives identified in its resolutions, and to help bring the crisis to an end.
Next, he turned to the regional crisis caused by the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, the Sudan and, most recently, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In mid-September, a group of LRA fighters had crossed from the Sudan into north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. They remained in that border region, from where they threatened much of Western Equatoria. Attacks by the LRA on civilians and humanitarian workers had escalated, severely undermining the ability to provide relief to millions of people, and disrupting the long-awaited return of refugees to southern Sudan. While the overall number of LRA combatants might not have increased, they had spread out over a larger area and now constituted a significant threat to regional security, with appalling consequences for several million people.
Outlining the specific impact of LRA activities on humanitarian operations had been as follows, he said. In northern Uganda, gains were being lost as security eroded. Access to the nearly 1.7 million internally displaced persons encamped in the northern districts had decreased in the past three months. Recent violence had hampered assistance efforts, and a shocking new tactic -- the deliberate targeting of humanitarian workers -- had been seen. In October and November alone, five humanitarian workers were killed by LRA ambushes in the Sudan and Uganda. Life in the camps continued to be unacceptable. At present, there was no prospect of a large-scale return before the critical March planting season. Therefore, the World Food Programme would have to provide food aid to 1.5 million internally displaced persons through 2006.
Given the conditions in the camps, it was not surprising that many LRA combatants remained in the bush, he said. Enough had not been done to create the "pull factor" that could draw more of the LRA to disarmament and reintegration programmes. Those who had come in had found few chances to live a safe and productive life. "We must dramatically expand our programmes for reintegration in order to give hope to those who still see fighting as a better option."
The LRA was also wreaking havoc in the Equatorias in southern Sudan, he said. Dozens of civilians had been killed since the LRA crossed the Nile in mid-September, and over 100 people, including children, had been abducted, many of whom had not returned. The LRA attacks had also severely hampered preparation for the return of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Uganda. As long as there was a significant LRA presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo/Sudan border area, it was difficult to imagine when refugees could start returning to Central or Western Equatoria, areas that previously were among the safest in southern Sudan. That had clear consequences for efforts to rebuild and stabilize that region.
He said that much more needed to be done to address the threats and conditions he had just described. The Governments of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan bore the primary responsibility to protect and assist their populations, as well as to pursue the LRA. The LRA continued to maintain bases and moved relatively freely throughout the region. A relatively small number of fighters was threatening a huge area and millions of people. Outlining steps the Governments in the region and the Council could take, he said it was of utmost importance that the three Governments concerned fully acknowledged how dangerous the situation had become for civilians and humanitarian workers, and that they do whatever they could to protect their citizens, secure access for relief workers and promote regional solutions.
Efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in northern Uganda must be strengthened through an internationally supported process, he went on. The United Nations must actively contribute to that effort. While he welcomed steps taken by the Ugandan Government to operationalize the "IFP" policy, more should be done by the Government and its army and police to assume responsibility for the protection of the civilian population. More must also be invested in the provision of basic services in the affected areas. The Council should pay close attention to the regional dimension of the crisis and the threats to humanitarian work, and it could consider several potential steps, as follows: strongly condemn the LRA's attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers and insist on an immediate cessation of the violations; appoint an expert panel to consider further steps and improve its understanding of the LRA; and request regular updates on the effects of the movement's activities in the region.
Having just returned from Zimbabwe and South Africa, he said that the humanitarian situation in the subregion was already very serious due to severe food insecurity, widespread HIV/AIDS and inadequate basic servic0es. More than 10 million people in the region were in need of food assistance, in a situation that could deteriorate in 2006, particularly in Zimbabwe and Malawi, unless key actions were taken to meet immediate needs and reverse the decline in key sectors. In Zimbabwe, the humanitarian situation had worsened significantly in 2005. More than 3 million people -- almost one third of the population -- would receive food through the World Food Programme (WFP) in January and more would receive assistance by April. Annual production of maize, the basic staple, was one third of what it had been several years ago. Basic services continued to deteriorate, particularly in the health, water and sanitation sectors. Inflation was currently more than 500 per cent. He had told the Government at his meetings in Harare that the massive urban eviction campaign of hundreds of thousands of people was the "worst possible action, at the worst possible time".
