In January 2011, Sudan is scheduled to hold two referenda in accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the twenty-two year civil war between North and South, and while there is still uncertainty regarding many issues, it is clear that the UN system has taken on significant responsibilities in facilitating preparations for them.
The International Peace Institute hosted an off-the-record roundtable discussion on September 16th entitled “Preparing for the Sudan Referenda and Beyond,” which brought together approximately thirty-five experts working on the Sudan from the UN Secretariat, Security Council members, academia, and the NGO community for an interactive dialogue on preparations for the referenda as well as the postreferenda environment.
There are enormous political and technical challenges associated with conducting the two referenda in the allotted time frame. In both cases, inadequate security, technical delays, limited resources, and lack of agreement between the parties on voter eligibility could present obstacles. Likewise, postreferenda arrangements on oil sharing, citizenship, banking, and foreign relations remain unresolved.
It is likely the UN will stay heavily engaged in South Sudan in the development, humanitarian, and peacebuilding spheres in the aftermath of the referenda, regardless of their outcome. These efforts will build on the UN system’s long-standing commitment to help the Sudan chart a course to a more stable and peaceful future, as demonstrated by its mediation and peacekeeping efforts in Darfur and South Sudan during the past several years.