Harriet Martin is a freelance journalist in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. She explains what’s expected to be discussed at the ongoing two-day Darfur aid conference in the Qatari capital Doha.
|Western donors are attending the Doha conference, but are not expected to pledge money for the development fund. Why is that?|
This conference is part of the internationally backed peace plan, but many donors will not be pledging money because development money means working more closely with the government. They like the idea of helping Darfur move to a development phase, but development money is unlike aid money, which they more easily can control.
The US is currently the largest Darfur aid donor. They have had Sudan under strict sanctions for 15 years and are particularly hostile towards this government because of President Omar al-Bashir’s indictment at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged war crimes in Darfur.
The second biggest donor, the UK government, is taking a more nuanced approach. It will bid on Monday, but will only produce the cash if certain conditions are met.
|Why have Internally Displaced People (IDPs) been holding protests in IDP camps against the conference?|
There is a political agenda behind these protests. The main rebel groups who claim to represent many of the 1.4 million people still in camps have not signed up to the current peace plan. So they do not want to see this conference, which is part of that plan, succeed. They want to get the message out that Darfur is not safe, nor is it ready for development.
The government, on the other hand, wants to stress how safe Darfur is. The reality is that parts of it are, but many places remain insecure and lawless.
The organisers of the conference are saying there will never be an ideal time to start developing Darfur and that the process of development could itself help stabilise the region.
|The government of Sudan, already under immense financial pressure, has pledged to contribute $2.65 billion towards this plan over the coming years. Is this pledge likely to be followed through on?|
Many are sceptical that the government will deliver the full amount. The government has only recently produced the $1.65m seed money to help establish this peace plan which was signed nearly two years ago.
Having said that, there is a clear political interest for them in sorting out the issues in Darfur – it is one of the conditions the US has made for lifting sanctions on Sudan. The question many wonder is if the political will really exists. These are difficult economic times, and it is hard to see how this undeveloped region would become a financial priority.