FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 21, 2011
CONTACTS: Khartoum: Tamara Otiashvili +249 902 062 147, Atlanta: Deborah Hakes +1 404 420 5124
Carter Center Urges Political Parties and Blue Nile
Popular Consultation Commission to Ensure Genuine
Dialogue on Key Issues in Blue Nile State
In a statement issued today, The Carter Center reports that the first phase of the popular consultation in Blue Nile produced notable accomplishments, but that state legislative assembly members, political parties, and consultation authorities should work collaboratively to ensure a more transparent and genuine dialogue on the key issues in remaining phases of the process in Blue Nile. The positive aspects of the hearings, such as wide participation across the state and a strong turnout by women, and the Blue Nile Popular Consultation Commission's strong administration, particularly in Damazine, should serve as models for the citizen hearings for the popular consultation in South Kordofan. Despite these successes, the Center believes that instead of a rich dialogue on the breadth of issues evoked in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the process was largely marked by a contest between two party-endorsed systems of governance. While political parties are clearly entitled to be involved in the process, party pressure on members to voice these poorly-understood responses in the citizen hearings appears to have inhibited a more meaningful debate on key issues. Moreover, the focus of the public hearings has concentrated too narrowly on systems of governance, to the exclusion of other critical topics such as security in the state or power and wealth-sharing.
Under the CPA, the citizen hearings are the first phase of the Blue Nile Popular Consultation's mandated process and are intended to ascertain the views of the state's citizens on whether the CPA has met their aspirations. From a technical standpoint, the commission implemented the citizen hearings in a manner largely consistent with the CPA, the Interim National Constitution (INC), the Popular Consultation Act (PCA), and other state obligations by providing citizens the opportunity to exercise freedom of speech and assembly and facilitating the participation of thousands of Blue Nile residents. Overwhelmingly, residents of Blue Nile used this opportunity to call for more development in the state and express disappointment that the CPA failed to improve living conditions.
The commission, state authorities, and international technical advisors contributed to a well-run process. Observers reported that, overall, citizen hearings took place according to schedule and design, providing a forum for 69,429 participants in 108 different locations across the state over 20 days. Commission staff followed procedures, registering all attendees and recording the views expressed, and few issues arose regarding eligibility. Individuals spoke in at least five local languages when they preferred to do so, and translation was often available, especially in rural areas where non-Arabic speakers are more prevalent. Security personnel acted in an appropriate capacity and police only intervened in the hearings when necessary to address an incident. Although eight of the 116 hearings were canceled due to security incidents of varying severity, the hearings were generally conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.
In spite of these achievements, the Center believes that the involvement of the dominant political parties appears to have inhibited a fully open hearing of citizens' responses during the hearings. Carter Center observers reported that, at many hearings, it appeared as though the two parties had coached citizens to give short statements supporting their party-endorsed system of government, rather than express their own views directly. To the extent that parties' actions curtail unfiltered expressions of citizen's views, such action, while not contrary to law, undermine the overall goal and spirit of the popular consultations to gauge citizens' views. To limit such political influence, the commission should take steps to guarantee impartial civic education and facilitate more substantive dialogue and understanding of the popular consultations amongst citizens on issues.
Commissioners from both major parties should work to ensure cooperation throughout the coming stages of the popular consultation process. Most immediately they should focus on compiling the data from citizen hearings as well as initiating the thematic hearings in which various experts from around the state will come together to debate the issues that arose in the citizen hearings.
When devising the format and length of the thematic hearings, the commission should consider fostering dialogue on topics covered by the popular consultations' mandate that received little attention, such as security, accountability, and power-sharing, which are of vital concern to the citizens of Blue Nile. All political stakeholders, especially the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and National Congress Party (NCP), should work toward supporting a climate conducive to the discussion of these other essential topics. Only by discussing of all of these areas can the popular consultation process achieve its goal of determining whether citizens of Blue Nile believe the CPA, in all its provisions, has met their aspirations. Furthermore, the Center also recommends that the commission provide adequate time for the thematic hearings and that they include a range of voices from across the state.
Moving forward, it is important that the commission ensures that all issues discussed during the citizen and thematic hearings will be adequately reflected in their final report to the Blue Nile State Legislative Assembly, which is to determine whether the CPA met the aspirations of the people of Blue Nile, or whether to engage in further negotiations with the central government in Khartoum.
Finally, the Center notes that the commission welcomed the Center's observation and provided for timely accreditation. However, on occasion the commission's staff prevented Carter Center observers at the citizen hearings from speaking with participants or anyone outside the hearings venues. Observation relies on direct interaction with the population and such restrictions ran counter to their commitment to allow observers to all stages of the process and the otherwise cooperative spirit between the commission and observers. 
Background on the Carter Center Mission
Upon invitation from the Blue Nile Popular Consultation Commission, The Carter Center deployed observers to monitor and report on the entirety of the popular consultation process in Blue Nile. In all, three Carter Center observer teams deployed across Blue Nile and attended 32 of 108 citizen hearings held. The Center assesses the popular consultation process based on the CPA, INC, PCA, and Sudan's obligations for democratic processes and human rights contained in regional and international agreements. The objectives of the Carter Center's observation mission in Sudan are to provide an impartial assessment of the overall quality of the popular consultation process, promote an inclusive process for all residents of Blue Nile, and demonstrate international interest in Sudan's transition processes. In addition to the observers' deployed to Blue Nile, the Center currently has a presence in South Kordofan and in Southern Sudan to report on the elections in South Kordofan and post-referendum issues, with 12 observers deployed in total throughout Sudan. The Carter Center conducts observation activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles of International Election Observation and Code of Conduct that was adopted at the United Nations in 2005 and endorsed by 35 election observation groups. The Center will release periodic public statements on popular consultation findings, elections in South Kordofan, and the interim period, available on its website: www.cartercenter.org.
The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not- for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. The Carter Center began working in Sudan in 1986 on the Sasakawa-Global 2000 agricultural project and for more than 20 years its health and peace programs have focused on improving health and preventing and resolving conflicts in Sudan. Please visit www.cartercenter.org to learn more.
 Article 21, UN, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Article 21 and 22, UN, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Article 10 and 11, AU, African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
 Popular Consultation Act (2010), Art. 13, mandates that observers be invited to observe the process.
 Sudan ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) Feb. 18, 1986. The ACHPR came into force Oct. 21, 1986. Sudan acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on March 18, 1986. The ICCPR came into force on March 23, 1976.
 The Declaration of Principles can be read athttp://cartercenter.org/peace/democracy/des_declaration.html