Entering the peak of the "lean season", food prices were rising fast, placing some basic commodities out of reach for a growing number of the population, he said. He welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding finalized by the Government and the WFP. That would ensure that those emergency needs were met. He also hoped that would lead to better collaboration between the Government and the humanitarian agencies in other sectors. The huge need for food assistance was symbolic of the "vicious cycle"; it was raining when he had left Zimbabwe, but everyone expected that next year's harvest would be poor because of a lack of skilled agricultural labour force, counterproductive agricultural polices and practices, and a lack of inputs, such as fertilizer, seeds and tools. It was not sustainable to provide food assistance for millions of people year after year without making the necessary investments to get out of that situation. A new approach could be put in place, which again would provide food security for all Zimbabweans. That would require major efforts from all, nationally and internationally. There was no substitute for engagement and dialogue at all levels, however, in order to address Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis.
He said he was convinced that the United Nations and the humanitarian community at large must try to engage more actively with the Government. Agreement had been reached on some issues during his mission: a more active and systematic dialogue on food security; a more hands-on approach to resolving bureaucratic problems for humanitarian organizations through "one-stop-shops" at both the Government and the United Nations; and the initiation of a shelter programme for households affected by the eviction campaign. Sustained progress, however, would require the following: the Government must stop further evictions and be more flexible in allowing shelter and other programmes for those affected; it must ensure that beneficiaries were designated solely on the basis of need; the United Nations and its humanitarian partners, as well as donors, should be guided in their own response by the needs of the population, and the appropriate level of assistance where and when needs were identified; investment should be in food security, livelihoods and basic services; Governments in the region and Africa at large should engage more proactively with Zimbabwe to find constructive solutions, also given their interdependence and the risk of increased migratory movements; and all parties must understand the importance of neutral and impartial humanitarian assistance.
More was currently at stake in terms of lives saved or lost in Africa than on any other continent, he said. At the same time, there was great hope and opportunity, given the forward-looking initiatives of the African Union and subregional organizations. Also, the Group of 8 countries and other donors had pledged more resources for Africa than at any other time. In the coming year, "we must and can see change", he stressed. The loss of so many lives every year on the continent to preventable diseases, neglect and senseless brutality could not be accepted. A demonstration of humanity meant responding equally to the needs of those affected, whether families or returnees to southern Sudan, young men and women looking for a future beyond the "IDP" camps of northern Uganda, or AIDS patients trying to sustain their families through a drought in Zimbabwe. He called on all Member States to live up to their commitments to fund, support and facilitate a much more ambitious development and humanitarian agenda. Everyone must recognize that too many of those humanitarian crises resulted for a total absence of peace and security. Humanitarian aid could not be an alibi for unwillingness to address the root causes of conflict.
"The greatest contribution we can make to addressing humanitarian crises in Africa is determined, energetic and sustained efforts to bring an end to conflict and injustice that cause so much suffering in Africa", he concluded.
SIMON IDOHOU (Benin) paid tribute to the humanitarian community working to stem the crisis in Darfur and elsewhere. In the case of Darfur, it was necessary to ensure the success of the Abuja agreements. The Council should re-evaluate the situation and find ways, in conjunction with the African Union, to increase security and ensure effective protection for civilians. The situation in the Great Lakes region was a "silent catastrophe". However astronomic the figures, how could the international community remain passive in the face of such a critical situation as in Uganda, where more than a thousand people died every week? That was twice the mortality seen in Darfur. The freedom of movement in the camps had been decreased, leading to an increase in disease. It was necessary to sound the alarm and mobilize the international community to come to the aid of human lives. Likewise, the fact that returning refugees in many countries were becoming internally displaced was deplorable.
