SPLM-United / Operation Lifeline Sudan Agreement on Ground Rules

This agreement is intended to lay out the basic principles upon which Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) works and to lay out the rules and regulations resulting from such principles. It seeks to define the minimum acceptable standards of conduct for the activities of OLS agencies and the Fashoda Relief and Rehabilitation Association (FRRA), as the official counterpart in areas controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-United (SPLM-United).

We, the undersigned, enter into this agreement in a spirit of good faith and mutual cooperation in order to improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance to and protection of civilians in need.

In signing this agreement, we express our support for the following international humanitarian conventions and their principles, namely:

i. Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989

ii. Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1977 Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions

A. Statement of humanitarian principles

1. The fundamental objective of OLS and FRRA is the provision of humanitarian assistance to populations in need wherever they may be. Such humanitarian assistance seeks to save life, to ease suffering, to promote self-reliance, self-sufficiency and the maintenance of livelihoods. The right to receive humanitarian assistance and to offer it is a fundamental humanitarian principle.

2. The guiding principle of OLS and FRRA is that of humanitarian neutrality - an independent status for humanitarian work beyond political or military considerations. In other words:

i. Humanitarian aid must be given according to considerations of human need alone. Its granting, or its acceptance must not be made dependent on political factors or upon race, religion, ethnicity or nationality. It must not seek to advance any political agenda. Where humanitarian assistance is inadequate to meet the needs of all, priority must be given to the most vulnerable.

ii. The passage of humanitarian assistance to populations in need should not be denied even if this requires that aid passes through an area controlled by one party in order to reach the needy in another area, provided that such passage is not used for military advantage.

iii. Relief assistance is provided solely on the basis of need; those providing assistance do not affiliate themselves to any side in the ongoing conflict.

iv. The only constraints on responding to humanitarian need should be those of resources and practicality.

3. All humanitarian assistance provided is for the use of identified civilian beneficiaries. Priority must at all time be given to women and children and other vulnerable groups such as the elderly, disabled and displaced people.

4. Those carrying out relief activities under the auspices of OLS must be accountable to the beneficiaries and their representative structures in first place, and to those who fund the activities. This places the following obligations on the various parties:

i. those rendering humanitarian aid have a duty to ensure its appropriate end use. This includes a right to monitor and participate in the distribution of humanitarian aid on the ground in partnership with FRRA.

ii. local authorities, through the FRRA, must ensure that aid is distributed fairly to civilian beneficiaries. Diversion of aid from intended beneficiaries is regarded as a breach of humanitarian principles.

iii. decision-making on the selection of beneficiaries and the monitoring of the use of inputs and resources must be, and be seen to be, transparent and responsive to broad based decision-making at the level of affected communities. Local authorities and relief agencies should involve local representatives of communities in the processes of targeting and monitoring of aid. Where possible, this should be done through the Joint Relief and Rehabilitation Committees which include elected community representatives.

5. OLS is based on the complete transparency of all its activities. This means that local authorities have the right to expect that OLS agencies provide full information regarding the resources to be provided. In return, it is expected that local authorities will report honestly and fairly in all their dealings with OLS with respect to needs identified, populations in need, use of resources, etc.

6. All humanitarian actions should be tailored to local circumstances and aim to enhance, not supplant, locally available resources and mechanisms. Strengthening local capacity to prevent future crises and emergencies and to promote greater involvement of Sudanese institutions and individuals in all humanitarian actions is an integral part of OLS's humanitarian mandate.

7. The fundamental human right of all persons to live in safety and dignity must be affirmed and supported through appropriate measures of protection as well as relief. All those involved in OLS must respect and uphold international humanitarian law and fundamental human rights.

8. Bona fide staff members of OLS agencies and others living, working or travelling in Sudan under the auspices of OLS have the right to go about their business freely and without restraint provided that they adhere to these ground rules and to local laws and customs. In all their dealings, relief workers and local authorities must demonstrate mutual respect.

B. Mutual obligations

1. All externally supported programmes and projects in SPLM-United administered areas, must be approved by FRRA (both locally and at FRRA head office) prior to their implementation. NGOs or UN agencies are responsible for ensuring that such approval is obtained in writing. Project implementation should be based upon a letter of understanding between the agency, FRRA and OLS which defines roles, responsibilities and commitments of all sides plus procedures for resolving differences and grievances.

2. All UN/NGO workers are expected to act in accordance with the humanitarian principles previously defined: provision of aid according to need; neutrality, impartiality, accountability and transparency. This includes non-involvement in political/military activity. NGOs and UN agencies must not act or divulge information in a manner that will jeopardise the security of the area.

3. All UN/NGO workers must show respect for cultural sensitivities and for local laws and customs. Relief agencies must ensure that their staff are familiar with these laws and customs.

4. UN agencies and NGOs shall strive to offer the highest possible standards of service to their beneficiaries. This means that all agencies commit themselves to recruiting only those staff judged to have adequate technical and personal skills and experience required for their work.

5. UN agencies and NGOs must ensure that all their staff living, working or visiting Sudan are bearers of valid entry passes from SPLM-United.

6. FRRA must commit itself to the humanitarian principles defined above and not allow itself to be motivated by political, military or strategic interests. It should seek to provide an efficient and effective coordinated information and planning service for relief and rehabilitation activities.

7. The SPLM-United recognizes and respects the humanitarian and impartial nature of UN agencies and those NGOs who have signed a letter of understanding with UNICEF/OLS and FRRA.

