New York, NY – “Human Rights First welcomes President Bush’s attention to Darfur in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly earlier today,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “We hope that this statement signals a renewed commitment by the United States to take the hard steps necessary to resolve the Darfur crisis.”
In his statement, addressed to the people of Darfur, President Bush announced the appointment of Andrew Natsios as Presidential Envoy to coordinate the United States’ efforts in Darfur. To be successful, first and foremost, such an envoy must have direct access to President Bush, to ensure that U.S. policy is implemented in the most effective way possible. Such access will also signal to Khartoum, as well as to those governments that share with the United States the goal of bringing peace to Darfur, that the envoy speaks for the president when he comes to the negotiating table.
The first test of the presidential envoy will be whether he succeeds in convincing the Khartoum government to consent to deployment of U.N. peacekeeping forces under Security Council Resolution 1706. Gaining that consent has been a challenge, and President Bush’s envoy must follow a resolute but realistic strategy to make progress towards peace in Darfur. First, he must help to greatly strengthen the pressure on China and Russia to win a broader consensus among the U.N. Security Council members on implementation of Resolution 1706. Second, the envoy must press other governments, including key African Union and Arab League member states, to condemn the Sudanese government for its current military campaign in Darfur as well as for its refusal to consent to the deployment of U.N. troops. Furthermore, he should press African Union member states to initiate and support a call to deny President Omar al-Bashir the A.U. presidency if he does not consent to deployment of U.N. forces in Darfur. Finally, the envoy must begin discussions with key allies about the possible implementation of sanctions against the government of Sudan, as well as against individual actors in the government and in key government-related companies, if it refuses to accept U.N. peace keeping forces.
Human Rights First also recommends that the envoy begin working with the African Union immediately to ensure that the organization’s mandate is extended until U.N. peacekeepers arrive.
The Presidential Envoy can be the most powerful advocate in the administration for making the difficult choices necessary to achieve a lasting peace in Darfur. Because the success of the envoy’s mission will depend in large part on support from the world community, he must work closely with the U.N. President Bush’s appointment therefore makes it even timelier for Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint a U.N. special envoy to Darfur, to ensure that the will of the entire international community is represented in the pursuit of peace in Darfur.