Those were all issues that required active commitment from the international community, he said. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the problems for the internally displaced continued. The United Nations presence there should be a guarantee for effective protection. Humanitarian assistance must take into account not only providing resources for survival, but also the restoration of basic social services. He welcomed the recent humanitarian appeal for Burundi, which combined emergency assistance needs with long-term reconstruction goals. Ways must be found to ensure more effective protection of aid workers. He added that special attention should be given to the issue of the reintegration of child soldiers because, as was the case in many Great Lakes countries, the lack of assistance programmes meant that such children got involved in gangs. Lastly, he welcomed the adoption by the General Assembly of the Central Emergency Response Fund.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark) said that the gravity and magnitude of the humanitarian crises in Africa demanded more attention and more political and financial resources. Some of the crises highlighted by Mr. Egeland had been with us much too long, while some had only recently become a major concern. Violent conflicts, food shortages and government crises were some of the most widespread causes. With collective will, those causes could be corrected through concerned action by all the parties involved. The humanitarian situation in Darfur required the international community's close attention, and she thanked Mr. Egeland for his update on that situation.
On Zimbabwe, she said that President Mugabe's statements concerning Mr. Egeland personally and the United Nations in general "speak their own tragic language". She urged that Government to allow the international community to alleviate the suffering of the Zimbabweans and respect the commendable efforts of Mr. Egeland to assist the people there. That situation was worsening daily. Unless the international community started making operational plans immediately, there was a real risk that thousands in Zimbabwe would die of hunger in the next few months. The food situation was also precarious in neighbouring countries, but the food shortage in Zimbabwe had been amplified by the ill-conceived economic policies of the Government, which could have disastrous consequences absent immediate action. Only a few years ago, Zimbabwe had been a net exporter of food. The crisis only intensified the current stream of people fleeing Zimbabwe, further burdening neighbouring countries.
That situation must be addressed urgently, and an extra effort should be made to evolve a common approach, guided by the need to alleviate the plight of the Zimbabweans and to restoring law and order, she stressed. The United Nations should try to re-establish a mutually respectful dialogue with the Government. Mistrust, spurred by the Government's outrageous incriminations, could be replaced by respectful dialogue. She suggested a visit by the Secretary-General as soon as possible, a proposal about which she sought Mr. Egeland's thoughts.
Concerning the situation in northern Uganda, as members had just heard, that was one of the most tragic conflicts in Africa, with 1.5 million people suffering and an urgent need to strengthen efforts to identify ways and means to end the conflict, she said. The LRA should declare a ceasefire and put a definite end to the despicable, cruel acts being carried out in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. There was no reason for the LRA fighters not to disarm. In that regard, an incentive could be provided for at least low- and middle-ranked LRA members. The Government should ensure a peaceful approach to the conclusion of conflict, and enter into dialogue with the LRA, while taking the necessary steps to ensure the protection of vulnerable citizens in northern Uganda. People were not only killed by bullets; major deaths in the "IDP" camps were due to intolerable conditions. The Danish Government would continue to provide funds in response to the numerous humanitarian crises in Africa. Its contribution to southern Africa, for example, would exceed $2 million before the end of the year.
KENZO OSHIMA (Japan) said he welcomed the sustained efforts of the Secretary-General to engage with Zimbabwe to improve the situation in that country, as well as the recent visit there by Mr. Egeland. The dialogue efforts with the Government had been difficult, which was regrettable. He hoped those efforts would continue, despite the lack of progress. He was concerned by the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe, which involved not just the housing problem but also included the increasingly worsening food and non-food crises. That the average life expectancy had been reduced by almost half was a clear indication of how bad the situation in the country had become.
He expected the Government to pay serious heed to the voice of the international community and cooperate with the United Nations and other humanitarian actors to help ease the suffering. The international community, for its part, should respond to that dire humanitarian situation by stepping up its assistance and engaging further with the Government. He hoped the Government would demonstrate its willingness to cooperate with the international community. He also hoped to see more active engagement of African Governments with Zimbabwe to improve the situation.
