New York, Apr 12 2005  3:00PM

A two-day donors' conference to support the peace accord between the Government and rebels in southern Sudan has pledged $4.5 billion for 2005-2007, nearly $2 billion more than the amount United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan identified as  needed to resurrect the ravaged region over the next two and a half years.

Addressing the opening session yesterday in Oslo, Norway, Mr. Annan had appealed to participants to "pledge - and pledge generously," quipping when asked about the tendency of governments not to honour their pledges that "pledges are good, but cash is better."

He had also stressed that although $2.6 billion had been identified as vital to meet the requirements of the next two and a half years, there were already massive shortfalls, with nearly $1 billion still to be raised out of the $1.5 billion requested nearly five months ago for this year.

The conference was convened to propel repatriation, reintegration and reconstruction in southern Sudan, where a peace agreement in January formally ended two decades of civil war that killed 2 million people, drove more than to 4.6 million others from their homes and left the region in ruins.

But it is hoped that peace will spread, too, to Sudan's western Darfur region, where a separate conflict between Government, militia and rebel forces has killed tens of thousands people in the past two years, uprooted more than 2 million others and shows scant signs of abating.

UN officials have already warned that funding shortfalls there are threatening emergency feeding programmes for more than 1 million hungry people, mostly driven from their homes.

In the now peaceful south the UN and its international partners face a gargantuan task. Just in the sector of returning uprooted people to their homes, acting UN High Commissioner for Refugees told the conference there were 550,000 refugees in neighbouring countries and an estimated 4.1 million internally displaced persons.

"What is needed? In a word, everything," she said, noting that in one area there are only two doctors for 180,000 inhabitants, that everywhere people have limited access to safe water, that large tracts of farmland are polluted with land mines, and that jobs must be created to ensure viable communities.

Mr. Annan yesterday mentioned another urgent need, that of reintegrating ex-combatants into society since the greatest threat of renewed conflict is posed by soldiers who are not disarmed and given alternative economic livelihoods. He urged Member States to invest generously in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, attended the final day of the pledging conference today and also met with United States Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and European Union representatives to mobilize support for the African Union monitoring force deployment in Darfur.
2005-04-12 00:00:00.000