April 15, 2013

Is Darfur Old News For International Community?

Tens of delegates gathered in Doha on last Sunday to seek financial aid to Sudan’s ravaged region, Darfur. The Strategy presented in the Conference claimed that the region needs 4.6 billion USD from international donors to realize meaningful progress on development efforts for the next 5 years. Dissappointingly, pledges made by donors remained limited to some 1 billion USD. So what does this mean for Darfur and Sudan as a whole?

Serious men in suits sit in the lobby of Ritz Carlton Doha, enjoying the luxury and hospitality of Qatari Government when a government official in his dishash polietly informs them that the meeting is about the start.

The deputy prime minister of Qatar, his counterpart from Turkey, head of Darfur Regional Authority, representatives from UN, Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation were there to endorse their support to Darfur Peace Process and its development. Following political statements, UN and World Bank elaborates the new Strategy (Darfur Development Strategy-DDS) for development in Darfur (to be specific, transformation from humanitarian aid to reconstruction and development) and what and how much is needed to reach 26 development objectives for the next 5 years. 

The Strategy is basically built upon three pillars; governance, reconstruction and economic recovery, each of which has several priorities (from rural electrification to employment and land ownership) along with the financial resources they need. In addition to long run development targets,the DDS also envisions some short-term activities (Foundational and Short Term Activities- FaST) which, they claim, should be implemented in a year or so. The team prepared the Strategy (Darfur Joint Assessment Mission-DJAM) also formulated couple of options for financing and underlined that waiting for the right time to assist would endanger the progress so far, since the right time may never come.

The money in question is 7.2 Billion USD. The Sudanese Government (central) was claimed to be committed 2.6 Billion USD to the Strategy (although it is later revealed in the conference that it has not been given a cent yet). The rest of it (4.6 Billion USD) was requested from international donor community.

The mood was somehow positive until Canada intervened to senselessly criticize central Sudanese Government on transport restrictons to Darfur, its reluctancy to comply with peace agreement and lack of concrete project proposals by them. A few speakers later, Netherlands supported Canada and cited that they needed Sudanese Government to live up to their promises so as for them to support the Strategy both politically and financially. Despite, other participant countries’ “political” support to the DDS, the financial contribution remain modest. 500 Million USD of total 1 Billion USD commitment was pledged by Qatar and some 100-150 Million USD from other donor countries. What’s worse, the rest (350-400 Million USD) was committed by NGOs which basically engage in humanitarian aid. So much for transformation from humanitarian aid to development.

This has to be embarrasing particularly for countries praising themselves thanks to pumped up aid statistics. Moreover, this blog does not comprehend the point behind punishing Darfuris over central government’s malicious intentions. We would like to remind our readers that Darfuri rebel groups and central government have been practically enemies for the last decade. The enmity is so profound that accusations towards both sides were peaked in the last 5 years. The International Criminal Court has even issued a warrant for Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. So it’s like punishing United States over North Korea’s missile launches.

Although we acknowledge that Darfur is not the only region in the world where tragedies take place, it still important to emphasize donors’ hypocrisy through this specific example. The predicament of the region and genocide allegations have been raising awareness for a long time. Atrocities and the plight in Darfur have been so tragic that even some hollywood actors get involved. So if Darfuris do not receive financial aid, then who does? Darfur is becoming more and more a discouraging example for oppressed people and an inspiring one for tyrants.

Articlespolitics believes that this conference was merely a placation of conscience, instead of a sincere effort to assist actual development efforts in Darfur. It also showed everyone that Darfur and Sudan in general is not a “hot topic” for the international community any more. One can’t help but wonder if this has anything to do with South Sudan’s secession with its huge natural resources.

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