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Sudan: humanitarian organisations compromising at a cost

Written by Irina Mosel

Press Release


Latest research into the perils of delivering humanitarian aid in Sudan – a country marked by multiple ongoing conflicts – reveals the human compromises humanitarian agencies are forced to make to maintain a presence in the country.

Some people in need of humanitarian assistance have been neglected for fear of jeopardising humanitarian efforts in the rest of the country, claims research that interviews armed rebel groups, government officials, aid agencies and diplomats.

Caught in a political minefield between the demands of rebel groups and the Government of Sudan, humanitarian organisations are not able to reach people in rebel-held areas of Darfur and Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where nearly one million civilians are estimated to be in need of assistance.

We’re now seeing the least amount of access to rebel-held territory in Darfur since 2004, and virtually no communication with rebel movements,” said Jonathan Loeb, author of the study on negotiations in Darfur.

“Rebel groups and the Government of Sudan are ultimately at fault for the disappearance of aid in rebel-held areas, but humanitarian agenciesare also failing to provide assistance to all vulnerable populations, not just those under government control”, added Jonathan Loeb.

In Sudan, war continues in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile after several failed attempts at peace, with the presence of multiple warring parties – including armed rebel groups and state armies – making access to populations in need a huge challenge for humanitarian agencies.

The challenge for many agencies is negotiating and engaging consistently with both sides, and not being seen to be aligned with one over the other – a very difficult task in this politically-charged and volatile environment. But that cannot be an excuse for inaction”, said Irina Mosel, co-author of the research on negotiations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, noting alternative approaches such as working with civil society, community based organisations and African and Arab NGOs and churches.

Two new reports published by the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) will be launched on 10 October 2013, 14:00-15:30 at ODI in London and streamed online.

The event will examine the role humanitarian negotiations with state and non-state armed groups have played in facilitating humanitarian access to people in need, with speakers drawing from interviews with armed groups, including rebel movements such as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A).

To register, please visit the event webpage.

1.       “Talking to the other side: Humanitarian negotiations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, Sudan” is authored by Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson, researchers at the Humanitarian Policy Group in ODI

2.       “Talking to the other side: Humanitarian engagement with armed non-state actors in Darfur, Sudan, 2003-2012” is authored by Jonathan Loeb, an independent consultant

The reports are part of a larger body of work entitled “Humanitarian negotiations with armed non-state actors”.