KHARTOUM — Effective foreign policy is no easy matter, especially when violence is a major factor.
Such complications are the case with Sudan. Since employing economic sanctions against Sudan, the United States has hoped to pressure the government to stop making war against its people. However, in doing so, humanitarian access in Sudan has decreased and has limited outreach to the impoverished population.
Economic sanctions were originally imposed in November 1997 after Sudan was accused of being a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Since then, the United States has blocked Sudanese government assets and trade transactions involving Sudanese officials.
The United States’ Support
On a positive note, earlier this year, then-President Barack Obama temporarily suspended nearly 20-year-old trade sanctions on Sudan in response to “sustained progress” on several fronts. Also, according to the U.N. Country Team in Sudan, there has been a marked improvement in humanitarian access over the past six months.
Toward the end of August, under the new Trump administration, aid chief Mark Green visited Sudan to assess whether Sudan’s conflict areas have been alleviated enough to completely ease sanctions. In July, the Trump administration postponed for three months a decision on whether to remove the restrictions full-time, giving it a new October deadline to make up its mind. The decision will also come at a time when USAID and the U.S. State Department might experience a thirty-percent budget cut.
Despite a troubled past, Sudan is starting to prove itself as a deserving recipient of American support. Previously under the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan played host to Osama bin Laden and saw mass violence to rebels in Darfur. Since then, the Sudanese government in Khartoum has now prioritized fighting al Qaeda and dealing with the turmoil in northern neighbor Libya. With security and poverty so closely entwined, humanitarian access in Sudan would strengthen the country’s ability to prevent violence and address the concerns of the poor.
Necessity of Humanitarian Aid and Access
Without humanitarian access in Sudan, people throughout the country would become even more isolated from the world’s financial systems, inflation would increase and major economic struggles would ensue. Such disarray would leave Sudan’s most vulnerable at risk for more violence, health crises, and overall poor quality of life, all because of a past over which they had no control.
Luckily in recent months, U.N. agencies and partners have been increasingly working in areas that were previously inaccessible, carrying out needs assessments and providing humanitarian assistance in some Sudanese areas that had remained inaccessible to humanitarian actors for over seven years. Assistance in health, food, nutrition, water, sanitation, child protection, education and mine action, as well as positive reforms to recruitment procedures for other humanitarian organizations to operate independently in the country, have all proven Sudan’s capability and worthiness of worldwide support, especially from a major contributor like the United States.
Sudan’s past doesn’t define its future.
Hopefully the Trump administration’s decision in October keeps in mind the positive development regarding humanitarian access in Sudan. The United States shouldn’t overlook its commitment to humanitarian assistance for all in need. With evident forward progress, Sudan and other world organizations hope for permanent cancellation of Sudan economic sanctions to continue furthering its growth toward a peaceful, sustainable future.
– Allie Knofczynski