Negotiating Sudan’s North-South Future

The International Crisis Group has issued an update briefing, Negotiating Sudan's North-South Future.

The briefing notes that "foundations for a constructive post-referendum relationship are yet to be laid" between North and South Sudan. While many people "in Sudan and abroad are focused on ensuring the referendum exercise takes place on 9 January as planned," the briefing suggests that "simultaneously pursuing agreement on the broader post-referendum agenda is not only critical for a peaceful transition and long-term regional stability, but may also serve the more immediate objective of clearing the path for a mutually accepted referendum."

The briefing states that all the details of "post-referendum arrangements cannot, and need not, be negotiated before the vote." But it suggests that "the absence of a basic blueprint for the post-2011 relationship between North and South contributes to uncertainties about the political and economic future of each, risks the referendum being viewed as a zero-sum game and thus sustains fears about the smooth conduct of the exercise and acceptance of its result."

Acknowledging that, whatever the outcome, the "referendum is sure to shock Sudan’s political system," the briefing calls for "a framework agreement that addresses, in concrete terms, those post-referendum issues that will have an immediate impact on the population." It goes on to state:

Such an agreement should also ensure that a mechanism is firmly in place so that negotiations can continue beyond January – up to (and possibly beyond) July 2011, the date on which both the CPA expires, and the South might expect to attain independence, if it votes for secession, as expected. The framework currently under consideration also espouses a series of general principles within which to frame future discussions.

Southern Sudan’s right to self-determination is guaranteed by the CPA, and efforts must continue to ensure smooth conduct of the 9 January poll. But progress now toward a series of win-win arrangements could also remove obstacles to the referendum and temper the potential impact of its result.

Read the full briefing.

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