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Elders join call for states to provide urgently needed helicopters for Darfur peacekeepers

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Desmond Tutu, Lakhdar Brahimi, Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel, who visited Sudan in 2007 on The Elders' first mission, join the call for states to provide peacekeepers with helicopters in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The four Elders who travelled to Sudan last year – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lakhdar Brahimi, President Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel – have provided the foreword to a report calling on states to provide critically lacking helicopters to Darfur peacekeepers. The organisation Crisis Action released the following statement, announcing the report’s release:

New report calls on states to provide helicopters to Darfur peacekeepers

Marking the one year anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1769 – which authorised deployment of the Darfur peacekeeping mission – a new report sets out for the first time which countries have the critically-lacking helicopters needed to protect civilians in Darfur.

The report, titled “Grounded: the International Community’s Betrayal of UNAMID” carries a foreword by the group of Elders who visited Sudan recently, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lakhdar Brahimi, President Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel and is endorsed by more than thirty human rights groups, think tanks and NGOs including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, International Crisis Group, the Sudan Organisation Against Torture and the Save Darfur Coalition.

“Early this month peacekeepers were attacked in Darfur. They were outmanned and outgunned. Because no country has provided helicopters for the UN force there was no back-up and seven peacekeepers paid with their lives. On today’s anniversary of the mission it’s time the international community got serious about enabling peacekeepers to do their job of protecting civilians and handed over these helicopters,” said Amjad Atallah, a spokesperson for the coalition.

The report, written by aviation expert Thomas Withington is the first to look in detail at which countries have available resources that could be provided to the mission.

It finds that:

  • Of the 18 transport helicopters required by the force, not a single one has yet been offered; this compares to an estimated 350 such helicopters in use in Iraq.
  • The report identifies more than 20 countries with surplus aircraft that could be made available for the mission.
  • The six countries best placed to provide transport helicopters, Italy, Ukraine, India, Spain, Romania and the Czech Republic, between them have an estimated 71 helicopters available, four times the requirement.
  • NATO member states alone could jointly provide 104 such helicopters, almost six times the requirement.

The report’s conclusions are based on extensive research of helicopter capacity and investigations into the number of helicopters already deployed in theatre. The report assumes a three helicopter rotation i.e. for every one helicopter deployed, two others need to be available on rotation.

In the foreword to the report, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lakhdar Brahimi, President Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel state,

“This report sets out for the first time which states have the necessary helicopters and estimates how many are available for deployment to Darfur. It identifies a number of countries – including the Czech Republic, India, Italy, Romania, Spain and Ukraine – that have large numbers of helicopters that meet the required specifications and are not on mission or mission rotation elsewhere. Many of these helicopters are gathering dust in hangars or flying in air shows when they could be saving lives in Darfur.”

The report notes that the resourcing issue is much deeper than simply an issue of helicopters and that many other basic supplies, from boots to ration packs, are also yet to be provided. It also makes clear that UNAMID is only part of the solution to the situation in Darfur and that a peace process is essential to a long term solution.

Actor and Darfur activist George Clooney, who has been appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a “UN Messenger of Peace” for his work on Darfur said,

“Many governments have offered expressions of concern, but few have offered the most basic tools necessary to keep civilians safe and for peacekeepers to do their job. To ensure the success of UNAMID and the safety of peacekeepers, we do not need more rhetoric, we need resources. It is time for governments to put their helicopters where their mouths are.”

The report recommends:

  • Countries with the ability to provide these helicopters must do so immediately.
  • Security Council members – especially the P5 - must engage in concerted diplomacy to make sure this happens.
  • Any upgrades needed should be resourced by the member state, the UN or third countries.
  • Those countries without helicopters should redouble their efforts to assist the UN to fill the other gaps in resources for the force.
  • Pressure should be maintained on the Government of Sudan to stop obstructing the full deployment of UNAMID.

Events are expected in key capitals to mark the anniversary. In New York City activists planned to bring a helicopter to the United Nations headquarters, underscoring the need for leading nations to supply the critically-lacking helicopters to the UNAMID peacekeeping mission. Groups will also highlight a petition with more than 50,000 signatures – urging the permanent five members of the UN Security Council to fulfill their obligations and commitments to the Darfuri people.

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