UN High Commissioner for Refugees Urges the World to Push for Sudan Peace

As much of the world set their eyes on the tragedy that was unfolding in the United States last week following Hurricane Katrina, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called upon the world to apply pressure to the Darfur region of Western Sudan to make peace.

In an appeal made last week to world leaders to increase peace-making efforts in Sudan, UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said, “Darfur without peace is a tragedy that we cannot imagine.”

“Peace is not only an opportunity but an obligation,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday, after his 10-day visit to displacement camps in Chad, Sudan, and Kenya.

In response to Gutteres’s statement, World Vision’s Global Emergencies media director, Brian Peterson said, “The most important thing is peace. Anything that fosters peace is something we are happy about.”

"We are advocates of peace,” Peterson said further, “because it allows us to do the work we are called to do. We are a humanitarian organization, advocates of peace ... and we have been in Sudan for so long so we know the barriers to making peace ... and that government must be involved in the peace making process.”

Prior to his trip, Gutterres explained that he intended to visit Africa because he feared that the world would forget about the humanitarian crisis in Africa.

"We see that the international community mobilizes easily in other parts of the world but when it comes to Africa there has been a systematic negligence which has prolonged conflicts like this one [Sudan] and gave rise to a serious food crisis in Niger," said Gutterres to Lisbon radio.

The UN High Commissioner of refugees also noted, “It is obvious that there should have been a much stronger effort on the part of the international community to create the conditions for peace but Africa is a continent which is largely forgotten."

Randy Strash, strategy director for emergency response and disaster communication for World Vision, noted in an interview that the Niger famine could have been avoided or less severe if there were preemptive steps taken. But the world was concerned with the tsunami and forgot Niger until the condition became too severe.

Approximately two million people have been displaced from their homes in Darfur due to fighting which began in Feb. 2003. The Darfur internal conflicts have resulted in over 300,000 reported deaths.