8. The FRRA should facilitate the flow of relief goods and services and provide accurate and timely information regarding the needs and the situation of civilians in their areas.

9. Local authorities assume full responsibility, through the FRRA for the safety and Protection of relief workers in areas under their control.

This responsibility includes:

i. Providing an immediate alert to relief workers in potentially insecure areas;

ii. facilitation of safe relocation when necessary;

iii. protection from any form of threat harassment or hostility from any source;

Relief staff or agencies are not expected to pay for such protection either of themselves or of their property.

10. UN/NGO compounds should be respected as property of these institutions. Those living in these compounds have the right to privacy and compounds should only be entered with the permission of their residents. No military or political activity should take place in these compounds and no personnel bearing arms may enter them except when the safety of their residents is threatened.

C. Use of relief property and supplies

1. i. All UN/NGO property, including vehicles and property hired by UN/NGOs, is to be controlled and moved at the discretion of UN/NGOs or their agencies, unless such property is formally donated to another party.

Project agreements between NGOs, FRRA and UN/OLS should clearly define which assets will remain the property of the agency concerned and which are project assets which must remain in Sudan even when the agency concerned leaves temporarily or permanently.

ii. Those assets defined as agency assets remain the effective property of the agency at all times and may be removed whenever a project terminates or an agency withdraws from a location for whatever reason.

iii. Project assets are those which are for direct use by project beneficiaries or are integral to the running and sustainability of the project. These goods remain the property of UN/NGO until formally handed over to the FRRA or local communities and their leaders. Decisions regarding the distribution and use of such items should be made, whenever possible, jointly between NGOs and local authorities, under the auspices of the Joint Relief and Rehabilitation Committee following the humanitarian principles stated above.

2. UN and NGO flags are for exclusive use by these agencies.

3. UN and NGO staff will be allowed unrestricted access to their communication equipment and to exercise normal property rights. Except for emergencies, all messages should be written and recorded. Use of UN/NGO radios or other communication equipment will be limited to information on relief activities only. All messages will be in the English language. Operation shall be by a locally designated radio operator seconded and selected jointly by the local authorities and relief agencies. Whenever necessary, UN/NGO personnel will be allowed to transmit their own messages.

4. No armed or uniformed personnel is allowed to travel on UN/NGO vehicles: planes, boats or cars. This includes those vehicles contracted by UN/NGOs.

D. Employment of staff

1. All UN agencies and NGO have the right to hire their own staff as direct employees. These agencies should be encouraged to employ appropriately qualified and experienced Sudanese as part of a capacity building strategy.

2. In the cases of Sudanese staff seconded to an NGO supported project (e.g. health staff), appointments and dismissals are made by the local authority in consultation with the agency which is expected to support payment of that workers incentives. The number of workers to be supported must be agreed jointly. An NGO or a UN agency may ask the local authorities to withdraw seconded staff considered incompetent, dishonest or otherwise unsuitable for their jobs.

3. Local authorities should ensure that the Sudanese staff of UN/NGOs and, especially, those staff who receive special training programmes to upgrade and improve their skills are exempted, whenever possible, from military or other service so that they can contribute to the welfare of the civilian population.

E. Rents, taxes, licences, protection money

1. No UN/NGO should be expected to pay rent for buildings or areas which are part of their work, for example, offices or stores when they have built these buildings themselves or where they are donated by the local authority.

2. In the case of public buildings which are being rented by an NGO as living accommodation, a reasonable rent may be paid by the NGO/UN agency to the civil administration. Genuine efforts should be made to make moves towards standardization of these rents.

3. All OLS agencies shall be exempt from customs duties for supplies (including personal supplies) and equipment brought into Sudan. Any taxes to be paid will be agreed between the agency concerned and the local authority as part of the project agreement.

F. Implementation of this agreement

1. All signatories to this agreement must accept responsibility for ensuring that it is disseminated to all their officials and staff working in Sudan. It should also be publicised in public places in Sudan to ensure that local communities and beneficiaries understand its principles and rules.

2. UNICEF/OLS, together with the FRRA will be responsible for ensuring the holding of workshops and meetings in all key locations in which the principles and rules of this agreement are explained and discussed with all relevant personnel.

3. The FRRA is fully responsible for ensuring compliance with this agreement by the local authorities and communities.

4. Joint Relief and Rehabilitation Committees established in all relief centres and involving all relevant actors should meet together on a regular basis to plan, implement and monitor the delivery of humanitarian assistance. These committees will be regarded as the custodians of the principles of this agreement at local level and responsible for ensuring that the rules are upheld and respected by all sides.

G. Mechanisms for resolving alleged violations of ground rules

1. In cases where allegations of non-compliance with this agreement are made, all parties commit themselves to resolving differences as speedily as possible in an attitude of good faith.

2. Where alleged violations of ground rules have occurred, the allegation should be documented in writing by the complainant.

3. The issue should then be taken to the local Joint Relief and Rehabilitation Committee where this exists.

4. If unresolved, it should then be discussed at local level with meetings between the area secretary of the FRRA, the civil administrator and the local head of the UN/NGO, together with the UNICEF/OLS Resident Project Officer, where appropriate.

5. If the issue remains unresolved at local level, it should be referred to central authorities in writing to be dealt with by the senior officials of the agencies concerned, i.e. the FRRA head office, the head of the NGO and, if appropriate, the UNICEF/OLS coordinator.


Dr. Lam Akol, Chairman and Commander in Chief SPLM-United, and Pierce Gerety, OLS Coordinator and UNICEF Chief of Operations