Sudan's ongoing violence, worsening humanitarian crisis and struggling peace processes topped the agenda as members of the UN Security Council began extraordinary meetings in Nairobi yesterday.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan briefed members on the situation in Sudan and the council was expected to hear from representatives of the African Union, the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Sudanese government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, a southern rebel group.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, called the meeting to give members a chance to meet with experts working to end the fighting and suffering in Sudan's western Darfur region, as well as those hoping to wrap up a peace deal to end a 21-year civil war in southern Sudan.
After a brief meeting with Nairobi-based aid agencies and civil groups this morning, the council is scheduled to adopt a resolution on Sudan.
A draft of the resolution promises financial and political support for any peace agreements reached to end the violence in Sudan, but members had yet to agree on whether the council should threaten to impose sanctions or take any other kind of action should any party to the conflict fail to obey a cease-fire or allow aid agencies access to civilians in need of help.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has called the violence in Darfur a genocide and in September accused four Security Council members -- China, Russia, Algeria and Pakistan -- of valuing their business deals in Sudan over humanitarian concerns. All four abstained from an 11-0 vote to set up a commission to investigate the genocide charges against Sudan.
Ahead of yesterday's meeting in Nairobi, human rights groups deplored the Security Council's failure to take a harder line, insisting that an arms embargo or the explicit threat of sanctions was needed against the Sudanese government.
London-based Amnesty International has called for the council to impose an immediate arms embargo on the Sudanese government. In a report released Tuesday in Nairobi, the group said government forces were involved in crimes against humanity in Darfur and arms supplies should be shut off.
Oxfam International said the council had failed Africa by not doing more to stop the continuing conflicts on the continent.
"We urge the council to turn words into concrete actions to stop the ongoing violence and address the humanitarian crisis in Darfur," Caroline Nursey, the aid agency's regional director, said.
Human Rights Watch released a statement Thursday saying the world's failure to prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity in southern Sudan led to the atrocities in Darfur.
"Unless they are held accountable for abuses in the south, the Sudanese authorities will continue to believe they can get away with murder in Darfur," Jemera Rone, Sudan researcher for the New York-based group, said.