Security Council Directs the Secretary-General to Present Plans for the Transition by April 24

Washington, DC – The Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of 160 faith-based, humanitarian, and human rights organizations representing over 130 million Americans, tonight praised the United Nations Security Council for passing a resolution calling on the Secretary-General to speed up the planning process for a transition from the current under-funded and under-equipped African Union peacekeeping force to a stronger UN peacekeeping force in Darfur. The resolution requests that the Secretariat formally present those plans to the Security Council by April 24, and that it include options on how the UN could provide additional assistance to the African Union force until such time as the transition can be completed.1

“This Security Council resolution represents a significant step towards the deployment of a robust UN peacekeeping force to protect civilians in Darfur,” said Brian Steidle, a former Marine captain who served as the U.S. representative to the AU peacekeeping mission from September 2004 to February 2005. “The African Union peacekeepers already in Darfur have done a great job with their very limited resources, but it is now time for a stronger UN force with a clear mandate to protect civilians.”

The UN’s action comes just a week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment by U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) to provide $50 million to immediately bolster the African Union peacekeeping mission. The amendment was in addition to the President’s initial request of $123 million for peacekeeping in Darfur (out of his total request of $514 million for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Sudan), and will go to immediately strengthen the African Union forces in Darfur with the goal of bringing those troops up to UN standards for their inclusion in the anticipated UN force. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider a similar funding amendment on April 4.

“There is an urgent need for a dramatic increase in funds in order to make the current African Union force a more effective one as soon as possible,” continued Steidle. Since February 2003, at least 300,000 people are estimated to have died in Darfur as a result of what U.S. President Bush and the U.S. Congress recognized in 2004 to be genocide, with 3.5 million dependent on foreign aid for their survival and 2 million forced by violence to live in make-shift camps. The UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has estimated that the death toll could reach as high as 100,000 per month if the security situation is allowed to completely collapse and humanitarian aid workers are forced to leave out of fear for their lives. Earlier this month, the UN’s refugee assistance agency announced that it is cutting its budget for Darfur by 44%, citing an inability to distribute aid due to security concerns.2

“The U.S., the UN, and the broader international community must make sure that genocide doesn’t get any worse than it already is,” concluded Steidle, whose current mission is a U.S. “Tour for Darfur: Eyewitness to Genocide,” to raise public awareness of the crisis in Darfur. (www.SaveDarfur.org/Steidle).

1 See UN Security Council Resolution 1663 athttp://www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions06.htm
2 “Darfur unrest prompts UN aid cut,” BBC, March 10, 2006,http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4792048.stm

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