Interview with Jan Pronk, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Sudan

The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Anniversary Edition 2006

Original article
Interview with Jan Pronk

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His Excellency Jan Pronk was appointed United Nations Special

Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in the Sudan with effect from

June 18, 2004. As head of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS),

he is responsible for coordinating all activities of the UN system in the Sudan.

UNMIS is mandated by Security Council Resolution 1590 to monitor and support

the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which

was signed by the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation

Movement/Army (SLPM/A) on January 9, 2005. UNMIS is also tasked with

providing political and logistical support to the African Union in Darfur.

Mr. Pronk has spent many years of his career in public service, both in

his native the Netherlands and as a senior UN official. Prior to his appointment

as SRSG, Mr. Pronk taught at the Institute of Social Studies in The

Hague, the Netherlands, as a Professor in Theory and Practice of International


He spoke from Khartoum to The Forum's Cornelia Schneider and Lyn

Debevoise on November 21, 2005.

FORUM: Mr. Pronk, UNMIS' mandate is mostly concerned with the implementation

of the CPA and not so much with Darfur, as many people think.

Yet UNMIS is clearly engaged in other activities such as good offices and

human rights monitoring. Are you worried that UNMIS is being spread too

thin? Is it really possible for one mission and you, one SRSG, to cover two such

enormous tasks as CPA implementation and Darfur?

PRONK: I don't think we will be spread too thin. The important issue is

that we should be able to have an integrated approach toward all the

aspects of the conflict. And the conflict is extremely complex in the Sudan.

It's economic, it's political, it's cultural, it's tribal, it's a resources conflict

with many dimensions, and you have to have a mandate of a UN peacekeeping

force. You have to be holistic.

That requires a mission that does not only consist of military

observers, but also of people who can assist and coordinate in other fields,

including economic reconstruction and development, humanitarian assistance,

and monitoring human rights violations—all aspects that may lead

to new or renewed conflict. And then

there's a territorial dimension. You

cannot have peace in the country as a

whole if there is still a war in Darfur.

Peace is indivisible. You cannot afford to

focus on only a part of the problem.

That is why being engaged in Darfur

politically, humanitarian-wise, and perhaps

at certain moments also in terms of peacekeeping, is essential.

FORUM: So given some of these tasks that you've just listed, where would you

say your priorities lie? Regional issues and various tasks such as ceasefire monitoring,

return of refugees, demining assistance, promoting human rights—can

you really deal with all of these in a holistic approach, or do you have to set

priorities somewhere?

PRONK:We have to deal with all of these issues at the same time. Priorities

may have to be determined on the basis of available resources, which may,

for instance, limit the number of sites and offices that we establish in the

field. At the moment we are not spread thinly; we have established about

12 offices throughout the country in order not to engage only from the capitals

in the north and the south. We want to be as close as possible to the

rather differentiated conflicts throughout the country as a whole. If the

resources are not adequate, for instance in terms of staffing or in financial

terms, we would diminish the number of offices rather than no longer deal

with reconstruction, DDR [disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration],

or human rights issues. That would result in a rather skewed

approach and would run the risk of conflict potentials not being addressed.

FORUM: Yet of an authorized contingent of some 10,000 peacekeepers, I

understand that thus far only some 3,000 of those are on the ground. Could

you address what is holding up this deployment and what the consequences of

such a delay are?

You cannot have peace

in the country as a whole

if there is still a war in

Darfur. Peace is indivisible.

PRONK: At the moment there are about 4,000, which is 40 percent, and

that is far below what we need to have, and for several reasons. The first

reason was that the SPLM, the southern party, did not allow us to prepare

for the coming of these forces until there was a peace agreement and until

the Security Council had given us a mandate. Although we had had an

advance mission since June 2004 [UNAMIS, the UN Advance Mission in

the Sudan], we got the mandate [for UNMIS] only in March 2005, which

explains, I would say, more than half a year of the delay. Second, as soon

as we got the mandate and the license from the SPLM to get into the south

Sudan, the rainy season started, which made it difficult to prepare for the

coming of the troops. And the third main problem is the following: we

have 10,000 troops from a number of different countries—the seven most

important at the moment are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Egypt,

Kenya, and Zambia. But all these countries are dependent on each other.

