Irresolution: The U.N. Security Council on Darfur

The U.N. Security Council has an opportunity to demand real change in Sudan, but history suggests they won't act in time.

Ari Folman's "Waltz with Bashir" uses rotoscoping and flash animation to depict his and other soldiers' experiences during the Lebanan War. (film still)
Ari Folman's "Waltz with Bashir" uses rotoscoping and flash animation to depict his and other soldiers' experiences during the Lebanan War. (film still)

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Last week’s move by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, or ICC, to seek an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir introduces a new point of leverage with the Sudanese government and provides an opportunity for the U.N. Security Council to demand real changes in Khartoum’s policies and behavior. Unfortunately, the historical record suggests that the Council will likely miss this opportunity as it has missed many others during the past five years. This time, the Council must move quickly and use this leverage to help construct an effective peace process for Darfur, to provide meaningful protection for civilians, and to enact the right mix of carrots and sticks to convince various actors—Sudanese and external—to take the necessary steps to end the conflict.

But renewed efforts will bear fruit only if member states make wise use of the Security Council. Regrettably, the Council’s record on Darfur does not inspire much hope and raises concerns that it will quickly fritter away the leverage with which it has been presented by the Chief Prosecutor. If success at the Council was defined merely by volume of output, Sudan would be in great shape: Nine major resolutions have been adopted and 21 presidential statements have been issued since the start of the Darfur crisis in 2003 (see Annex)1. Yet the Darfur crisis has continued to deepen and the Council has unmistakably failed to live up to its responsibility to protect the people of Darfur and help restore peace and security in Sudan and the region.

As the Council’s member states consider their next steps, they ought to look carefully at the reasons behind their failure on Darfur, which has as much to do with how the Council works and its inherent structural limitations as it does with the substance of its resolutions. It has become painfully clear that Security Council members lack the political will to deal effectively with the Darfur crisis. Instead of strong support for the result of their own referral of the case of Darfur to the ICC, many Council members are considering how to suspend the case against Bashir without getting anything in exchange for this capitulation. Throughout the last five years, member states, including the United States, have positioned themselves to blame the U.N. while knowing full well they have not given the organization the resources, support, direction and will it needs to succeed.

This strategy paper will diagnose the underlying obstacles to effective Security Council response, providing a practical guide on how activists can better engage their governments to stop—and ultimately prevent—genocide and crimes against humanity.

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About the Enough Project:

ENOUGH is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. With an initial focus on the crises in Sudan, Chad, eastern Congo, and northern Uganda, ENOUGH’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. ENOUGH works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. To learn more about ENOUGH and what you can do to help, go to

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