UNGA offers chance for world to tackle the Sudan conflict
The UN General Assembly is a critical platform that can rally global multilateral cooperation and support in order to discuss and agree on collective measures when it comes to addressing and resolving major issues.
One of the top priorities of world leaders gathered at the 78th session of the UNGA this week ought to be bringing an end to the conflict in Sudan and tackling the dire humanitarian situation there.
In order to end the war in Sudan, a united and multilateral approach is needed. The international community must do more to help and protect the Sudanese people. Action needs to be taken immediately because the alternatives are much more catastrophic.
In particular, global leaders must draw attention to the humanitarian situation in Sudan. It has been more than five months since the conflict between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces militia broke out and it continues to rage without any resolution in sight. Some 25 million people in Sudan are now in need of humanitarian assistance; that is more than half of the country.
In addition, the conflict has led to large-scale displacements, sexual violence and families being separated or even shot while attempting to flee the war. Homes have also been looted and doctors are experiencing significant difficulties in terms of treating patients, as they lack medical equipment, supplies, water and electricity. The brutal war has significantly damaged the healthcare system in Sudan.
The situation could get much worse if governments do not come together and act immediately
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Thousands of people have been killed and many others have been forced to flee their homes in order to find safety and shelter, either in other parts of Sudan or in neighboring countries. In addition, it is worth noting that, unfortunately, this is a chaos-stricken nation that was already suffering from a stagnated economy and poverty even before the conflict erupted in April.
But the situation could get much worse if governments do not come together and act immediately. First of all, the conflict runs the risk of spiraling out of control and spilling over to neighboring countries. This could have severe repercussions for the entire Horn of Africa region.
Secondly, the war could lead to the total disintegration and collapse of the state in Sudan. This would not only be a significant threat to the Sudanese people, but also to other countries, as well as regional and global security and stability.
Thirdly, the continuation of the violence in Sudan could provide a ripe environment for terror groups to emerge, mobilize, recruit new members, grow and gain power. Sudan, in particular, is in a very vulnerable position when it comes to civil wars and being exploited by terror groups due to the country’s socioeconomic status, its lack of a powerful security apparatus, its widespread poverty and its location and geography.
The worsening violence in Sudan could “foreshadow a civil war alongside a humanitarian situation that will, in turn, dramatically deteriorate the possibility of needed and urgent action,” senior officials warned the UN Security Council last week. The UN added that speakers at the UNSC “spotlighted the importance of regional engagement, dialogue and humanitarian relief to ameliorating the suffering of the Sudanese people.”
Fourthly, it is important to point out that the war has already created a large number of refugees, which will have a massive impact on many countries in the region and beyond. Unfortunately, the countries receiving the Sudanese refugees are generally not fully prepared for such an influx and are already struggling with their own socioeconomic challenges.
The countries receiving the Sudanese refugees are generally not fully prepared for such an influx
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
As a result, governments must come together and act on several fronts. The international community must open corridors to permit humanitarian aid and medical assistance to enter the areas that are impacted and to allow for the evacuation of civilians from the conflict zone. Another immediate action should be to provide financial and logistical assistance to the countries that have taken in refugees but are lacking resources. This would allow them to provide the required social services to those who have fled Sudan.
A ceasefire monitoring mechanism should be set up in order to protect civilians. There is already an effective initiative that the international community can support on this front. This initiative, which was launched in response to the humanitarian disaster in Sudan, is the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan.
Saudi Arabia has been playing a key role as mediator. Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan pointed out that protecting civilians was a first step and “other steps will follow … The most important thing is to adhere to what was agreed upon, and the Kingdom will work until security and stability return to Sudan and its brotherly people.”
The significance of supporting and implementing this initiative is that it is anchored in international human rights law, which focuses on making a distinction between civilians and combatants, ensuring the safe passage of civilians, protecting medical personnel, allowing humanitarian relief to reach the population, and preventing the recruitment of children as soldiers in the war.
Finally, in cooperation with African nations, governments around the world must continue employing diplomacy and dialogue in order to reach a resolution between the warring factions in Sudan.
In a nutshell, governments at the UNGA ought to come together to protect the Sudanese people and put an end to conflict before it is too late.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. X: @Dr_Rafizadeh