If one country fails to meet a deadline in bringing, for instance, helicopters,

medical [staff ], or engineers—just three examples—others then

meet a bottleneck, and they can't [deploy], which has a snowball effect.

We now plan to be at full capacity by early February [2006], but I

must admit, due to constant new bottlenecks, we're sliding backwards. So

far this has not created any problem on the ground, but it may in the

future when we have to send out all these UNMOs [UN Military

Observers] throughout the country and protect them.

FORUM: As you said, the top troop contributors have been developing countries.

Why have there been so few force contributions by developed countries? Is

it fair to say that the developed countries are avoiding their responsibility

toward peacekeeping?

PRONK: Yes, that's correct. The present policy in the Security Council is

to request that particular developing countries do the job in their own

region. It can be said, of course, that it is an African conflict, so that's why

Western countries want the African countries and also other developing

countries to be present. But—and that is understandable politically—

behind it, of course, is also a fear among Western countries that their soldiers

will be put at risk. And they rather prefer the soldiers from African

and Asian countries to be put at risk, which is not, in my view, totally legitimate.

But that is the political fact at the moment. The bulk of the finance

of these troops is provided for by contributions coming from Western

countries. I hope, anyway, that for our operations, which consist of 750

[UNMOs] observers within the 10,000 military [contingent], we will get

many more observers from Western countries—these are the eyes and ears,

of course, of the mission, spearheads—so that [at least] the observing of

the ceasefire implied in the peace agreement

will be global and not only done

by people from the region itself.

FORUM: What do you see as the most

important lessons from the UN experience

in the Sudan?

PRONK: First, a Chapter VI operation

with the consent of the parties is always

better than a Chapter VII operation

because then you can really use all your other offices, the political offices

and the developmental offices, rather than only coming in with military

force. Two, be as holistic as possible. Don't resort only to observation—

that's never enough. Third, if you deal with many different issues in such

a holistic, integrated approach, then don't come in with a mission completely

separate from the UN approach. Base the presence of the UN in a

traditional fashion, by incorporating all the United Nations agencies in

one overall unified approach, under one line of command, in order really

to avoid waste, duplication, and internal conflict among United Nations

agencies. Four, plan for longer periods. For such missions, one or two years

is a non-starter. This mission has a longer-term horizon related to the

duration of the period until the referendum, which is six years [from

2005]. Our mandate will be six years plus something. Even that is short

because conflict management, conflict moderation, really requires about a

decade, I would say. And that also means a fifth lesson: it is necessary to

have longer-term finance secured for such an operation. There are more,

but these are five [lessons].

FORUM: Talking about the long-term nature of the mission, do you share sentiments

that the south Sudan secession from the north by the year 2011 is

inevitable, and if so, how do you feel this would affect the implementation of

the CPA, especially given that one of its underlying principles is the emphasis

on “making unity attractive?”

PRONK: It is not inevitable; the decision to stay together or to separate

has been postponed until the referendum in six years, and our mandate is

to make unity attractive. Our hope is that the outcome is such that the

Western countries prefer

the soldiers from African

and Asian countries to be

put at risk, which is not, in

my view, totally legitimate.

country will remain whole. At the same time, we will respect and guarantee,

of course, implementation of the outcome of the referendum if it

results in separation. In my view, people will vote for unity if three conditions

are met. First, if there's more peace than before the peace agreement

was signed. Less war, less violent conflict, then we can help them to

reach a situation of more sustainable peace in six years' time. Second, if

the rights for all the minority groups, tribes, regions, and women are

being guaranteed—which has not been the case for the 40 to 50 years of

independence of the Sudan. And third, if there is less poverty than

before—if indeed the expectations of the people are that peace will benefit

them also, and not only the elite, the middle class. . . .

FORUM: Many people thought that the death of Vice-President John Garang in

July 2005 would mark the beginning of the end of the peace agreement. Perhaps

remarkably the government and the SPLM actually seem to be working together

in this phase. Could you say what your assessment of the situation is—how well

is Salva Kiir doing as Garang's successor, and how are they working together?

