Expected Council Action
In March, the Security Council will hold a briefing followed by consultations on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), which members were expected to receive by 28 February. The chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana), is also expected to provide the quarterly briefing to the Security Council on the committee’s work.
The mandate of UNITAMS expires on 3 June.
At the time of writing, Council members continue to discuss the possibility of renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the Sudan sanctions committee, which expires on 12 March.
Background and Key Recent Developments
On 5 December 2022, a broad grouping of Sudan’s civilian political actors and its military signed the Sudan Political Framework Agreement with the intention of paving 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 by 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.
On 8 January, the signatories to the Political Framework Agreement launched the final phase of talks aimed at reaching a “final and just” political agreement under the facilitation of the Trilateral Mechanism—the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and UNITAMS. This includes broad consultations on five issues identified in the Political Framework Agreement: dismantling the former regime, security sector reform, justice and transitional justice, implementation of the Juba Agreement, and the question of eastern Sudan. In a 30 January statement, the Trilateral Mechanism noted that the recommendations emanating from these workshops will provide substance for the next phase, including direct negotiations between the different stakeholders to produce a final agreement.
The final workshop, on the roadmap for political and security stability and sustainable development in eastern Sudan, culminated on 15 February with a series of recommendations on issues relating to government continuity and restorative justice in that region. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan and head of UNITAM Volker Perthes, in his closing remarks on behalf of the Trilateral Mechanism, noted that the workshop succeeded in bringing diverse voices from across the political, professional, ethnic, tribal, and social spectrum in eastern Sudan. He added that the workshop’s recommendations will “allow the international community to know what foreign aid is required”, and that “foreign aid will only benefit if it is in line with internal consensus and political will in [eastern Sudan] and Khartoum”.
On 13 February, the workshop to evaluate the implementation of the Jube Peace Agreement (JPA) began in Juba, hosted by the government of South Sudan. The Sudanese government delegation—headed by Yasir El-Ata, a member of the Sudanese sovereignty council, and accompanied by Yasin Ibrahim, Sudan’s minister of defence, and Suleiman El Dabello, head of Sudan’s peace commission—met South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit on 13 February. In a 16 February statement, the Trilateral Mechanism, in its capacity as the mediator of the agreement, welcomed the opening of the workshop. At the conclusion of the workshop, on 19 February, the parties to the JPA signed a two-year implementation matrix for the implementation of the JPA which, reportedly, addresses several key issues, including security arrangements for Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states along with wealth and power sharing with opposition groups in central and northern Sudan. Among others, the chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, and Egypt’s Ambassador to South Sudan Moataz Abdel-Qader, attended the signing ceremony.
The Trilateral Mechanism also organised a workshop on the “JPA and completion of peace” from 31 January to 3 February as part of the final phase of the political process launched by the signatories of the Political Framework Agreement. In his remarks at the commencement of the Trilateral Mechanism’s JPA workshop on 31 January, Perthes emphasised the urgent need for the full implementation of the provisions of the JPA. He added that the aim of the workshop was to explore and better address the drivers of conflict and the conditions that affect people in conflict areas.
On 9 February, the Trilateral Mechanism held a meeting with the civilian and military signatories of the Political Framework Agreement, along with the representatives of political parties and movements that did not sign the agreement. In a statement released following the meeting, the Mechanism urged the parties to reach an agreement as a step toward ending the political crisis and achieving greater political inclusivity.
On 9 February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with al-Burhan; his deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as General Hemeti); and the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Al-Sadiq Ali. Lavrov held a joint press conference with Al-Sadiq following the meetings, during which he expressed his support for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Sudan by the Security Council and the “Sudanese leadership’s efforts to stabilise the domestic political situation”.
On 10 February, special envoys and representatives of France, Germany, Norway, the UK, the US, and the EU concluded a two-day visit to Khartoum, during which they met with a range of Sudanese representatives, including civilian signatories to the Political Framework Agreement, members of civil society, resistance committees, JPA signatories, and the military leadership. In a statement released after the visit, the representatives urged the Sudanese parties to “expand their commitment to inclusivity and bring together women, youth and representatives from all over Sudan” to take part in the process. They noted that the establishment of a civilian-led transitional government remained the key to the resumption of international assistance and investment.