He remained seriously concerned with the situation in Darfur, where the situation was deteriorating rather than improving, and hoped the Abuja negotiations would lead to a concrete result without delay. He appreciated the efforts of the African Union to maintain security in the region, which was a prerequisite for providing assistance. The humanitarian situation in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, where the LRA was wreaking havoc, was equally worrying. He commended those providing aid, despite the adverse conditions in those areas. Neighbouring countries had a critical role to play in improving the situation. He hoped they would exercise as much influence as possible. Mr. Egeland's suggestions, including the appointment of a panel of experts, deserved support and careful consideration by the Council. There was a clear need to do as much as possible to bring aid to those in need, and to do that, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other humanitarian agencies deserved the fullest support. It was also clear that the root causes of such humanitarian crises did not lend themselves to easy solutions.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that millions survived each day in squalor in Africa, and children went hungry and suffered from illnesses, which might cost little to treat. There was no access to life-saving medicines, and in some situations, people in Africa also suffered from violence and armed conflicts, killing more people in Africa than anywhere else in the world. The African continent also hosted the largest displaced population worldwide. The devastating cost for countries in conflict and the impact on their neighbours should also not be overlooked. Much remained to be done by the affected States and the international community as a whole. The United Nations and the Security Council rightly gave priority attention to Africa, underscored by the fact that those issues preoccupied more than 60 per cent of the Council's agenda. Most humanitarian crises had been the result of a combination of interrelated factors. Thus, the international community must continue to devise multidimensional approaches to address those crises, and recognize that certain questions of development schemes, such as finance, were not in the Council's purview.
He, therefore, had been encouraged that the General Assembly had upgraded the emergency revolving fund into an emergency response fund to ensure swift responses to humanitarian emergencies. He hoped that the new mechanisms would help to ensure that humanitarian assistance was provided on the basis of existing need, and that funds were allocated in a non-discriminatory balanced and proportionate manner. The Council must continue to work with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council in that regard. Hopefully, the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission would allow for better coordination in that regard, so that deeply rooted social and economic causes of conflict could be tackled. Only that would prevent their spread or recurrence. The focus should also remain on effective approaches to break the destructive and vicious cycles of conflict. He thanked Mr. Egeland for his detailed accounts, which deserved the Security Council's careful consideration.
ADAMANTIOS Th. VASSILAKIS (Greece) said the humanitarian crises in Africa, as elsewhere, were multidimensional and were the result of a combination of several factors. Until recently, conflict and civil strife were the primary factors for humanitarian crises. Progress had been made in that regard in the past decade, leading to the resolution of conflicts in many regions. The situation in Darfur continued to be a source of great concern. The number of those affected was about 3.4 million, and the number of displaced about 1.7 million. In northern Uganda, the horrific war waged by the LRA had resulted in some 25,000 children being abducted and over a million people displaced. Both examples highlighted the regional implications of the crises.
Since the start of the Darfur conflict, more than 200,000 Sudanese had fled to Chad, he noted. That underscored the need for regional cooperation to tackle crises and showed that individual States could not remain indifferent to the problems of their neighbours. Zimbabwe was facing a dire economic situation, and 20 per cent of its population was affected by AIDS. It was obvious that the country was in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. In that regard, he welcomed the efforts of the United Nations to address that situation, including the recent visit by Mr. Egeland. Today's discussion demonstrated the need for the United Nations to have a comprehensive approach to resolving crises. He would positively consider Mr. Egeland's suggestions on how the Council could do its part.
TUVAKO NATHANIEL MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) noted that millions of Africans lived in countries where conflict was ongoing or where there was an imminent risk of conflict breaking out. That was a legitimate concern for all. On the other hand, peace processes were currently under way in all of the major conflicts there, and despite the continued instability, many encouraging processes had emerged. The increased commitment to peace and security of the African organizations was one example, as was the cooperation between the United Nations and the African-based organizations. Mr. Egeland had just informed the Council, however, that no amount of humanitarian relief could provide what those threatened wanted most, namely effective protection against violence of the most vicious kind and the ability to return home. He agreed. Indeed, strengthening Africa's capacity to prevent conflict and manage crises must remain the main objective. Reactive military and humanitarian interventions could prevent further loss of life in emergencies, but even at their best, those efforts could only control a situation, and not resolve it.