PRONK: Of course it was a great shock. It did lead to some delay in the

implementation of the arrangements, but not too much. Since then, the

Government of National Unity has been formed, not only the presidency—

which had already been

[formed] in July—but also the government

of the south. The constitutions for

the [whole] country and for the south

have also been accepted. So that's quite

good. In the meantime, a number of

institutions have been established on the

basis of the CPA. For instance, the

Assessment and Evaluation Commission, the CJMC [Ceasefire Joint

Military Committee], the [National Petroleum] Commission are all going

well. Of course, there is no full conference between the parties. Definitely

not. But that is to be understood—after decades of war, there are sometimes

differentiated views within the government and within the government

of the south. It's a matter of confidence-building.

President Salva Kiir of the south [used to be] more a military person

than a politician, so he brings with him some new people, new understanding,

and a new approach. He's somebody who listens to others and

who is quite willing to bring the so-called other armed groups, which are

not a part of SPLM, on board. And that is a fresh approach, which is

People will vote for unity

if three conditions are met:

more peace, more rights,

less poverty.

useful. So while we are worried about a slowing down, we are not worried

about the direction. Both parties are still committed to the same objective.

FORUM: For peace to succeed, the SPLM will need to undergo a transformation

from a guerrilla army, effectively, to a democratic government and civilian

administration. Do you believe—you touched on this just now—that this

process of transformation is on track, and where are the greatest challenges

ahead of us in this respect?

PRONK: It will take years and years to become a government, compared

with the ANC [African National Congress in South Africa]—and moreover,

you have to become a political movement. You have to represent the

people and also rule a territory, which is difficult. What are you becoming?

Do you become democratic or do you become authoritarian? These are

major challenges.

In addition to this, the SPLM is not the only force in the south. You

have other movements: the SSDF [South Sudan Defense Forces] is an

umbrella of a number of other movements challenging the SPLM. And

[these other groups] have a military force comparable with that of the

SPLM, so it will take years of capacity-building and confidence-building

within the country. And you have all the risks of an elite that is not being

contained very easily with traditional democratic procedures and which

can easily make mistakes. In addition to this, theirs is a government that

hardly has a staff. Sure, it sounds pathetic, but there are ministers without

ministries. So you have to be patient. As long as things go in the right

direction, it doesn't matter.

FORUM: Regarding these other armed groups in the south that you just mentioned,

many of them were not a party to the CPA, and one way of approaching

this is by means of the South-South Dialogue that aims to bring them into

the peace process by merging them with the SPLM. So far, no agreement has

been reached on this. Are you, as SRSG, worried that some of these groups may

become spoilers to the peace agreement—and if so, how do you think UN

peacekeepers should respond?

PRONK: Some can, indeed, become spoilers. The SSDF is talking at the

moment. The question is, will the leadership of the SSDF, and particularly

Paulino Matip [Commander-in-Chief of the SSDF], be able to keep his

grip on his own combatants as the process takes time?

One example, the Lord's Resistance Army [LRA], based in Uganda,

is quite strong now in the south of the Sudan, and they're getting stronger

because they're no longer purely Ugandan. They've got a Sudanese base,

comprised of people who are not in agreement with the present course of

action. Now, in such a case it may be possible that such groups not only

turn against the SPLM but also turn against the international community,

including the military observers, and that means that security and protection

are quite high priorities on our list of action.

FORUM: You're presumably referring to the killings of some international aid

workers in recent weeks in the south?

PRONK: Correct, the LRA killed two deminers and a humanitarian person.

Moreover, they killed a couple of dozen civilians in villages. The threat by

the LRA both to the locals and to the expats has increased a lot since the

ICC [International Criminal Court] published the indictments against the

leadership of the LRA. We have to live with it; we have to protect ourselves.

I hope it will not result in paralyzing our peacekeeping operation.

FORUM: And will UNMIS help with the arrest of suspects if they turn out to

be hiding in the south of the Sudan?

PRONK: That's not our mandate. We have to protect ourselves against

attacks by the LRA, but we do not have the mandate to chase them or

arrest them. We are meeting them in the

field, but their attacks are always guerrilla,

no strong engagements with the

UN. A [confrontation] may take place

in the future; we are now cooperating

with the SPLM and also with the

Sudanese armed forces, in particular to

help demine essential roads so that the

United Nations troops can come in with

heavy equipment. That is not possible at the moment in the south because

the roads are not yet clear. Because we are not yet on the ground in adequate

numbers, we want to get protection for our deminers from the

Sudanese armed forces and from the SPLM. Discussions so far do lead in

that direction.

