February 15, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The United States along with some European nations are seeking to block Sudan’s chairmanship of a session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNECOSOC).
Sudan was picked by the UNECOSOC president as a representative of the African bloc and was to serve along with Austria, Albania and Pakistan.
Sudan would be chairing a special session next July in Geneva for the promotion of humanitarian assistance which many governments find ironic given Khartoum’s record of restricting access to aid workers.
According to the ’Turtle Bay’ blog on Foreign Policy magazine, UNECOSOC president Nestor Osorio was supposed to announce the selection today but European governments had requested this be postponed while they seek to convince Sudan to abandon its quest for the job.
The UNECOSOC’s upcoming meeting in Geneva will be broken up into five segments, including a discussion on humanitarian aid.
Sudan has aggressively pursued the humanitarian aid post. Diplomats told ’Turtle Bay’ that Osorio and the other vice presidents are trying to convince Sudan to accept another less controversial assignment.
The United States ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, also spoke with Osorio this week to express Washington’s concerns about the selection of Sudan.
Following the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to charge Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir with war crimes, Khartoum ordered the expulsion of 13 international aid groups, saying they were working as spies.
Sudan has also prevented international aid workers access into the restive Sudanese regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where conflict has displaced nearly 700,000 people and forced more than 200,000 to flee to Ethiopia and South Sudan.
“Clearly Sudan is trying to score points in the humanitarian field to try to show the world it cares about this when we know on the ground that their action runs contrary to that,” one UN diplomat told ’Turtle Bay’.
“Sudan is going to get something but we trust that there will be enough wisdom” to identify a less controversial assignment for Khartoum.
“Given all the criticisms of their humanitarian record why would they put such a visible target on their back?” asked another UN diplomat.
At the UNECOSOC organisational session today to prepare for the Geneva meeting, several delegations raised objections to Sudan’s chairmanship of the humanitarian affairs segment.
According to a press release on the meeting, Osorio announced that, since there appeared to be disagreement of the matter, he would postpone a final decision and begin consultations on the distribution of responsibilities as soon as possible to come to an agreed solution.
The US and Canada made their disapproval clear at the meeting, noting Sudan’s record in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
But other countries such as Cuba, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Egypt and Nigeria argued that Sudan is only serving as a representative of Africa and not in its national capacity.
France and Australia did not oppose Sudan’s election but said that the concerns of other states mean more consultations are required.
Sudan’s ambassador to the UN, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, said his country rejects the “wholly unfounded” allegations levelled by Canada and the US.
Osman said he hoped it was not an attempt to “turn this body into the United Nations] Security Council”.
Last year Sudan withdrew from consideration to the African seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after similar pressure from Western countries and rights groups.