He called for an investment in tools, which focused on development, capacity-building, mediation and peacebuilding to ensure that existing conflicts were resolved and that future ones were prevented. Without such investment, the demand for reactive measures would only increase. Mr. Egeland had just shown how expensive that could be. Africa had received some $7 billion in humanitarian aid between 1995 and 2001; the cost of United Nations peacekeeping had been some $2.8 billion from July 2004 to June 2005. Africa had demonstrated its willingness to deal with conflicts. Indeed, Mr. Egeland had also observed that not enough had been done in relation to Uganda, especially to draw the LRA into disarmament and reintegration programmes. The sanctity of human life was among the foremost principles of the African Union, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) sought assistance for Africa's capacity-building to manage conflicts in the following four key areas: the prevention and resolution of conflicts; peacekeeping and peace enforcement; post-conflict reconciliation; and combating the illicit spread of small arms and light weapons, and landmines.
There were many complex and interconnected causes of humanitarian crises in Africa, he concluded. Policy choices could play a role, but natural phenomena, such as drought and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, were also factors. All compounded each other. It was that totality of factors, which must be the Council's focus.
Mr. WOLFF (United States) said he was pleased that the United Nations had remained engaged on the grave humanitarian problems facing Africa, particularly in Darfur, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The food crisis was a threat not only to the welfare of the people of Africa, but also to regional peace and security. The misery and terror sown by the LRA in northern Uganda were perhaps not as well known to the world as the situations in Darfur and in Zimbabwe. But the LRA's activities, including the kidnapping of children, marked it as one of the most detestable groups of its kind.
The Sudan remained a top priority for the United States, which had played a leading role in supporting the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Abuja talks, as well as in providing aid and spearheading efforts to resolve the conflict, he said. The United States was the first to highlight Darfur at the Council and the first to state that genocide had occurred there. It was also the lead donor on humanitarian assistance with over $500 million in aid.
He said economic collapse and food insecurity were now chronic in Zimbabwe. Millions of Zimbabweans had fled to South Africa and elsewhere. Next year's harvest was expected to be worse than this year. Food insecurity and economic meltdown were the result of bad policies and the breakdown of the rule of law. The United Nations should continue to press the Government on the need for dialogue, as United Nations engagement could influence the behaviour of that Government. The United Nations should also urge Zimbabwe to reach out to all Zimbabweans, and engage in dialogue to reach sustainable political solutions. The country needed broad-based, representative government to address its challenges.
A visit to Zimbabwe by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari in early 2006 would keep up the momentum of Mr. Egeland's visit, and should also include the Sudan and Uganda, he said. It was important to restore democracy, economic growth and food security in Zimbabwe. Under the right conditions, then the Secretary-General should visit following Mr. Gambari's visit. He also noted the leading role for African countries in resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe and encouraged them to engage the county in a constructive way.
CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said that the critical situation facing many peoples on that continent continued. Given their seriousness, the sources of recurrent humanitarian crises must be examined. The causes could be found in history, to which political elements were added. There was hunger, cholera and pandemic diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, among others, which did not have any immediate solution. Unfortunately, Mr. Egeland's report had described the persistent humanitarian crises in the Great Lakes region, Zimbabwe, Malawi and other countries, including in Darfur. The Council should bear in mind the humanitarian dimension of conflict, to which it could not remain indifferent, given the suffering of innocent civilians and the violations of their human rights. The Council's consideration, however, could not ignore the obligation of States, themselves, to comply with international legal standards. The parties to a conflict also had a direct responsibility for ensuring respect for international humanitarian law, whatever the circumstances.
In the context of Mr. Egeland's comments, he said he was very concerned about the relationship between the recent threats to safety of humanitarian staff and their restricted access to needy populations. Attacks of a criminal nature, such as those which occurred in northern Uganda and Darfur, should be brought before the International Criminal Court. There was also a need to pay ever closer attention to the plight of the refugees and internally displaced persons, which were among the most vulnerable populations living in conditions of conflict. The Council had a subsidiary role to protect them. He sought Mr. Egeland's feedback about possible agreement within the Abuja process and how that might affect Darfur and northern Africa. The setting up of a new body within the United Nations might well mitigate the humanitarian situation overall, particularly in Africa.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that the humanitarian situations in some African regions were very grave. Hunger, death and pandemics were the daily threats facing millions of people. Deeply concerned with the difficulties facing the countries and peoples affected, he called on the international community to make efforts to increase humanitarian assistance, so that those countries were able to deal with the difficult situation.
