Currently, 214 UN Volunteers from 70 countries are deployed throughout Sudan to directly support the Southern Sudan Referendum. The referendum scheduled for 9 January 2011 gives Southern Sudanese the opportunity to choose between unity with the north or secession.
Currently, 214 UN Volunteers from 70 countries are deployed throughout Sudan to directly support the Southern Sudan Referendum.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army brought to an end the two-decade civil war and provided for self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan.
The referendum scheduled for 9 January 2011 gives Southern Sudanese the opportunity to choose between unity with the north or secession.
The legal framework for its organization was set in a Referendum Act, and a national body, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), was established to manage the process. The SSRC is based in Khartoum and works closely with the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau in Juba and subcommittees established in all states throughout Sudan.
At the request of the SSRC, the United Nations is assisting the process through the UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED), a joint team with United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). UNIRED advises the SSRC on matters related to public outreach, voter information, public information and external relations. Other important areas in which UNIRED assists the SSRC and its subsidiary bodies are operational planning, logistics, procedures, field coordination and training.
Sushil Sarkar is a UN Volunteer with UNIRED in Juba, Southern Sudan. Sushil shares, "As a Training Officer, I have been working on referendum registration, polling and counting procedures training courses, which were conducted countrywide, to ensure that all referendum staff were equipped to perform their tasks effectively and efficiently."
In order to provide better support to the SSRC at county level, UNMIS has established Referendum Support Bases in remote locations, including places where the UN has never operated before.
Bhukani Masinga, a UN Volunteer from South Africa, is the leader of the UNIRED team based in the Yirol Referendum Support Base, Lakes State. "As part of the UNIRED team involved in the provision of technical support to our counterparts, in strengthening their capacity, it has been a very rewarding experience. The 9th of January is almost here and I feel so grateful to be part of this historic process," she says.
The UN Volunteers represent the majority of UNIRED field personnel, and in some areas they are the only face of the UN. They have been deployed throughout the country, in all 10 state capitals and several of the 79 counties of Southern Sudan, as well as at five locations in Northern Sudan and the Protocol Areas.
The UNIRED volunteers complement the more than 270 national and international UN Volunteers working for UNMIS in a variety of substantive, technical and administrative areas.
"UN Volunteers are involved in the referendum process in all its facets", remarks Fiona Stitfold, UNMIS UNV Programme Manager. "From the Engineers, Project Managers and Water and Sanitation Technicians who constructed the Referendum Support Bases; to the Aviation and Procurement Officers who are assisting with the movement and procurement of construction and referenda materials; to the Civil Affairs Officers who are in continuous contact with civil society. UN Volunteers are all very much part of the UNMIS team, contributing their skills, knowledge and experience to add value."
The referendum assistance is the largest and most complex operation carried out by UNMIS since its establishment in 2005, with a mandate to support the CPA parties in the implementation of the peace agreement.
"Being part of the Southern Sudan Referendum process as a UN Volunteer has enhanced my knowledge and appreciation of UN operations," says Clara Mutanda, Logistics Officer for Unity State, Southern Sudan. "Despite the challenges faced," she continues, "the expectant look on peoples faces and their hope in the outcome of the referendum have been my joy and inspiration in the course of my work. I am humbled and happy to have been part of the process and hope that it brings a lasting peace to Southern Sudan."