The UN Human Rights Council held a special session on 12 December 2006 to discuss the human rights crisis in Darfur. Thirty member states, forty observer states and 20 NGOs spoke at the session, which had to be extended for a second day. IHEU main representative Roy Brown was the only speaker to discuss one of the underlying causes of the conflict – rapid population growth – and of the need to address this issue in seeking any long-term solution to the conflict.
The full text of Brown’s short statement is given below.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union has been active with other non-governmental organizations in raising the issue of Darfur since early 2004. We therefore welcome this Special Session. We would first like to associate ourselves with the statement by the British ambassador that we need clear, accurate and impartial information prepared by independent and respected observers. The full cooperation of the government of Sudan will be necessary to give the mission a free hand to visit widely in the region.
We do not wish to refer further to the overwhelming evidence of continuing, massive and systematic human rights abuse in Darfur. Instead, we would like to step back from the appalling evidence of day to day atrocities and draw the attention of the Council to an aspect of the conflict that seems to have been overlooked.
In 1990, the National Population Committee and the Department of Statistics put Sudan’s birthrate at 50 births per 1,000 and the death rate at 19 per 1,000, for a rate of increase of 3.1 percent per year. This compares with the average for developing countries of 2.1 percent per annum, and makes Sudan’s population one of the fastest growing in the world. Darfur is no exception to the rest of Sudan; its population has doubled since 1980.
The conflict between pastoralists and herders over scarce resources is not unique to Darfur. It arises whenever population grows faster than the available resources. In this connection a report published today by NASA  speaks of an unprecedented loss of water from the continent – an annual net loss due to changing rainfall patterns, levels of consumption and climate change equivalent to the consumption of more than 300 million people.
We ask all parties concerned in seeking long term solutions to this conflict to take account of the impact of increasing population pressure on competition for resources, and to include in their work consideration of how best this problem might be addressed. We suggest that the UN Population Fund could play a key role here.
According to UN data, if current trends continue the population of Africa as a whole will double in the next 35 years. Darfur has probably given us merely a foretaste of conflicts to come. If the international community fails to solve the problem of Darfur, what hope is there for Africa? What hope for Humanity?