Sudan referendum ballots countingWhile ballots from the Southern Sudan referendum are sorted and counted in the presence of election observers, the UN Security Council on 18 January welcomed the conclusion of voting in the referendum for the self-determination of Southern Sudan, describing the voting exercise as “largely peaceful and orderly” and urged both parties to Sudan’s peace agreement to respect the outcome of the poll.

The week-long referendum, which ended on 15 January, was part of the process to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended two decades of civil war between the north and the south. Sixty per cent of the nearly four million voters registered to take part in the referendum needed to vote for the outcome to be valid, with results expected in early February.

UNITAR deployed the capability of its UNOSAT Programme to support the contingency planning of several UN agencies and programmes including DPKO and the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) with the acquisition and analysis of very large quantities of satellite imagery. These were used to create of repository of data, maps and information open to humanitarian and international actors vial the link

The exercise was also used to benefit advocacy efforts on the human security and human rights front in collaboration with Google, the Enough Project and Harvard. The group maintains a website named Satellite Sentinel in which some of the imagery produced by UNOSAT with the support of DigitalGlobe is used to deter parties involved from escalating violence and insecurity in South Sudan.

This activity is in line with the message of the Security Council that indicates that “The members of the Council underline the need for the CPA parties to promote calm, including by providing immediate and ongoing reassurance to people of all nationalities in Sudan, including southerners in the North and northerners in the South, that their rights, safety and property will continue to be respected.”

On the issue of Abyei, an area which straddles northern and southern Sudan and which had its own referendum on whether to join the north or south delayed, the Council voiced concern about violence that occurred there during the referendum period as well as the area’s future. UNOSAT will continue to work in coordination with other UN bodies involved to ensure that imagery over this area is readily available in order to contribute to avoiding violence and be prepared to meet the requirements of the humanitarian community should the need arise.

Photo courtesy of Reuters