Vulnerabilities in Sudan: UN Sudan representative speaks in the European Parliament

Recently, Development Committee (DEVE) of the European Parliament (EP) hosted Matthew Hollingworth, acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan who discussed about the issues at stake in Sudan, and how funding for development goes hand in hand with politics.

Series of issues causing turmoil

Hollingworth described that, since the separation of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011, the country has experienced a “slow but very steady deterioration” in the economic  system. The situation further deteriorated in the last 5 years due to Sudan’s hard currency shortages, the significant inability to pay for incomes and subsidies for food commodities, and more recently, the acute fuel shortage.Climate change has caused additional trouble for the country. A result of this has been the recent doubling of the price of bread which brought turmoil to the country.

Emphasis was placed on the 1,2 million refugees in Sudan from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Chad, the 800,000 refugees who have fled South Sudan and the growing number of Syrians in the country. Now, “98-99% of these people cannot afford to cover their daily food needs, medicine, health and education”, while also the Sudanese returnees to the country are becoming entrapped in situations where they are vulnerable. Apart from the refugees, Hollingworth described that there are also local communities who are not affected by regional insecurities, but have the same inability to respond to basic livelihood needs. “Things are too expensive, but there is, in the same time, also an availability problem” said Hollingworth. Sudan’s seven neighbouring countries are also fragile and more people may be forced to migrate because of the situations there, Hollingworth described.

Political situation closely connected to lack of funding

There are currently 7.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Sudan; even though typical forms of development funding would be able to help, “credit loans are not coming and cannot come” due to a number of reasons. These are the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues with President Bashir over crimes against the humanity and two counts of war crimes for leading the Darfur conflict, the listing of Sudan “as state sponsored terrorism by the US”, the country’s $ 54 billion debt to the US and to other donors/creditors, and the fact that Sudan has yet to sign the Cotonou Agreement. Even though there has been improvement in involving the government so that they can be accountable to what they are promising to do for people in coordination with the UN, Hollingworth said, they are not seeing the same level of flexible funding that they need to make changes and enforce the humanitarian nexus.

Humanitarian money is “being stretched to contribute as much to development outcomes as they can, but they can’t replace money that should be coming for development and peace building”, Hollingworth noted. With regard to the initiated 2-year UNAMID (United Nations and African Union Joint Mission in Darfur) withdrawal process, he said that “this could not come in a worse time”, and that a substantial increase of development rescources for the UN and its partners will be required to avoid  an” inevitable relapse of conflict” in the western parts of the country might follow.

Sudan and the European Union (EU)

What the UN asked of the EU was to ensure that flexible funding can be provided and to find ways “outside the playbook”in order to ensure that Sudan does not get destabilized to a level “where there are 230.000.000 people potentially looking for security and livelihood”.

A representative from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) Directorate General of the European Commission responded that they “fully share the picture that was painted by the UN”, and noted that the fact that Sudan has not ratified the Cotonou Agreement is one of the most important factors for funding delays. He described that the EU also considers Sudan a pilot country for the humanitarian development nexus and some concrete initiatives have been developed to put that in place. However, it was noted that this is not an easy process because of “strong contextual constraints that make it difficult to come with a very ambitious funding program”. Regarding the humanitarian funding, it was described that the EC is working on a basis where there is an annual funding allocation (about €1 billion divided over the whole world). The representative noted that the ECis able “to top up this funding with funding that is mobilized by the emergency and reserves, or through the European Development Fund (EDF)”, and went on to describe that in 2017, due to the latter and to a mobilization of reserved money from the EU budget, the EC mobilized 46 million for humanitarian assistance in Sudan. “This year, we have an initial allocation of 23 million and we will have to see if it can go up to respond to the new needs. We are doing our best to respond to the needs, but let’s face it, the resources are limited”, DG ECHO representative noted.