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From Gaza to Sudan, Ban highlights crises confronting Arab world

31 March 2009 | International

From the widening fallout of the global economic crisis to the suffering of victims of armed conflict, the Arab world faces insecurity today and the potential for more tomorrow, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Summit of the League of Arab States in Doha on Monday.

“The toll in human lives and deferred development has been tragically high,” he said in his address to the gathering, according to a statement from the UN Information Centre.

“The region's large groups of refugees and internally displaced persons continue to live with their dignity under attack and with little ability to plan for their futures.”

Mr. Ban said he remained gravely concerned about the situation in Gaza, which was dealing with the aftermath of the three-week offensive launched by Israel in late December 2008.

“The people of Gaza are suffering, and the situation at the crossings is intolerable,” he stated, asserting that the way forward was a durable ceasefire, open crossings and Palestinian reconciliation.

On Sudan, the Secretary-General urged the Government once again to reverse its decision to expel key international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and suspend the work of three national NGOs that provided life-sustaining services for more than one million people.

The Sudanese Government took that decision on March 4, immediately after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Al-Bashir, who was also present at the Summit in the Qatari capital.

“Despite the efforts of Sudanese line ministries, UN agencies and the remaining NGOs, the gaps cannot be filled with existing capacities,” Mr. Ban noted concerning the humanitarian crisis in the western Darfur region of the country.

“Relief efforts should not become politicized. People in need must be helped irrespective of political differences.”

Turning to another hot-spot on the continent, he said the present situation in Somalia offered a “rare window of opportunity,” and urged immediate support for the new Government that was sworn in last month.

“Those of us with influence on the groups remaining outside of the peace process should call on them to join for the sake of national reconciliation,” Mr. Ban said, adding that more must also be done to promote security on the ground, including by supporting the African Union mission there (AMISOM) and Somali security forces at an upcoming donor conference.

The Secretary-General also highlighted the multiple elections taking place this year in Iraq to strengthen democratic representation, advance the political process and promote stability, and said he looked forward to free and transparent polls on June 7 in Lebanon.


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