DFID response to the report of the International Development Committee of 30 Mar 2005

News and Press Release
Originally published


Presented to Parliament by
The Secretary of State for International Development
by Command of Her Majesty
7 June 2005

Darfur, Sudan: The responsibility to protect
Conclusions and Recommendations


Darfur mortality estimates

1. The only violent deaths which the WHO’s estimate includes are those which took place in the camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Of those attacked in their villages, only those who made it to the camps before dying would be included in the WHO’s estimate. With the exception of these cases, the WHO’s estimate does not include deaths due to the violence from which people have fled. In addition, the WHO estimate covers only the period from March to mid-October 2004, and only takes account of deaths in accessible areas within the borders of Darfur. Cited without clear explanation of its limitations, the WHO’s estimate is extremely misleading. (Paragraph 4).

Estimates of deaths in Darfur vary from 70,000 to 300,000 and above. Accurate figures are not available. We recognise the limitations of both the WHO’s survey and other studies and agree that more accurate data is needed. The UK is funding a second WHO crude mortality survey and we expect the preliminary results in mid-June. This will only give a snapshot of the situation; we have to accept that we are unlikely ever to get a full picture of deaths from this conflict.

2. Political pressure must be exerted on the Government of the Sudan to enable the WHO or a different competent organisation to conduct further assessments of mortality resulting from the crisis in Darfur. And, in a situation where statistics are deflated, inflated and used by all sides as political weapons, the WHO must ensure that its statistics are not open to misinterpretation and abuse. The WHO’s press release of 14 October 2004, conflating two types of violence, demonstrated at best extreme naivety if not gross incompetence. (Paragraph 5).

WHO plan to conduct the new survey in May and preliminary results are expected by mid-June. The study will be a six-month retrospective survey looking at three categories of population: Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) present in the camps; IDPs living in settlements, rather than organised camps; and affected resident communities. This will allow data to be included from those outside camps as well as those within. The survey will be coordinated by OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and is designed to be comparable with the previous exercise. We agree that it is very important the statistics are presented in such a way that they are not open to misinterpretation, and will be working with WHO to ensure this.

3. Sovereignty entails responsibilities as well as rights. States have the primary responsibility for their citizens, but in circumstances where states commit crimes against humanity and war crimes against their own citizens, the international community has an obligation and a duty to those citizens a “responsibility to protect.” Sovereignty does not give states the right to commit gross human rights violations and war crimes against their citizens. (Paragraph 10)

We agree that states have the primary responsibility for their citizens and in situations where governments are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens from genocide and crimes against humanity, the international community has a responsibility to act. This is a UK priority, and we strongly support the proposal of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that UN member states acknowledge this responsibility at the September Millennium Review Summit. Our recognition of this responsibility is why we have been and continue to be working within the UN for coordinated pressure on the Government of Sudan; but at the same time giving practical support to the African Union in their work on the ground.

Meeting humanitarian needs?
Early warnings, donor response and the role of the media

4. The international community chose to ignore the early warnings of NGOs and senior UN officials. Other factors poor access, continuing insecurity, a flawed humanitarian system, and an unfavourable political context played a part too, but by ignoring the warnings, the international community helped to ensure that the initial humanitarian response to Darfur was, as Medecins Sans Frontieres put it, “a staggering failure”. (Paragraph 15)

We agree that the international community was too slow. It is important to learn lessons from Darfur to improve the response there now and to future crises. In August 2004, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, in a joint effort with agencies of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, commissioned a real-time evaluation to strengthen the humanitarian response in Darfur and future crises of a similar nature. We have looked, and will continue to look carefully at the recommendations made by the evaluation, and their implementation. The crisis and response in Darfur prompted the Secretary of State for International Development’s proposals for reform of the humanitarian system. These were launched in December 2004, and will be a key part of our Presidencies of the G8 and the EU this year.

5. The UK Government deserves credit for its speedy and generous response to the crisis in Darfur. The EC/ECHO and the USA deserve praise too. Particularly noteworthy is the EC’s early support for the AU’s work in Darfur. Other donors, including other European countries, should have done more. Arab countries have donated 2.5 percent of the total, mainly through in-kind bilateral humanitarian aid. This is disappointing. The donor response to Darfur has, after a slow start, been very good. But huge needs remain across Sudan and elsewhere. (Paragraph 16)

We welcome the IDC’s recognition of the role the UK has played in responding to the crisis. We agree that, despite the UK’s efforts to increase the international community’s response, many other donors could have done more. There are still big gaps the UN 2005 Workplan is now 40% funded, with US$617 million of the required US$1.6 billion pledged or received so far. There were some successes however, and the UK was instrumental in securing 92 million from the EU’s Peace Facility for the AU. The 11-12 April Oslo Donor’s conference for Sudan was highly successful with US$4.5 billion of new funding pledged by donors over the next 2-3 years. Although we await final result, pledges made at the Oslo Conference could raise UN 2005 Workplan funding to US$1-1.1 billion.

6. Governments and politicians must not wait to act until images of death and destruction are on the TV screens. By then it is too late. (Paragraph 18)

We agree with and welcome the Committee’s comments.

7. Governments play an active part in shaping the news agenda. The UK Government could and should have done more to try to ensure that Darfur received greater news coverage in 2003 and early 2004. We invite the Government to outline, in its response to our report, its strategy for more effective media engagement around complex emergencies such as Darfur. (Paragraph 19)

It is for news organisations to determine the priorities for news coverage, though the media played an important role in bringing the crisis in Darfur to public attention. This was reflected in the strong response to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal around ?20 million went to Darfur from the DEC.

At the onset of such emergencies, and at crisis points, there are a range of options we consider to bring the situation to the attention of the public and media, and to tell them what we are doing. These include statements to Parliament - both oral and written; press statements; and press briefings. In addition we often offer journalists places on Ministerial visits to such regions, which allows for more in-depth access and briefings than would otherwise be the case

In the case of Darfur, both the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development took journalists with them when they visited Darfur in September and June 2004. Ministers have also released press statements criticising actions of the Government of Sudan and rebel groups in Darfur. It is clear that these statements and the negative publicity associated with them have made an impact on both the rebels and Government.