Saturday, January 8, 2011

197* + 1 = 198

Welcome South Sudan!

(In case it's unfamiliar, that's the new South Sudanese flag. Cow-as-flagpole optional.)

Enough frivolity.

Sunday, January 9th 2011 is virtually certain to mark the date of South Sudanese secession, with the major question remaining whether or not turnout reaches the required 60%; when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (currently the subject of an ICC indictment over suspected genocide in Darfur) appears to accept the inevitable, it's a pretty clear steer that the game's up.

What really matters is what happens next up to formal independence and recognition.** In no particular order:

- Defining the border,

- Determining the status of the province of Abyei (which happens to cross the putative border and incidentally has lots of oil wells),

- Sharing oil and revenues and agreeing citizenship rights, both for northern Sudanese in South Sudan, and South Sudanese elsewhere in Sudan. (Oh, and protecting the rights of these minorities.)

- Developing one of the world's least developed places, blessed with oil, lots of guns and a 95% illiteracy rate inherited from the decades of war.

It's no mean challenge. But the prize of overcoming decades of war that has left more than 2 million dead is well worth it. And demonstrating that States can divide amicably and use this to overcome conflict is in my view critical to peace-building efforts in the next 20 years as centrifugal forces in some states lead to their breakup.

So, Happy Birthday, South Sudan.

*197 Current States comprising 192 UN Members, 2 Non-members which have declared independence and enjoy some recognition (Vatican City, Kosovo), 1 Former-member yet to declare independence (Taiwan), 2 Observer members yet to achieve Statehood (Palestine, Western Sahara). To which we could potentially add Somaliland and Darfur in time for 200, though a reunified Korea would drop this back to 199.

** Always worth asking Robin Williams / Adrian Kronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam - "Great Britain recognized the island state of Singapore. How do you recognize an island? Do you go, exc-- Hey, wait. No, don't tell me. Wait, wait. Didn't we meet last year at the Feinman bar mitzvah? You look a lot like Hawaii. Didn't we meet last year at the Peninsula Club? No."

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