ICG, a non-governmental organisation based in Brussels, said the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) should get more troops, a more robust mandate and be assured of new funding.
"The young AU [African Union] deserves some praise for tackling the Darfur crisis, and it has come a long way since the war began in early 2003", Alain Deletroz, ICG vice president for Europe, said.
"Even its initial deployment might not have been possible without EU [European Union] support, but the EU/AU partners and the international community as a whole have to do much more and take a tougher stand if these efforts are to bear fruit," he added.
The most immediate need was to bring AMIS to its authorised size of 7,731 soldiers and police, a task that was behind schedule, the ICG noted in its latest report on Darfur issued on Tuesday.
At least 200,000 people are estimated by the ICG to have died in the Darfur conflict since it erupted in February 2003 when two rebel groups took up arms to fight what they called the discrimination and oppression of the region by the Sudanese government.
Some 3.3 million people continue to be affected by the conflict, of whom 1.8 million are internally displaced and 200,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad, according to the UN.
As of 20 October, some 6,773 AMIS personnel were deployed in Darfur, including 4,847 soldiers in the protection force, 700 military observers, 1,188 civilian police and 38 international staff.
"Security in Darfur has seriously deteriorated in recent weeks. Thousands more boots are needed on the ground immediately", Suliman Baldo, Director of Crisis Group's Africa Program, added.
"Unfortunately, the international community is not prepared at this stage to consider a NATO bridging force, or to convert the AU mission into a UN one to expand the pool of troop and financial contributors, but there is still more that can and should be done with the AU mission," he said.
After reaching its authorised size, there was an urgent need for AMIS to rapidly improve the efficiency of those forces, roughly double their numbers and become more militarily powerful with an expanded mandate to protect civilians, in order to have the muscle to restore security, the ICG noted.
AMIS’ current civilian protection mandate - to "protect civilians whom it encounters under imminent threat and in the immediate vicinity, within resources and capability" - was too limited in scope, the report observed.
With nearly two thirds of AMIS funding coming from the EU’s €250 million (US $340 million) African Peace Facility budget, AMIS troop expansion would be possible only with greater international support, the ICG said.
The report urged the EU to replenish its African Peace Facility. In addition, the EU needed to improve internal coordination between its institutions and member states active on Darfur in order to speak with a single, strong voice.
The AU should prioritise efforts to become more efficient within its current structure and press Khartoum to allow immediate delivery of the 105 badly needed Grizzly armoured personnel carriers, donated by Canada, the report added.
"For Darfur to stabilise, one of two things must happen", David Mozersky, senior analyst for the ICG in Nairobi, said. "Either the parties must radically change behaviour and respect their commitments, or AMIS must be expanded in both size and mandate, and given the support it needs. Given this conflict's history, the latter is the only real option today".
The AU special representative in Sudan, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, acknowledged the inability of AMIS to succeed in the current environment of deteriorating security in Darfur during a 1 October press briefing.
"The mechanisms in place...could have worked if the parties in Darfur were acting in good faith and were generally committed to their undertakings in the various agreements they have signed. However, in the light of our experience in the past fourteen months, we must conclude that there is neither good faith nor commitment on the part of any of the parties," he said.