The reasons for crises were multiple, and armed conflict was but one, he continued. The international community should target the actual situations of the countries concerned and prescribe medicine for the particular ailment. In addressing the humanitarian crises in Africa, the international community should support and collaborate with the efforts of the Governments concerned, and bring into full play regional and subregional organizations, such as the African Union. It was necessary to avoid the politicization of humanitarian issues, which could further complicate problems.
PATRICK A. CHUASOTO (Philippines) agreed with previous speakers that Africa was facing huge political and humanitarian challenges, causing immense suffering, mostly among civilians, who were denied fundamental peace and security. The effects of those crises usually had disastrous consequences on peace and security, and ensuring peace and security was the Council's prime responsibility. Although the Council was the most responsive organ in the United Nations system, addressing humanitarian crises was best handled through coordination of the entire system. Constant leadership could spur action, ensure sustained engagement and garner donor support. The Council could strive to prevent violence and protect the vulnerable populations on the ground, while seeking to address the root causes of conflict. For example, it could assist in strengthening local capacities, which greatly increased the chance of success of all initiatives.
He said that the Peacebuilding Commission would enable the Security Council to strengthen linkages between humanitarian action and reintegration and peacebuilding. That, in turn, would enable the Council to strengthen its approach to humanitarian crises with the larger efforts of achieving peace. Serious challenges had remained, especially in the areas of security and the predictability of funding for emergencies in a timely, efficient and effective manner. The responses should be based on coordinated and integrated partnerships between African Governments, regional organizations, development partners and local non-governmental organizations. The latter groups' advocacy efforts remained an important contribution, especially through the media, in addressing Africa's humanitarian crises.
GHEORGHE DUMITRU (Romania) said the humanitarian challenges facing Africa had called for the Council's attention and urgent action. He commended the work done by Mr. Egeland, particularly his missions to the continent. He was anxious to hear about the situation in Darfur. Most encouraging was the seventh round of peace talks on the situation in Darfur, under the mediation of the African Union. While there seemed to be political progress, he wanted to see that translated on the ground with an improved humanitarian situation. Unfortunately, violence and atrocities were a daily occurrence. At the same time, given the prevailing climate of insecurity, it was that much harder to provide assistance to those that needed it most. He appreciated the presence of the United Nations Mission and the African Union Mission in Darfur.
On northern Uganda, he agreed that the conflict there had important regional implications. The resolution of that conflict could only be done politically and not militarily. With the Government living up to its responsibilities, and the LRA ceasing all its violent activities, there could be an improvement in the situation. He asked about United Nations plans to cover the needs of the internally displaced persons, given that the majority relied on international assistance.
He shared the deep concern about the situation in Zimbabwe, he said. The humanitarian response seemed critical with the situation consistently worsening. He urged the Government to work together with the international community and humanitarian agencies to address the needs of the vulnerable populations. He also welcomed the progress reported by Mr. Egeland on the agreements reached with the Government on many issues. In addition, he emphasized that there was no excuse for the Council and the international community to simply hide behind the label of forgotten crises and neglect serious ongoing developments, which claimed numerous lives and caused untold suffering.
VADIM S. SMIRNOV (Russian Federation) said the real question concerned the build-up of humanitarian assistance. No less important was an overall systematic approach. That, among other things, would allow for the avoidance of inequitable distribution of humanitarian assistance on the continent and to do away with the phenomenon of the so-called crises in emergency situations. The situation had recently changed with the transformation of the emergency revolving fund into a central fund for emergency response. The basic modalities had been agreed by consensus in the General Assembly. The resources from the fund would go into early warning regarding natural disasters and to meeting the obvious humanitarian needs of countries. The United Nations system and the Security Council were actively involved in African problems. With its unique experience in settling conflict and post-conflict recovery, the Council could mobilize the international community and various regional and subregional mechanisms, leading to a comprehensive solution to problems facing African countries, for which better cooperation among the major United Nations bodies was an important factor.
