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Statement by the High Commissioner on Sudan, Paris

Speeches and statements

Statement by the High Commissioner on Sudan, Paris

15 April 2024
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The war in Sudan has caused one of the largest humanitarian and displacement crises in the world. Yet, it remains tragically invisible.

M le Ministre,
Madam Minister,

Thank you for convening this meeting.

One year ago, war broke out, devastating lives and infrastructure. Nearly nine million people have been uprooted by violence, by the utter disrespect for international humanitarian law, by the devastating pursuit of a military solution by the parties.

From where I stand, the UNHCR perspective, let me assure you of one thing — if there is no ceasefire; if there are no serious attempts at peace by the parties and their supporters; no significant funding for the response; no improvement on safe humanitarian access including across borders and frontlines, no matter how persistent and courageous the work of humanitarian agencies will continue to be, the huge number of those in need of aid will increase, and those displaced inside Sudan will be tomorrow’s refugees.

They will join the almost two million people who have fled, and continue to flee, to neighbouring nations. These countries have opened their borders, but they are struggling with numbers, logistics, security threats, poor host communities; and at the same time have to face their own challenges; and they do so almost alone, with little international help.

The generosity of Sudan’s neighbours must not be taken for granted. But international commitments, we have heard it many times, are falling short.

Please do not say that there are competing priorities. We know that. But it must not be an excuse.

This neglect, by the way, is short-sighted. It compounds the suffering of people already affected by the disregard of the parties for their own citizens – traumatized by bombs, rape, hunger and lack of services. And while funding will not stop all from moving onward — only peace will — it will certainly help. In the past year we have seen a 500 per cent increase in the number of Sudanese arriving in Europe. And this may be just the start.

Permit me to conclude with one personal remark.

Sudan is where I started my UN career 36 years ago. I lived there as a young man, amidst ordinary people, learning to appreciate their decency, hospitality and moderation.

This war is breaking also the very urban middle class that has held Sudan together for decades in spite of political turmoil and bad governance. I have experienced it very vividly during my visit in February.

Let me echo what Shaheen said very eloquently earlier: If this middle class and civil society are destroyed and displaced, what will be left of the country? Who will rebuild it?

Peace has to prevail before it is too late. Some of you have influence on one or the other party: use it not to protract the war, but to end it. Please, all of you, do everything in your power to make that happen.

Thank you.