FORUM: Has the Government of National Unity indicated whether they

would arrest LRA leaders indicted by the ICC, or would they rely on Ugandan

forces to do so?

PRONK: They want to do it together. At the same time, we see that the

SPLM and also the Government of National Unity desire to find a political

We have to protect ourselves

against attacks by the LRA,

but we do not have the

mandate to chase them or

arrest them.

solution. That's not easy because you cannot make a political deal with the

leaders of a movement when these leaders themselves have been indicted by

the ICC, because all countries who have ratified the ICC treaty have the

obligation to arrest them. The UN does not have that obligation; if we meet

them, we have to protect ourselves. And we hope that it will be possible to

bring some reason into the heads of the people who have not been indicted,

so that they distance themselves from the [five] leaders and understand that

amnesty is possible for them, as well as demobilization, disarmament, and

reintegration into a society, whether that be Sudanese or Ugandan.

FORUM: Darfur is another situation that the ICC is beginning to investigate.

In your view, what role will this investigation in Darfur play in advancing

peace in the region, if any?

PRONK: [The ICC] will pay a visit to the Sudan for the first time this week.

So far they have carried out their investigations outside the country. I hope

and foresee that the government will cooperate with them. They need to

investigate a number of cases; I don't know which ones because names were

given to the ICC in a closed envelope by the Commission of Inquiry [led by

Antonio] Cassesse. It is important to keep up the threat because the perpetrators

got away much too easily. Without an effective threat, it will not be

possible to exert enough pressure on the government to make peace.

FORUM: Does this indicate a change of attitude on the part of the

Government of National Unity toward the ICC?

PRONK: That's not what I said. I was not speaking on behalf of countries. I

was presenting my own view that the ICC is necessary and can be an effective

device. Is there a change in attitudes among countries? I don't know; I

haven't noticed that so far. You all know the United States was not in favor [of

the ICC], but it abstained [from the vote of the Security Council on referring

the situation in Darfur to the ICC], which was good in order to show the

international community that there is no division among the countries. I

implicitly was a little bit critical about the decision of the ICC to indict

[Joseph] Kony and the other leaders of the LRA without consultation with

us, because it does have two consequences: these people are now attacking us,

which was not the case before, and you are removing political space in order

to find a political solution. But that's the division of tasks between the United

Nations and the ICC. I was not critical of the ICC as far as Darfur is concerned.

They had to be brought on board. They take their time, but I have

no doubt that they can come forward with well-documented cases.

FORUM: Regarding other initiatives focused on Darfur: in Abuja in July, the

government and two of the rebel groups signed a declaration of principles. But

at the same time, the security situation in Darfur has been worsening over the

last couple of weeks. The Abuja talks are now going into the seventh round

without much sign of progress, and the Sudanese Liberation Army, SLA, is

divided into two warring factions. Given

all of this, do you feel that peace and reconciliation

is still possible in Darfur?

PRONK: You mean a framework agreement

between the government and the

[SLA] and the JEM [Justice and

Equality Movement] rather than a comprehensive

peace agreement, like in the

north/south conflict? Such a framework

agreement is still possible. Whether it is

politically possible is [hard to say,]

because it will be difficult to get all the

players to the table, even though the

[Abuja] talks so far were not unsuccessful. The fifth round did indeed—as

you mentioned—[conclude in] the declaration of principles. The sixth

[round] was not negative because they really talked about substantive

issues, and people did stay at the table and did not run away. It was difficult,

but okay. The seventh will start on the 28th of November, but

between the sixth and seventh [rounds] a major new problem arose, and

that was a perhaps irreparable split between the two major leaders of the

[SLA]: Abdul Wahid, representing more the Fur Tribe in the south of

Darfur, and Minni Minnawi, representing a little bit more the Zaghawa

tribe in the north. The split isn't purely tribal, but it is a jockeying for

power between leaders. This has consequences, also, for the Abuja talks. I

don't think it's possible anymore to bring these people together —but we

have to try to create a situation whereby they do not exclude each other

and pose as the only party that can represent the [SLA] as a movement.

