Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the Paris Sudan conference

15.04.2024 - Speech

The Mygoma orphanage in Khartoum used to be a home. A shelter for 300 toddlers, school boys, school girls, who were growing up there because they had lost their parents. Exactly one year ago, on April 15th, this orphanage became a trap. The house was caught in the crossfire of the warring parties. The shelling outside became the background noise in the children's dormitory. And food didn't go through to them any longer.

For 1 day, 20 days, 25, 50 days. After 50 days and nights of fighting around them, UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross finally managed to evacuate the children and their caregivers to Wad Madani, some 200 kilometres away, in Al Jazeera state. To the children of the Mygoma orphanage, it was a glimpse of hope. Finally, they seemed to be safe. But not for long. Earlier this year, these small boys and girls had to flee again. Because the war had also come to Wad Madani.

What we are witnessing in Sudan is the worst child displacement crisis in the world. More than 8 million children, men and women are fleeing from the violence. Aid workers are under constant attack. We hear harrowing reports of targeted sexual and gender-based violence, used as a weapon by the warring parties. From Darfur, the UN is reporting ethnic atrocities reminiscent of the horrors of the early 2000s.

This is a man-made disaster. This is the world's worst child displacement crisis, unfolding before our eyes. Yet, in many of our countries, as the war enters its second year, it is practically absent from our daily news.

I got a tiny glimpse of what this war means to the people on the ground when I visited Gorom in South Sudan earlier this year. I talked to women who had found shelter in a refugee camp. They had walked hundreds of kilometres, carrying their children on their backs, witnessing their daughters being raped on the way.

One woman in Gorom told me something that has haunted me ever since. She said with all the other crises going on in the world, “sometimes I fear that the world has forgotten about us. About us women.”

As we meet here today, our message needs to be loud and clear: We see your suffering. We know we have a responsibility. And we are not forgetting you. Because every life counts equally, whether in Ukraine, in Gaza or in Sudan.

More than half the Sudanese population needs humanitarian assistance to survive. But of the 2.7 billion U.S. dollar that will be needed to cover the population's humanitarian needs, only 6% have been made available so far. This is why, as the French foreign minister has said, today's conference needs to mark a step-change in the support. Because every life counts equally.

The international community has to provide more for the people of Sudan, for the children of Sudan. Today I'm glad to announce that Germany will provide 244 million Euro in bilateral humanitarian assistance for Sudan and the neighbouring countries this year, on top of our EU support. Our support enables the essential work of organizations like UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which evacuated the children of Mygoma orphanage. Or of the UNHCR, which provides shelter to the women I met in South Sudan.

I compliment the countries of the region for their solidarity, for providing safe havens to those fleeing the fighting. Our bilateral development cooperation is designed to support you.

Today, we urge everyone here to join us in living up to our collective responsibility.

And we call on the two belligerents, Burhan and Hemedti, to stop the violence, to grant unhindered humanitarian access. Now. civilians and humanitarian operations must be protected under all circumstances. We call on them to stop using sexual violence as a strategic weapon of war. It is a tragic irony that the fighting generals seem to find a tiny common ground only in one thing: that they are both fighting a war against the brave Sudanese women.

In a country where in 2019, a women-led civilian movement toppled a brutal military regime, this is, of course, no coincidence.

While we push to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe in Sudan, we are not letting up in our work for a permanent political solution to the conflict. We all know there is no shortage of mediation initiatives to end this war. But the point is to link them up and settle them on a format that will bring the warring parties together.

And this is why we met this morning, and we are very thankful for the efforts of the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for an inclusive consultative forum. As Germany, we have made it clear that we are ready to apply further sanctions to increase the pressure on the war parties. In 2019, Sudanese civil society showed the world that they deserve freedom and democracy. Those who now fan the flames of violence in Sudan must ask themselves whether they really want to risk Sudan disintegrating instead.

To pave the way out of the suffering of today, Sudanese civilian actors, some of whom are meeting here today in Paris, need a seat at the table. Because their voice, their actions, are the hope of Sudan.

We all need to live up to our collective responsibility.

So that the children of the Mygoma orphanage can feel safe again.

So that the women of Gorom can return to their homes.

So that the men, women and children of Sudan can build a peaceful world together.


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