He said that the upcoming establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission would be another important step. Also welcome had been the enhanced role played by the African States, themselves, in policies and initiatives aimed at settling the remaining regional conflicts on the continent, as well as promoting the establishment of social and economic development and reaffirming respect for human rights and democracy. Given the scope of the problems on the continent, he attached special significant to strengthening the peacekeeping aspect of the African Union and other subregional organizations in Africa. No doubt, the world community should not slacken its attention to African problems. His country would pursue a policy in keeping with the interest of the States in conflict and continue to lend comprehensive assistance to those countries. It would also continue to actively support efforts aimed at settling crises and enhancing African peacekeeping potential.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said it was important to be thoroughly familiar with the humanitarian situation in certain regions. Humanitarian assistance could not be an alibi for not recognizing crises in which millions suffered on a regular basis, as Mr. Egeland had previously stated. The description of the situation in Darfur was a reminder of how disturbing the matter was. In 2006, it would be necessary to give humanitarian assistance to Chad. Access to camps must be guaranteed, and there must be no hindrances to the work of relief workers. Beyond the pressure that needed to be placed, improvement was needed in the political situation. Further pressure must be placed on the parties in Abuja. Too often there was a tendency to look at the problems separately, when, in fact, as Mr. Egeland had stated, the political conflict and the humanitarian situation should be looked at together.
The activities of the LRA in northern Uganda had created an increasingly intolerable situation, he said. It was obvious that the Council should look into that matter, which involved a number of dimensions beyond the humanitarian dimension. A solution needed to be found, perhaps even a military one. He asked Mr. Egeland how a limited number of combatants, however ferocious, could cause such serious consequences, and destabilize the region. He also asked about the number of combatants.
Following Operation Restore Order, which was inexplicable, the Council had had to look at the situation in Zimbabwe, as well, he said. Following Mr. Egeland's visit, it would be useful for the Secretary-General to visit the country, as well. He expressed concern at the minimal response to emergency situations, and stressed the need to ensure that the level of aid matched the challenge.
LARBI KATTI (Algeria) said he agreed with several speakers that a regional approach should be adopted to deal with the humanitarian crises described by Mr. Egeland, given their cross-border implications. The LRA and the refugee situation were examples that should be addressed on an urgent basis. He, meanwhile, welcomed the dialogue under way with the Zimbabwean authorities, but he insisted that humanitarian assistance, regardless of the circumstances, must remain neutral and impartial, and should not be used as a political lever. A unified approach should be taken, and Mr. Egeland had made some suggestions in that regard. Those should be considered at the later stage by the Council and concerned Governments.
Regarding Darfur, he said he welcomed some stability emerging in the humanitarian situation, such as the decrease in the number of displaced persons and the drop, as well, in infant mortality, owing to the humanitarian assistance. The situation remained fragile, however, given the very volatile security situation and the lack of a political solution to that crisis. Restoring law and order and security in Darfur would not be easy, but, clearly, a political agreement would improve the situation somewhat. Pressure must be brought to bear on the parties so that the Abuja talks would lead to lasting peace.
Council President EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), speaking in his national capacity, thanked Mr. Egeland for his "powerful" briefing. He noted the lack of progress and the precariousness of the situation in western Sudan, which had been reported. There was a need to do more, and for the Council to be in a position to consider how the United Nations could effectively proceed in the Sudan. Regarding the LRA's activities, he shared the concern of the 2 million displaced, and noted the impact on three countries of a relatively few number of fighters. The LRA's activities were causing wider instability. He encouraged the parties to reach a peaceful solution.
On Zimbabwe, he shared the concerns set out by Mr. Egeland. The humanitarian situation, a result of natural disasters and man-made reasons, was a serious situation and getting worse. He had not seen the improvements hoped for following Ms. Tibaijuka's visit in July. United Nations agencies and others were doing a good job under the most difficult circumstances. He welcomed the agreements secured by Mr. Egeland during his visit, and looked to see the Government fulfil its obligations regarding the agreements entered into. It was necessary to encourage democratic governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights in Zimbabwe. He would welcome the greater involvement of the United Nations in the dialogue with Zimbabwe. There would need to be substantial progress before the Secretary-General himself got involved in the issue.