That would be detrimental to the possibility [of reaching] an agreement

signed by everybody who has some power in the field. But I think it's possible.

Wise, skilled negotiators and facilitators are necessary in order to

bring these people to the table, to keep them at the table, and to find a

kind of consensus along those lines.

The decision of the ICC

to indict the leaders of the

LRA without consultation

has two consequences: these

people are now attacking

us and you are removing

political space in order to

find a political solution.

FORUM: Currently the talks are being mediated by the African Union; the

UN are just observers. Should the UN take on a bigger role?

PRONK: Well, the decision has been made by the Security Council, and

the Security Council accepts the African Union as the main facilitator, and

that's the way it is. We shouldn't try to change horses during the race. And

the AU has the advantage of also having the troops on the ground—also

at the request of the Security Council. They'll do it in an integrated fashion,

politically as well as militarily. We are working very closely with the

African Union to get support from the international community to

finance the troops. We facilitate also—or cofacilitate—the workings of the

mediator, Mr. [Salim Ahmed] Salim, who by the way is a very experienced

international negotiator and the former minister of foreign affairs of

Tanzania, the former executive secretary of the African Union, and a presidential

candidate in Tanzania in the past, so it's not necessary to bring

others in.

FORUM: But at the same time, there's been a number of reports suggesting that

African Union forces are unable to control the situation in Darfur. Given this,

will the UN take over operations in Darfur at some stage in the future?

PRONK: Well, they can't control it because they are not big enough, and

if the UN were as big as they are at the moment, we couldn't either, no?

You need more people. All the African forces whom I meet in the field are

quite dedicated and also quite skilled.

The African soldiers and commanders

are good and sometimes even better

than Westerners because they know the

situation and how to talk with the parties,

making it easier to reconcile [differences].

And if you think that you can

come in with a strong force from outside

just using force and heavy equipment,

then you are mistaken. You

cannot enforce peace from outside on

this nation, which has been ridden by

violence for centuries. You have to talk and talk and mediate and reconcile

and address the root causes of the conflict. That requires much more

than the use of force—that is to say, an integrated approach. That [integrated

approach] is not something the African Union can do, that is what

we can do.

If you think that you can

come in with a strong force

from outside just using

force and heavy equipment,

then you are mistaken. You

cannot enforce peace from

outside on this nation.

But you have to bring in a bigger force, not just to keep the fighting

parties away from each other, because the ceasefire more or less is being

kept, but to disarm the Janjaweed, stop the Arab militia, and safeguard the

villages, where people have to return to after a peace agreement, which

may lead to the start of the return of all IDPs [internally displaced persons]

from the camps. That is why you need troops, not to fight, but to protect

by a physically really visual and deterrent presence.

FORUM: So does that mean there is a role for the UN in Darfur—a bigger

role than they play at the moment?

PRONK: If the African Union continues to be dependent on pledges by

other countries on a three-month basis,

it can't work because peacekeeping operations

take years, and you have to plan

ahead. And if the African Union cannot

bring more than 7,000 [troops], then it

is not enough. I assume that after the

peace agreement is reached, the international

community and the Security

Council—together, by the way, with the

African Peace and Security Council—will reconsider the present security

arrangements, and that may imply a greater role for the UN. But that's not

for me to decide, that's for the Security Council, that's for New York.

FORUM: In an article in this edition of The Forum, Professor O'Fahey points

to the relatively short history of Darfur within the modern Sudan and wonders

whether Darfur's future lies within or merely with the Sudan. Do you

have any views—where do you see Darfur's future?

PRONK: I would question whether the history of Darfur is so short.

Darfur has been a power—internally divided, of course—in the history of

the Sudan for centuries. And to a certain extent, this is also a conflict

between Darfur and the other part of the northern Sudan. After an agreement

on the devolution of powers that will lead to decentralization (I don't

want to use the word “autonomy”), I hope it will be possible to have a

Sudan with a great deal of delegation and differentiation within one state.

The Sudan is the biggest country in Africa, bordering nine different countries.

Keep it one state.

