29 March 2005

Secretary-General Underlines NGOs’ Crucial Role in Darfur, Sudan

NEW YORK, 28 March (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General met today with international non-governmental organizations to discuss the continuing violence in Darfur and to underline the crucial role of NGOs in the international community’s efforts there.  The Secretary-General stressed as critical the ability of NGOs to operate without restrictions in Darfur -- including to report freely on violations of human rights and humanitarian law, which are continuing on a daily basis.  The Secretary-General expressed his deep concern about the rising level of threats against relief workers in Darfur, and called on all parties to ensure their safety and security.

The participants, which included major operational and advocacy NGOs, also discussed the urgent need for further action by the Security Council -- including on the question of adopting targeted sanctions and on referring the Darfur situation to the International Criminal Court, as recommended by the International Commission of Inquiry.  The participants pressed hard for a greatly expanded force to focus on the protection of civilians.  They stressed the need for action now on all these issues, expressing concern about delays in the Security Council.  The Secretary-General offered to facilitate a meeting between the Security Council and NGOs under the Arria formula.

The Secretary-General thanked the NGOs for their courageous work in assisting the men, women and children affected by the conflict, thus providing the backbone of the humanitarian response in Darfur.  He praised them for their persistent advocacy in helping to place the Darfur crisis on the international agenda -- and, even more importantly, helping to keep it there.

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