He said today's briefing demonstrated how humanitarian crises had implications for regional stability and security, and underlined the responsibility of the Council and the international community to monitor such situations and provide better assistance to countries facing such crises. Security and stability went hand in hand with humanitarian crises. He commended the efforts of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to tackle armed groups, and added that United Nations peacekeepers should be more active in preventing the scourge of the LRA from contaminating other countries.
Taking the floor again to respond to the debate, Mr. EGELAND said there was a strong consensus around the table that the situations he had described must see positive change in the year ahead. As China's representative had observed, Mr. Egeland's motive was that change was both wanted and needed, and that his job was to bring to the Council's attention those situations which were "going bad". There were crises that were deteriorating. What was happening in Darfur, in northern Uganda and in the region at large, as well as in the southern African region, was indeed a "moral outrage". In Darfur, reports from colleagues in the field indicated that "it could all end tomorrow". A remarkable humanitarian operation had been built, and against all odds, mortality rates were now one third of what they were at the start of 2004. The effort had been able to establish a camp management operation, food and sanitation operations, primary health care, and primary schooling. Now, all of that was at stake. Access levels had again declined and were now comparable to what they were when the interventions had begun.
He said that colleagues in the field said they were extremely worried about losing the gains that had been made, owing to a lack of commensurate political and security progress. The armed groups were "outrageously irresponsible on all levels" in acts against civilians, internally displaced persons, and with respect to their attitude overall to reaching a negotiated settlement. He did not dare to think of the consequences of "no deal" in Abuja, of the potential unravelling of the situation, with thousands of humanitarian workers in the crossfire and millions of civilians in the utmost peril. He would rather focus on how to attain success in Abuja so that humanitarian progress could continue and the returns could be planned for. The situation whereby millions of people were living on food handouts in overcrowded camps had to change.
Concerning the Ugandan situation, not enough attention had been paid to the crisis in the north. Now that the situation had become a regional crisis affecting millions -- owing to the actions of just 1,000 combatants -- more attention would be forthcoming. When those combatants targeted humanitarian workers and civilians, the consequence was immediate paralysis. France had asked how so relatively few fights could wreak such havoc. The LRA had been active for about 20 years in northern Uganda, and now they were acting regionally. That situation could not continue in 2006, with yet another generation of children being abducted and turned into "killing machines" in that movement. The proposal for an expert panel could be useful in determining why that situation had persisted. He urged the Council to look at his other proposals, as well, both regarding northern Uganda and the regional dimension of the crisis. As a humanitarian, he hoped to say "enough is enough", but he had to see change.
In Zimbabwe, he said that the situation could deteriorate or it could improve. If there was one country in the world that should be able to feed itself, that was Zimbabwe. If the various changes he had outlined in his briefing occurred, such as a change in the Government's policies and strengthened donor investment in agricultural products, aimed at facilitating the humanitarian work, the situation could improve. Denmark's representative had asked about a future United Nations engagement with Zimbabwe. Yes, the Secretary-General had been invited by President Mugabe. He was planning to send Under-Secretary-General Gambari on a mission to have a dialogue with that Government. Mr. Egeland hoped for progress on many fronts.
He said that humanitarian work, overall, was making "large" progress, and he was thankful in that regard for the increased attention of the Security Council. In 2005, more goals had been reached than any time previously, and more effective aid reached more people and more quickly. An emergency fund now in place might lead to more predictable funding, and with coordinating strategies, more leadership on the ground. The technological revolution had made it possible to "do miracles", whereas before, the world had to remain as passive observers to the suffering. Much progress had been achieved in Africa, which, in turn, translated to great promise for positive change. With increased resources next year from all of those who had promises, a lot more could be done, but progress must also be made on the political and security fronts. He was heartened that the Council would study his proposals, he concluded.
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