UN adopts resolution on emergency assistance

Dec 18, 2001 (IRIN)

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Friday adopted a resolution proposed by Tanzania on behalf of the African group of countries on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian and disaster relief assistance in Sudan.

Despite a number of concerns raised about the resolution, notably by Canada and the European Union (EU), the Assembly adopted, by consensus and without a vote, draft resolution L.60 on emergency assistance to the Sudan.

Under the terms of the resolution, the Assembly urged the international community to continue supporting national and international programmes of rehabilitation, voluntary resettlement and reintegration of returnees and internally displaced persons, as well as assistance to refugees.

It also urged all parties involved to continue to offer all feasible and necessary assistance to guarantee the success of the UN-coordinated Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) in all affected parts of the country, according to a UN press release.

[GA 10000 at http://www.un.org/apps/press/latest.asp]

By the same text, the Assembly called on all parties (to the war in Sudan) to respect international humanitarian law on the protection of civilians during times of war.

It condemned attacks on civilians and attacks on and detentions of humanitarian personnel, calling for appropriate investigations into all allegations concerning such incidents.

The Canadian delegate, John von Kaufmann, said his country would agree to consensus on the resolution because of its continuing commitment to humanitarian assistance for the people of the Sudan.

However, he said, Canada continued to have misgivings about some of the language contained in the text, and its potential effect on a coordinated international effort to deliver humanitarian assistance to affected populations in Sudan, and on the pursuit of peace.

Von Kaufmann said Canada fully supported the aim of achieving a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire in Sudan, but continued to believe that the parties must work within the framework of the peace process [of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority for Development, IGAD] and adhere to and implement the Declaration of Principles.

He also expressed concern that a paragraph in the preamble to the resolution proper called for humanitarian assistance to be channelled solely through OLS.

Canada continued to support and fund "the vital work of the operation", and applauded its efforts to act with transparency, imagination, and humanity in extremely difficult circumstances, he said.

However, support must also be given to agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, which worked independently of, but in concert with, the basic spirit of OLS, he added.

Von Kaufmann also expressed disappointment that there was no mention of the challenges associated with child soldiers in the final text of the resolution, saying that Canada remained deeply concerned by the abduction, recruitment or use of child soldiers, and the humanitarian effect that armed conflict had on children in Sudan.

Stephane de Loecker of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the EU, said a recent visit by an EU delegation to Khartoum had led to open-ended and constructive dialogue, but that the EU regretted that consultation on the draft resolution with the Sudanese delegation in New York had not developed in the same positive spirit.

Some amendments, however constructive, had been rejected offhand without sufficient discussion, a UN press release quoted him as saying.

The draft resolution did not reflect the gravity of the situation in Sudan as described in the last report of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, de Loecker said.

Indeed, the humanitarian situation had deteriorated during the period covered by the report, he added. Despite its concern about inadequacies in the draft resolution, the EU joined in with the consensus, and the Assembly adopted the resolution without a vote.

The Tanzanian-proposed resolution welcomed the recent decision of the government of Sudan to provide humanitarian access to the Nuba [Nubah] Mountains in Southern Kordofan, south-central Sudan, and called on all parties to cooperate with the UN in meeting the needs assessed there.

It also called on UN agencies, NGOs and donor countries "to continue contributing and channelling their humanitarian assistance to all affected populations in the Sudan through OLS".

In adopting the resolution, the Assembly urged all parties to the conflict to desist from using land mines, and urged the international community to refrain from supplying mines to the region.

It also noted that, despite contributions to the inter-agency appeal for OLS, "considerable relief needs remain to be addressed", including assistance to combat diseases such as malaria, and assistance for logistics, emergency, recovery, rehabilitation and development.

The resolution regretted the war's negative impact on the humanitarian situation in Sudan and reaffirmed the need for all parties to facilitate the work of aid agencies delivering emergency assistance - "in particular the supply of food, medicine, shelter and health care, and to ensure safe and unhindered access to all affected populations".

It called on all the warring parties to agree to a comprehensive and permanent humanitarian cease-fire to assure the delivery of relief assistance, and emphasised the need for cooperation from all sides to facilitate and improve the delivery of relief supplies.