A Big Day for Darfur

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Today, the Security Council is poised to re-authorize the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur. The Council had split over the issue of the International Criminal Court’s potential indictment of Sudanese President Bashir, a step opposed by ICC opponents — and Sudanese allies — like Russia, China, Libya, and South Africa. Interestingly, though, the U.S. — traditionally wary of the ICC, but which, along with the other 14 Council members at the time, allowed ICC jurisdiction back in March 2006 — stood with countries like Great Britain and France in pushing for the ICC’s operations in Darfur not be tied to the mandate of the peacekeeping mission there.

It appears that a compromise has been reached, and today’s report will simply make note of the African Union’s recent appeal for the Council to suspend ICC jurisdiction. This still leaves open the option of suspension — pending adequate Sudanese follow-through on its commitments — but also rightly separates the imperative of protection from the work of an independent prosecutorial body.The renewed mandate for UNAMID comes three days after a coalition of African NGOs published a report highlighting the obstacles that the force has faced since it was turned over to UN leadership in January. While this report has been cited in some media outlets as describing the “failure” of UNAMID, its more relevant takeaway is that “the international community must have the political will to make it succeed…[and] ensure that UNAMID is given the equipment and troops it needs.”

As if to underscore this point, today another report has been released, this one written by a prominent aviation expert, calling out specific countries for not offering their available helicopters to a UNAMID force that desperately needs them. The content of this report properly emphasizes the importance both of providing these helicopters and of framing the advocacy discussion in a way that identifies the specific Member States — not, say, the UN as a whole — responsible for not sufficiently working to improve UNAMID’s performance.

Without very real contributions of these helicopters and other crucial supplies, Member States remain guilty of attempting what the former African Union chief mediator in Darfur calls “peacekeeping on the cheap.” If Security Council countries are serious in their desire for UNAMID to succeed, they need not only to push for peace in Darfur — the oxygen UNAMID needs to breath — but to also give up the money and resources that will make it an effective protection force.