The Sudan can learn from many other countries, both in Africa as

well as in Western countries: stay one state. My mandate is to make unity

A reconsideration of present

security arrangements in

Darfur may imply a

greater role for the UN.

the attractive option because as soon as you get separation, there are two

problems: first, not everybody will accept separation. Second, as soon as

you get separation in this country, other groups in other countries see that

as a precedent and may call for more ambitious objectives with respect to

their own country, and then you get insecurity elsewhere. And third, as

soon as you get separation, you get more minorities within each of the new

states, which is a new source of conflict. For all these reasons, the Security

Council and the African Peace and

Security Council have said that the

internal conflict in the Sudan is a threat

to regional security—thus, to African

security, and thus, to international security.

That is why the international community

has said that unity is the

attractive option. We can't impose it, we

do not want to impose it, we will not

preach it, either. We will make it possible. We will help the Sudanese to

make it possible. That applies to Darfur in relation to the rest of the country.

And also to the south in relation to the north.

FORUM: Talking about regional security, how do you feel rising tensions

between Ethiopia and Eritrea over their disputed border may affect or have

affected your mission in the Sudan, especially in the east?

PRONK: [I am] very worried, and I hope that these two countries will not

return to war because they had a major war in the sixties and the seventies—

until the eighties. Then they had a major short war from 1998 [to

2002] that led to so many casualties. It was such a setback to the development

of both countries, and it should not be repeated. In addition to this,

it will have a spreading effect in the Sudan. In the east in particular: more

refugees; the possible forces from both countries who will use the Sudan as

a theater. So for these two reasons, I think it's very important that our

efforts in both respects [are] to solve the border conflict between Ethiopia

and Eritrea and the domestic conflict between the Eastern Front and

Khartoum peacefully.

FORUM: Is there a regional approach to problems such as this among the various

UN missions in Eastern Africa?

PRONK: I must confess that that was not very well developed. As a matter

of fact, I started a number of initiatives. Last month, we started contacts with

Unity is the attractive

option. We can't impose it,

we do not want to impose

it, we will not preach it,


MONUC, the UN Mission in Congo, in order to coordinate our activities,

for instance, with regard to the LRA. We also run joint operations. We had

yesterday for the first time a rather intense discussion with UNMEE [the

UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea], in Eritrea, in order to coordinate our

information and balance activities with regard to a number of cross-border

problems within the Sudan and Eritrea. And I've now also invited the UN

in Chad to come at the beginning of December to discuss quite a number

of spillover effects from the Sudanese conflict into Chad and from the

Chadian internal conflict into the western Sudan. The peacekeeping operations

in the past have been seen too much as within a country when they

have a regional dimension—the peace operations must work together.

FORUM: The eastern Sudan has the potential to turn into another Darfur—

the Beja and the Raschaida tribes are two of the groups who have complained

about economic marginalization and cultural suppression for a long time. . . .

PRONK: You are quite right, marginalization and neglect are some of the

root causes of the violent conflict—throughout the country as a whole, as

well as in the east. It cannot be solved from outside, definitely not. This is

a domestic conflict that will take decades or longer to be resolved. The

important factors, as I said before, are to aim for more peace, more rights,

and less poverty. Less poverty, in particular, to give people the feeling that

there is prospect for improvement. It is also necessary to address political

marginalization—that includes the rights issue—which is why we have

that unified, holistic approach.

This, of course, requires that the government spend its own

resources in a fair manner toward poverty reduction and regional development

[and toward] transparency and

good economic governance policy

instruments. The UN made the proposal

to get a consortium, whereby the

international community, led by the

World Bank and the International

Monetary Fund, are giving support to a

country on the condition that that

country carries out a good developmental governance policy: transparency,

no corruption, a policy to address poverty—which, in a modern jargon,

means to help the country reach the Millennium Development Goals

(MDGs). There is cooperation against marginalization—which is possible

to achieve. It is very tough, however, because the elite in this country has

The elite in this country

has never had much

interest in poverty


never had much interest in poverty reduction. That requires a lot of international

pressure and guidance.

FORUM: Over the next couple of months, hundreds of thousands of refugees

are set to return from neighboring countries and the Sudan itself to a southern

Sudan that lacks infrastructure and health and educational facilities. How

will the Sudan cope? And is UNMIS ready to assist?

