February 2023 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action

In February, the Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, which is due to expire on 12 March. In accordance with resolution 2620 of 15 February 2022, the Council is supposed to review the Panel’s mandate and take appropriate action regarding its extension before 12 February.

The mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) expires on 3 June.

Background and Key Recent Developments

Sudan faces ongoing challenges, including those resulting from the military coup d’état of 25 October 2021. On 5 December 2022, a broad range of civilian political forces and the military signed the Sudan Political Framework Agreement, intended to pave the way for a two-year, civilian-led transition ahead of elections. The agreement did not contain specific deadlines for the transition process, however, and was opposed by several groups. Its signing was welcomed by Secretary-General António Guterres and the Friends of Sudan (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, the US, and the EU). In an 8 December 2022 press statement, Council members also welcomed the agreement.

In a Council briefing on 7 December 2022, Special Representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes described the Framework Agreement as an important breakthrough, adding that “critical contentious issues” still needed to be addressed, including matters related to security sector reform, transitional justice, and implementation of the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement.

On 8 January, the signatories to the Framework Agreement under the facilitation of the Trilateral Mechanism—the AU, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and UNITAMS—launched the final phase of talks aimed at reaching a political agreement, which at the time of writing was ongoing. The talks are expected to result in roadmaps on issues to be considered in a final political agreement.

Insecurity, including intercommunal clashes, armed conflict, and criminality persist across several areas of the country. At the end of December 2022, violence in South Darfur reportedly claimed dozens of lives and displaced hundreds. Humanitarian needs are at record levels since the military coup, with an estimated 15.8 million people—about one-third of the population—projected to need humanitarian assistance this year, according to OCHA’s Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2023. There are 3.7 million internally displaced people and 926,000 refugees in Sudan, the overview indicated.

On 15 February 2022, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2620, extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 12 March 2023. As in previous years, it expressed the intention to “take appropriate action regarding the further extension of the mandate” by 12 February. In January, the Panel of Experts submitted its final report as requested in resolution 2620. (The report was not yet publicly available at the time of writing.) The resolution also expressed the Council’s intention to consider by 31 August 2022 establishing clear, well-identified, and realistic key benchmarks in respect of the sanctions regime, as well as its readiness to consider adjusting measures to respond to the situation in Darfur given the evolving situation on the ground. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 14 February 2022.) However, the Council was not able to reach agreement on these benchmarks, see more below.

On 25 January, the Council received the semi-annual briefing of ICC Prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan on the court’s Darfur-related activities. He informed the Council that the government of Sudan is not meeting the requirements for cooperation set out in resolution 1593, including by restricting access to documentation and witnesses.

Women, Peace and Security

On 16 November 2022, the Informal Experts Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security held a meeting with the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, and the Senior Women Protection Advisers from six UN peacekeeping and special political missions, including the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS). The Senior Women Protection Adviser from UNITAMS said that conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) continued to be of grave concern in Sudan while remaining “dramatically underreported”. The UNITAMS Senior Women Protection Adviser briefed on situations of concern—such as the ongoing intercommunal violence in Darfur—and measures put in place by the Sudanese institutions and the UN system to monitor and respond to CRSV. She also recommended “the urgent establishment of protection programmes for witnesses, victims and women human rights defenders”.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The newly appointed UN expert on human rights in Sudan, Radhouane Nouicer, conducted his first official visit to Sudan from 28 January to 3 February. At the time of writing, he was expected to hold a press conference in Khartoum on 2 February. Findings from the visit will contribute to the High Commissioner’s comprehensive report on the situation in Sudan at the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council in June. (Nouicer was appointed in December 2022, replacing Adama Dieng who stepped down from the position in October 2022.)

Key Issues and Options

An immediate issue for the Council is renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts. Another issue is whether it is feasible to consider reviewing the sanctions measures on Darfur, as signalled in past resolutions that renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts. A further issue is whether agreement can be reached on establishing clear, well-identified, and measurable key benchmarks to guide the Council in reviewing the sanctions measures, an intention expressed by the Council in resolutions 2455, 2508, 2562, and 2620.

The most likely option is for the Council to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts for an additional 13 months, as is the norm.

Council members could also have a frank conversation on possible benchmarks in a closed, informal setting with representatives of the government of Sudan and UN Secretariat officials.

Council Dynamics

Council members’ divergent views over the utility of the Sudan sanctions regime have in turn affected the Council’s ability to agree on benchmarks for adjusting the regime. The decision to establish benchmarks has been contentious for some time, particularly their scope. Resolution 2562 of 11 February 2021 requested a report on the issue from the Secretary-General by 31 July 2021. The report recommended four key benchmarks and related targets, namely progress on political and economic governance issues, transitional security arrangements in Darfur, the National Plan for Civilian Protection, and transitional justice and accountability.

Resolution 2562 expressed the Council’s intention to establish benchmarks by 15 September 2021, the first time the Council had introduced a target date for its action. The US, as penholder on Sudan sanctions, circulated a draft presidential statement in September 2021 that endorsed all the key benchmarks and related targets proposed in the Secretary-General’s 31 July 2021 report. While this was acceptable to some members, other members, such as China and Russia, apparently expressed the view that the benchmarks adopted by the Council should focus only on the situation in Darfur. According to these members, some of the benchmarks contained in the Secretary-General’s report went beyond this scope. Members were, therefore, unable to agree on the proposed draft presidential statement.

Resolution 2620 expressed the Council’s intention to consider establishing benchmarks by 31 August 2022. In August 2022, the US circulated a draft resolution that expressed the Council’s readiness to review the sanctions measures in the light of progress achieved by the government of Sudan on the benchmarks and related targets as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report of 31 July 2021—that is, the four benchmarks that had been recommended, but which the Council had not yet endorsed. During negotiations, it seems members such as China, India, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and the African members asserted that the Council should only endorse those benchmarks that pertained to Darfur, and not all four benchmarks, as proposed by the penholder. Apparently, some of these members took the view that only the second benchmark, relating to transitional security arrangements in Darfur, was applicable, while others believed that the third benchmark, on the protection of civilians, was also relevant. As in September 2021, members were unable to reach agreement, and a text was not put to a vote.

The UK is the penholder on Sudan, and the US is the penholder on Sudan sanctions. Ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana) chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until December 2023.

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Security Council Resolution
15 February 2022S/RES/2620 This extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 12 March 2023, and expressed the Council’s intention to consider by 31 August establishing clear, well-identified and realistic key benchmarks.
Secretary-General’s Reports
1 December 2022S/2022/898 This was the 90-day report on UNITAMS.
31 July 2021S/2021/696 This was a review of the situation in Darfur and benchmarks to assess the measures on Darfur.
Security Council Meeting Records
7 December 2022S/PV.9211 This was a briefing on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on UNITAMS.
7 December 2022S/PV.9210 This was the quarterly briefing on the work of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.