What's In Blue

Posted Tue 9 Feb 2016

Council to Vote on Sudan Sanctions Draft Resolution

Tomorrow (10 February), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution renewing the Panel of Experts of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 12 March 2017. The draft in blue expresses the Council’s intention to take appropriate action regarding further extension of the mandate of the Panel of Experts by 13 February 2017. It further requests that the Panel provide a mid-term update to the Sanctions Committee no later than 12 August 2016 and that it submit a final report to the Council by 13 January 2017.

Otherwise, the text is identical to last year’s resolution on the Sudan Panel of Experts (S/RES/2200). The US, the penholder, had made an effort to incorporate new language reflecting some of the recent findings in the final report of the Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts, which had yet to be made public at press time. However, some Council members found the new language controversial when the initial draft was circulated in late January. Following two rounds of negotiations among Council members, and a series of bilateral exchanges between the penholder and some members that resulted in revised language, Council members still remained divided. As a result, the penholder decided to revert to the language of last year’s resolution and put the fifth version of the draft into blue yesterday evening (8 February).

The main sticking point related to language regarding the gold trade in Darfur. Early versions of the draft resolution emphasised that profits from the illicit trade in gold and other natural resources in Darfur may constitute a threat to stability in Darfur and the region. This language appeared to be largely based on the content of the Sudan Panel of Experts’ final report that recommended designating for sanctions those individuals and entities who threaten the peace and stability in Darfur through illegal levies on prospectors, and others engaged in artisanal gold mining and the illegal exploitation and trafficking of natural resources, including gold.

The language linking the gold trade to instability in Darfur caused deep divisions among members. The US, the UK and others believe that the illicit trade in gold is a driver of conflict in Darfur. However, China, Russia and some elected members opposed the new references. They do not agree that the illicit gold trade is a significant factor in fueling the conflict, and they appeared to be worried that linking it to instability in Darfur and the region could open the door to additional targeted sanctions, which they believe would be counterproductive. As a compromise, the penholder proposed more concise language in which the Council would have merely expressed concern at the findings of the Panel of Experts regarding armed groups’ control of artisanal gold mines in Darfur. This would have avoided directly stating that the illicit trade in gold, as well as other natural resources, is a threat to stability in Darfur and the region, which is a listing criterion for targeted sanctions in Darfur. However, this more concise formulation was also unsatisfactory to some members, with Russia apparently maintaining that “expressing concern” at the Panel’s findings on gold smuggling would validate these findings, findings that some Council members refuted.

By reverting to agreed language from last year’s resolution, this year’s resolution does not reflect efforts to incorporate recent developments. For example, members had negotiated new text referring to the cessation of hostilities unilaterally declared by the government of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella group of rebel movements. Russia maintained that this was problematic, given that the Sudan Liberation Army – Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW), a member of the SRF, continued to engage in fighting with government forces. Russia proposed that the text be changed to welcome the declaration of the cessation of hostilities by some elements of the SRF. As a result, the penultimate version of the draft referenced by name members of the SRF in Darfur (i.e. the Justice and Equality Movement and the SLA-Minni Minawi), other than the SLA-AW, in relation to the cessation of hostilities. However, this reference has been excluded from the final version in blue, as has been updated language on the security situation that required compromises, given the reversion to agreed language from last year.

Council dynamics on Darfur continue to be difficult. The tensions among Council members negotiating this draft resolution were similar to those experienced during negotiations on a draft press statement circulated by the UK, following Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous’s 25 January briefing to the Council. It appears that the intention of that draft was to express concern at the upsurge in fighting in the Jebel Marra area and to welcome efforts to promote a political settlement in Darfur. However, different views on how to apportion responsibility for the security situation in Darfur and how to reference the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, among other issues, have prevented Council members from reaching consensus on the draft, and thus have prevented that press statement from being issued.

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