Representatives of Sudan's north-south border states concluded a two-day conference on peaceful co-existence among their communities in Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, on 15 July.
Mainly focusing on security and economic development, the conference was attended by several high-level officials as well as more than 400 representatives of the 10 border states and civil society.
Officials present included Sudanese Second Vice-President Ali Osman Taha, Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) Vice-President Riak Machar, Tabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa and Chairman of the African Union High Implementation Panel, and UNMIS Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Jasbir Lidder.
National Government Minister of Cabinet Affairs Luka Byong said the conference was an initiative from both the GoSS and National Government to assess performance and become acquainted with implementation of decisions passed in Kadugli on the border area last February. It also aimed to explore ways of securing and developing areas along the north-south border.
"The meeting recognized the fact that this belt of these 10 states, including Abyei, constitutes not less than one-third of the population of Sudan," Mr. Byong said. Moreover, the area contained about two-thirds of Sudan's national resources, including oil, water, pasture, minerals, mining and gum arabic.
Noting that the belt endured about 70 percentof Sudan's problems, participants passed a resolution on the need for a joint strategic economic plan to transform it from a conflict are to one that was productive and prosperous, Mr. Byong said. Representatives also agreed that focusing on development in the area would mean fighting poverty and eradicating hunger as well as ensuring food security for the whole of Sudan.
"The conference reached a common consensus that investing in the border areas is investing in the future of Sudan, on the future relationships between the north and south," the minister said. " Because that belt is going to bind the north and the south, regardless of the outcome of the referendum and the choice of the people of Southern Sudan."
Describing the conference as a vital step in further tightening ties among border communities, Mr. Taha noted an improvement in security in the area due to previous governors' conferences.
"The conference has a great impact on our future peace and stability, and we will work to implement the resolutions that were passed in this meeting," the Second Vice-President said.
As a sign of commitment and collaboration, participants launched national projects addressing water, roads, electricity and Aweil airport at the end of the conference. Funded by the National Government and GoSS, the projects aim to provide border area people with some tangible results.
Participants also agreed to establish mechanisms to follow-up and implement all resolutions concerning the border area, which will be monitored by the National Government and GoSS.
The10 border states represented at the conference were Southern Darfur, Western Bahr El-Ghazal, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Southern Kordofan, Abyei, Unity, Blue Nile, Sinar and Upper Nile.
The two-day conference was funded by the National Government, Government of Northern Bahr El-Ghazal and USAID.