Friends of Sudan's meeting in Khartoum last December
A new acronym is getting into the public domain, FOS, which stands for Friends of Sudan. The list of those friends reads like Who's Who of the main power houses around the world who are coming together to show their support for Sudan in its moment of need and appreciation for its peaceful uprising and the hope it triggered for democratic transformation. The list includes: the United States, Egypt, France, Germany, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Norway, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations, the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.
The group has been meeting in Washington, which took the initiative to set up the FOS forum, then came to the field and met in Khartoum to have first-hand impression on what is going on, then Stockholm last week and is planning yet another one in Paris in April, which should finally usher the meeting in the donors' gathering scheduled to be held in Kuwait in June, hopefully.
The FOS chair's statement has been all praise to what has been going on in Sudan since the popular uprising succeeded in toppling the Ingaz regime ten months ago. "The Friends of Sudan expressed clear and united support for the civilian-led government and the leadership demonstrated by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and cabinet ministers. Participants recognized the many announced and initiated reforms undertaken by the Transitional Government since assuming office five months ago. They reiterated that continued progress is a shared responsibility of the Sovereign Council, which is composed of both civilian and military members, and the civilian-led Transitional Government," the chair, the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden Ambassador Robert Rydberg said in the outset of his statement.
He added that the group welcomed the progress made and the broad participation in the negotiations and the statement went on dotted with positive words like "encouraged", "commended", "agreed, " welcomed" and that, "The Friends of Sudan recognized the linkage between peace and economic progress".
Finance Minister Dr. Ibrahim Elbadawi, who has been attending these meeting on behalf of Sudan should be more than happy to hear such positive statement, but definitely he would have asked himself where is the beef?
It came in the self-explanatory concluding note that, "multiple participants confirmed their recent increase of support to Sudan, complementing the significant efforts that are already underway. A range of participants also informed of their commitment and preparation of additional substantial financial support to be provided in line with the Transitional Government's priorities, especially the social impact mitigation programmer, being critical for sustainable economic reform. The group agreed on the need to frontload also longer-term support to the transition and committed to support reforms."
In a nutshell it said all forms of support are left to individual countries; that they depend on the priorities of the transitional government and are in effect dependent on carrying out sustainable economic reforms.
And the most important aspect in all this bilateral relations will determine the level of support and aid. Such support has been going on even during the Ingaz regime through humanitarian assistance that was restricted more or less to Darfur and the two areas in Southern Korodfan and Blue Nile. It was only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who provided urgent assistance in the critical areas of wheat, fuel and hard currency following the change and it remains to be seen how and when the rest of FOS will follow suit on their commitments bilaterally.
Though there is expectation that something may crop up during the donor's conference when it is held, yet the track record of such conferences, including the experience of Sudan in the Oslo conference was not at all encouraging. That conference was held following the signing of CPA that put an end to two decades of civil strife. UN Chief then Kofi Anan said he will go on knocking on every door of the donors urging them to honor their pledges.
However, the outcome usually centered on donors' making pledges far below the actual needs of the country and actual disbursement comes short of those figures pledged, while a good chunk of money paid go to meet administrative, logistics and staff cost of those very countries.
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