An intra Sudanese dialogue was organised in Cairo by the Egyptian government from 2 to 7 February. According to local media reports, 85 participants representing 35 political parties and groups participated in the workshop and adopted a document titled “Political Accordance Document”, purported to be the governing document for the transitional period. Reportedly, the participants reaffirmed their commitment to implement the JPA and agreed that the situation in eastern Sudan must be addressed through an agreed upon negotiating platform acceptable to the people of the east.
Sudan’s humanitarian needs are significant. An estimated 15.8 million people—about one-third of the population—are projected to need humanitarian assistance this year, according to OCHA’s Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2023. The overview said the number of food-insecure people increased by about two million compared to 2022, and there are 3.7 million internally displaced people and 926,000 refugees in Sudan.
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. In a 2 February press conference, Nouicer urged Sudanese authorities to “hold to account” officials who abused their powers and called for “a clear roadmap for security sector reform”. In his statement, Nouicer emphasised that the “immunity from prosecution of members of the security forces implicated in human rights violations must be lifted”. During his visit, Nouicer met with al-Burhan and his deputy, Dagalo.
On 6 February, the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee held informal consultations during which it received a presentation regarding the final report of its Panel of Experts, released on 7 February.
On 7 February, the Panel of Experts assisting the Sudan Sanctions Committee transmitted its final report to the Council. Among other things, it noted that the proliferation of weapons and ammunition in Darfur intensified; armed movements signatory to the JPA gave up only a limited number of small weapons while keeping the heavy ones; and violations of the arms embargo continued as the government of Sudan did not obtain the permission of the Sudan sanctions committee for the transfer of military supplies and weapons into Darfur. It added that the implementation of the travel ban and asset freeze remained a challenge because of the lack of cooperation by the government of Sudan and regional states.
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; these have recently attracted fresh scrutiny.
A further issue is whether an 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.
Council members could have a frank conversation about possible benchmarks in a closed, informal setting with representatives of the government of Sudan and UN Secretariat officials.
A related issue is monitoring the political situation in Sudan. The Council could consider holding an informal interactive dialogue (IID) with key stakeholders, including representatives of the Tripartite Mechanism. The IID is a closed format that, unlike consultations, allows for the participation of non-UN officials and briefers.
Another option is to consider a Council visiting mission to Sudan to assess the situation and engage further with the various parties. (The last Council visiting mission to Sudan was in 2011.)
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members’ divergent views over the utility of the Sudan sanctions regime have in turn affected the Council’s ability to agree on the renewal of the mandate of the Panel of Experts and benchmarks for adjusting the regime. Several Council members see benchmarks as a starting point to continue the discussions about modifying, suspending or progressively lifting the sanctions. On the other hand, some Council members, including China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and the African members, echo the concerns expressed by Sudan in a 27 January letter to the President of the Security Council, which calls for an immediate lifting of the sanctions without conditions or benchmarks.
On 3 February, Qatar wrote a letter to the Council President on behalf of the Group of Arab States calling to bring an end to the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the Sudan sanctions committee and for lifting the sanctions. The letter noted that the sanctions imposed on Sudan are not commensurate with the facts on the ground and lifting such measures would allow the Sudanese government to “rebuild the capacity of its security forces and law enforcement agencies to maintain and promote peace”. It appears that on 10 February, similar letters were also addressed to the Council by Pakistan as chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Group in New York and Egypt in its capacity as the chair of the African Group.
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.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.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|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.|
|31 July 2021S/2021/696||This was a review of the situation in Darfur and benchmarks to assess the measures on Darfur.|
|Security Council Letters|
|8 February 2023S/2023/88||This was a letter circulated by Qatar on behalf of the Group of Arab States calling for lifting the sanctions on Sudan.|
|30 January 2023S/2023/67||This was a letter by Sudan calling for an immediate lifting of the sanctions without conditions or benchmarks.|