PRONK: No, we are not ready. We want to assist, but we are very much

dependent on international resources. It is not part of the official budget of

the mission, so we are banging around in the world to finance our plans. The

plan for next year is for about 600,000 refugees to return, which is a huge

number, but a small fraction of the total number of millions of refugees.

They cannot all return at the same time because the situation is very fragile

in the field. Returnees will have to compete with the local population, who

never left, for access to water and land, for instance, and that may lead to

more conflict. Returns are a conflict-ridden issue in the years ahead. We

need an approach whereby we in the field

can help manage the conflict, and we

need the resources to improve education,

access to water, access to land, employment

creation, food security, and so on.

For this year, our humanitarian

appeal was addressed with pledges of up

to about two-thirds of what was necessary.

For next year, we'd rather [funds] go

into reconstruction and return [assistance].

If we don't get the resources, it

will be a major problem. The international

community has to understand that

starting this peacekeeping mission and

not continuing it with resources to meet the consequences of the peace and

to address possible root causes of a renewal of the conflict would be a bad

approach. They said A, they have to say B, C, D—the whole alphabet.

FORUM: Who in particular are you addressing those pledges for financial

assistance to? Who will be paying for this?

PRONK: The government itself has to do a lot, much more than in the

past, because it has been very elitist and there [will be] a lot of money in

the future on the basis of oil resources. That requires a huge change in the

The international

community has to

understand that starting

this peacekeeping mission

and not continuing it with

[sufficient] resources would

be a bad approach. They

said A, they have to say B,

C, D—the whole alphabet.

allocation of domestic resources, [which will be] difficult to accomplish

because the middle class will be lured into just helping itself. We need to

make resources available on the basis of oil income for the poor. Second,

the international community, for instance Europe, [has played a role] for

many years.

The interesting thing is that the promise by the government has

been, in the Oslo Conference, to finance two-thirds out of its own

resources. That was a surprise. Post-conflict

Afghanistan, for instance, financed

only a small amount of money themselves.

Of course the Sudan is [in] a different

position, [but] I hope they did

not just portray a figure to which they

are going to pay lip service. If they don't

do what they promise, the international

community will hold them accountable.

Then funds will not be made available

because taxpayers in the United States

and in Europe will say “if the Sudanese

are not helping their own people, we cannot help [either].” So, [these two

are] dependent on each other. That will require a lot of economic diplomacy

in the years ahead.

FORUM: What does this say about international business and investment in

the Sudan. Good thing—or bad thing?

PRONK: International business is coming to Khartoum at the moment;

it's a booming city. It is positive in terms of employment creation; it is negative

in terms of resources [being made available] only for those people

who already live on the positive side of the poverty line. International business

that is not investing in the poor parts of the country is not helping to

reach a more equal socioeconomic development in the country. It is very

important that there is no, say, unholy alliance between foreign economic

interests and the elite in this country, which would lead to a greater divide

in economic terms than ever before. It would also be a stupidity because it

would undoubtedly result in resentment and maybe violence—not only

far away from Khartoum, as has always been the case, in Darfur or in the

south, but also in the cities themselves. We have seen that happening for

the first time in August [following the death of Vice-President John

Garang]; if things are going to be repeated because people are resenting

An unholy alliance between

foreign economic interests

and the elite would lead

to a greater divide in

economic terms, [which

might] result in violence in

the cities themselves.

inequality and no longer accepting it like they did in the past, then the

Sudan will be in for a very difficult period.

FORUM: Given the events over this last year, are you more or less optimistic

than a year ago about the prospects for peace in the Sudan?

PRONK: Optimism is a concept that I do not want to use. The UN and

the international community are not watching a theatre from the sideline;

we are participating in the process. So we are not looking to the process,

[declaring] ourselves positive or negative, optimistic or pessimistic about

the outcome; we have the obligation, the duty, the mandate to steer the

process into a desirable direction. That desirable direction, again, is peace,

it is meeting the MDGs, it is justice—and [such an outcome is] possible.

If we fail, it would be 50 percent the responsibility of the international

community itself. You have to fight for it and that is what we are doing at

the moment.

FORUM: Dank U Wel, Mr. Pronk!

Note from the editor: Out of deference to the preferences of certain authors contributing

to this special feature on the Sudan and to the Arabic original of the

country's name, The Forum will refer to the country as “the Sudan” throughout

this section.