Darfur five years on: five steps forward

By Oxfam

Here, Oxfam outlines five key points that must be achieved to improve people’s lives as soon as possible.

Stop the violence

There can be no way forward for Darfur until all parties to the conflict stop fighting and stop attacks on civilians. Yet, at the moment, the violence continues, causing untold misery for millions of people—with thousands more attacked and fleeing their homes every week the conflict goes on. People across the world must let their politicians know that the suffering of so many Darfur citizens will be tolerated no longer. The international community must put greater sustained pressure on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table.

Give people the protection they deserve

For five years the world has promised the people of Darfur that it will protect them from violence—yet there is still no peacekeeping force capable of giving civilians the protection they need and deserve. The new United Nations-African Union force, known as UNAMID, deployed at the start of 2008 but is still woefully under strength, with only a third of its 26,000 personnel on the ground and a lack of equipment, training, and political backing. The force urgently needs more international support. Getting UNAMID on the ground took 18 months of enormous political effort, but this will be wasted unless the force is made strong enough to actually protect people.

Sustain the humanitarian response

The humanitarian response in Darfur is among the largest in the world and has had an enormous impact on people’s lives. Early in the crisis, large numbers of people died of malnutrition and disease, but over time the mortality rates have been cut and people now have greatly improved access to vital services such as water, food, and healthcare. Yet daily targeted attacks on humanitarian workers are making Darfur an increasingly dangerous and difficult place to work. Oxfam’s staffers are still managing to assist over 400,000 people – but it is becoming ever harder to do so. The international community must ensure that all the many parties to the conflict respect international humanitarian law and allow aid to reach those who desperately need it.

Inclusive peace talks

Despite the vast humanitarian effort and the need for a stronger protection force, the only sustainable solution to the conflict is a political one. The peace process has stalled again recently and world leaders must provide sustained, coordinated leadership to reinvigorate efforts to unite the countless factions and bring all parties back to negotiations. Greater effort must be made to ensure such talks are truly representative of the people of Darfur, by increasing the involvement of civil society and marginalized groups, and reflecting the needs and concerns of all Darfur’s many ethnic groups.

Don’t give up on Darfur

While soldiers and militia fight, it is the ordinary people of Darfur who suffer. They want nothing more than an end to the conflict and to be able to get back to their normal lives – but they need our help to make this happen. People all over the world can help ensure their political leaders do not allow attention on Darfur to fade after five years. Darfur must not be allowed to become yet another “forgotten crisis.” To do so would condemn millions of its people to years more suffering.

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