What's In Blue

Sudan Sanctions: Vote on Draft Resolution*

Tomorrow (15 February), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 12 March 2023. The US, the penholder on Sudan sanctions, circulated an initial draft to the Council on 28 January and convened two rounds of formal negotiations on 1 and 8 February. Following additional bilateral negotiations with some members, a draft was placed under silence on 9 February until the next day (10 February). Silence was subsequently broken by China and Russia. A revised draft passed silence and is now in blue.


The Security Council last renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts through resolution 2562 of 11 February 2021. As in previous years, the resolution expressed the Council’s intention to “take appropriate action regarding the further extension of the mandate” by 12 February. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to produce a report by the end of July 2021 with recommendations for clear and well-identified key benchmarks that could guide the Council in reviewing the sanctions measures on Darfur. It expressed the Council’s intention to establish those benchmarks by 15 September 2021. On 31 July 2021, Council members received the Secretary-General’s report recommending 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 US circulated a draft presidential statement in September 2021 which 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 apparently expressed the view that the benchmarks adopted by the Council should be limited to those focusing only on the situation in Darfur, whereas according to these members some of those contained in the Secretary-General’s report went beyond this scope. Members were therefore unable to agree on the proposed draft text, and a presidential statement was ultimately not adopted.

Panel of Experts Report

On 23 December 2021, the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee submitted its final report, which covers its findings and investigations since March 2021, as requested in resolution 2562. The report states that “the general situation in Darfur remained extremely fragile” during the reporting period and that many areas “witnessed large-scale intercommunal violence and deterioration in the security situation, described by many interlocutors as the worst in recent years”. The violence included incidents of sexual assault and rape of women and girls.

Implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) has been slow in relation to provisions on security arrangements and minimal on provisions relating to internally displaced persons (IDPs); refugees; nomads and herders; land; and justice and accountability. According to the report, the unstable political situation and economic issues negatively affected the implementation of the Darfur-related provisions of the JPA and the Sudanese government “could not allocate substantial resources and attention to Darfur”. The fact that expected donor funding did not materialise has threatened the overall implementation of the JPA and the peace process, the report said. The Panel of Experts found that violations of the arms embargo continued with arms being transferred into Darfur, without any requests for exemptions being submitted. In addition, implementation of the travel ban and asset freeze remained challenging due to a lack of cooperation by the government and regional countries.

Draft Resolution

Negotiations on the draft resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts were difficult and took place in the context of an ongoing political crisis in Sudan following the military coup d’état of 25 October 2021. On 8 January, the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) announced the launch of a “UN-facilitated intra-Sudanese political process which is aimed at supporting Sudanese stakeholders in agreeing on a way out of the current political crisis”. These consultations are currently ongoing. (For more, see the Sudan brief in our February Forecast.)

It seems that one of the most difficult aspects of the negotiations pertained to the issue of benchmarks, particularly the timeline for their consideration and which benchmarks to endorse. The initial draft circulated by the US renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts for one year and expressed the intention to consider endorsing benchmarks in the future, without indicating a specific date. As they did in the negotiations in September 2021 on the draft presidential statement, which was ultimately not adopted, several members—including China, Russia, and the African members—expressed the view that the Council should only endorse the benchmarks relating to Darfur in the Secretary-General’s 31 July 2021 report (benchmarks two and three), while arguing against endorsing the other two benchmarks in the report, claiming that they go beyond the situation in Darfur. Other members expressed the position that all four benchmarks are relevant but maintained that this is not the right time to consider endorsing any benchmarks, given the ongoing political crisis.

Following disagreement on this issue, China, India, Russia, the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya), and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) apparently proposed that the draft refer to 31 March as the deadline for the Council to consider establishing benchmarks. However, it seems that members such as the UK (the penholder on Sudan), the US and some European members argued that this would be too soon and proposed instead a deadline for later this year, preferably after the issuance of the interim report of the Panel of Experts, which is due by 15 August. In an apparent compromise, the draft in blue sets a 31 August deadline for the Council to consider establishing benchmarks.

During the negotiations, there were clear divergences on how to characterise the situation in Sudan and Darfur as well as on what language was deemed appropriate to be included in a resolution renewing a sanctions regime. Some members, such as the UK, the US and European members apparently expressed concern over the levels of intercommunal violence, displacement and criminality in Darfur as well as looting and attacks against UN facilities, equipment and supplies that took place in Darfur during December 2021 by unknown armed groups. These members also wanted the text to reflect that the political situation in Sudan since the coup has impacted the situation in Darfur negatively, including by increasing tensions and delaying the implementation of the JPA. It seems that such references were opposed by several members, including China and Russia, and were not retained in the draft text in blue.

It appears that strong views were expressed on certain new preambular paragraphs proposed by the penholder in the initial draft it had circulated. For example, some members apparently opposed the inclusion of language on UNITAMS, arguing, among other things, that it would not be appropriate for a resolution renewing a sanctions regime under Chapter VII to refer to a Chapter VI political mission. However, it seems that the draft first placed under silence retained the reference to UNITAMS. After silence was broken by China and Russia, the A3 followed by the UAE apparently shared the same concern regarding the reference to UNITAMS. Ultimately, the reference to UNITAMS was not retained in the draft resolution in blue.

*Post-script: On 15 February, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2620, extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 12 March 2023. The resolution expressed the Council’s intention to consider by 31 August establishing clear, well-identified and realistic key benchmarks.

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