This past Sunday, I spoke before tens of thousands who gathered in New York City’s Central Park, united in their compassion and concern, to call for an immediate end to the genocide in Darfur.  One of the reoccurring themes of the rally, and one that was a focus of my speech, was that the need for a presidential special envoy to Sudan to help push the peace process forward in Darfur.

That request became a reality yesterday, when President Bush named former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Andrew Natsios as Presidential Special Envoy to Sudan during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly.  This welcome news brings additional focus, urgency, energy, and gravitas to U.S. efforts to help the people of Darfur and bring lasting peace to all of Sudan.

However, there are many challenges that lay ahead for the new envoy, including, and most imminent, the need to allow UN peacekeepers on the ground in Sudan to protect the people of Darfur.  This afternoon I will convene a hearing to explore this and other challenges that the new envoy will face in this position.

Mr. Natsios has a full plate from the moment he starts this job.  Not only is the crisis in Darfur is getting worse by the hour, but north-south tensions are rising, putting the peace agreement that ended the 22-year civil war in jeopardy.  At today’s hearing, we will examine the ways that we can effectuate positive change and help settle the protracted disputes that have kept lasting peace from taking hold in the war-torn nation of Sudan.